If you read the post  about Janet (@deafplanet) a Deaf  woman who’s benefit was cut for not attending an interview due to inability to contact them by phone (she’s Deaf and has no outgoing phine line to phone by minicom to Text Direct service.)  For many d/Deaf people Text Direct is a lifeline offering text to speech operator who will relay the call. DWP routinely fail to offer  email or sms numbers as an alternative contact in letters of communication.

We received a lot information from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)  Press Office on  how they  ensure Deaf, hard of hearing and disabled peope get the access they need at job centres when  they need it. 

We received this reply from DWP (via email)

A DWP spokespearson said:

“While we cannot comment on the specific details of individual benefit decisions the

Job Centre Plus office will be getting in touch with the person concerned to discuss thissuers further”

 

The blog post has had over 1,000 hits and counting – it’s also provoked an angry response from people on twitter and Facebook.

Suzie Jones from Suzie Jones Consultancy (who offer Deaf and Disabled awareness/equalitietraining  and Lidia Smolarek Best who sits on the board of The European Federstion of Hard of shearing Peope are both taking up the issuesfurther. We can bappreciate how Facebook is an important communication tool for  the way we found out about Janet’s plight..

In a separate blog post I’m going to highlight (the short version) of what DWP policy is and people’s rights. (How to complain is at themalministrstion the blog).

Even after our blog post the saga continues:

  • Janet has been told she must attend interviews at the job centre even if it is at very short notice regardless of her access needs or childcare requirements;
  • It will take weeks to sort out her appeal and she fears losing benefits in the meantime;
  • The advisor at the job centre is using the blog post as EVIDENCE of the issues and to raise understanding of the communication problems that d/Deaf people face;
  • She was never been offered access to a British Sign Language interpreter to attend the appointment in the place (just told in the letter to phone in); The advisor struggled to arrange one (first time I’ve heard a BSL interpreter described as a ‘deaf interpreter’);
It also doesn’t answer what you do when the only email contact you have is away on leave as happened to Janet.
DWP has a  training programme of deaf awareness trainining for staff  run by Action on Hearing Loss. it doesn’t look like it recent reached the benefit centre  in Leeds!

What does that say about the basic rights to make ”reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate a person’s needs. how the heck are you supposed to deal with something so serious when you can’t hear and the advisor can’t sign?  Taking into account that a job centre is no place to take a child.

d/deaf people and disabled peope receiving benefits have a right to

  • Having their access needs met;
  • Can complain if something goes wrong (if not to the advisor ask for a manger and ask for the compaint form;
  • If you can, make sure you write everything down (if it is in person). If you are using a notepad use that and keep it as proof of the conversation (ask for names – you will forget them). Remember to keep calm even if you are very stressed and anxious.

The DWP say if you complain:

“you should expect to get a full reply within ten working days of telling Jobcentre Plus about your complaint. Hopefully you will be happy with your reply. If you are still unhappy after receiving your reply, you will be given the opportunity to take your complaint further. Further information about the next stages of complaint can be found in the Jobcentre Plus leaflet ‘Our service standards’.”

 It’s important to show DWP the reality – so what has been your experience?

Please comment below we are collecting responses also via twitter and facebook and passing them on.