Oh no, something went wrong. Please check your network connection and try again.

Back to blogs

#SupportSignalise: we’re crowdfunding!

Jennifer Bird • Oct 1, 2020 • 4 min read


Please donate to our Crowdfunder to #SupportSignalise. This is the transcription of the above video:

Hi, I’m Jen from Signalise Co-op. We have a multi-stakeholder membership, which means we have several different types of membership. We have interpreter members (sign language interpreters), and deaf people who are members too.

We are co-creating a platform where councils, hospitals, public sector organisations can book sign language interpreters, in order to communicate with their deaf patients and clients, or customers.

So, we have these organisations, public sector organisations, on one hand, and we have interpreters, sign language interpreters, who have trained for seven to ten years — so very niche and very professional, and in the middle, we have agencies who book interpreters for the hospitals. We know that there is a lot of poor practice around the UK and this is the problem with these agencies. Many of the agencies that have poor practices are the larger, spoken language agencies. Why do we know this is a problem? We have evidence from deaf organisations, from the union, from department of health reports and we know that this is a problem.

We are setting up in Merseyside because the problem started there, ten years ago, where one-stop shops were created where spoken language agencies, who provide interpreters of many different languages, started to tender to provide sign language interpreters as well, even though they had no experience of the deaf community or sign language. And they started to win contracts. They were putting sign language in their contracts as a loss-leader. And then they were squishing down the terms and conditions of sign language interpreters.

I spoke to my colleague in Merseyside recently who told me that it’s still a problem up there. Not much has improved over the last ten years and those lessons of poor practice, aren’t being learnt. So, many of the contracts on Merseyside are held by these agencies, the spoken language agencies up there, on Merseyside. And they… she told me the story of a deaf gentleman who had been in hospital and in the end he was in there for 21 days, without any interpreter being provided, and my colleague was telling me about this story, we spoke on the phone and she told me she was calling up the hospital and saying “I live down the road, I can come and interpret for this gentleman who’s in hospital”, and can you imagine if it was you, if you’d gone on holiday and were admitted to hospital, you might be having tests, you wouldn’t know why they were testing you, nobody would be able to communicate with you properly, and can you imagine how you might have felt, because I would feel anxious and I would feel vulnerable, if that were me, in a hospital, not being able to communicate with anyone.

Anyway, she spoke to the hospital and they said “we can’t book you because we have a contract with this agency” and she said, “but I can’t work for them because if I am sick, if I’ve got a booking, if I cancel it, they are going to charge me and I can’t afford to do that. If I lose my timesheet, that I have to get signed by the hospital staff, they will deduct 50% of my fee. I disagree with these practices, they are a terrible agency, they don’t pay on time, and I can’t work for them, I can’t afford to work for them”.

And she found out later that, even though she was available what the agency had told the hospital was that they just couldn’t find an interpreter. Now we know that not to be true. And this is why we need Signalise Co-op. We need a co-operative that is set up by interpreters, who know what they are doing, who understand the needs of the deaf community, and understand how to provide a service to public sector organisations. We want deaf people to be involved as members, because they know what they want from a service and together we can create a really ethical and cost effective service, by doing it via a platform, so we bring the cost of operating the service itself down, so that we can pay interpreters properly, and treat them with respect, as they are our members. And that we can provide a proper service to the hospitals, to other public sector organisations, in a way that they deserve, that their staff deserve, so they can have a cost effective and timely service, that is value for taxpayers money, and that’s why we are here. So please, #Support Signalise.

Please donate to our Crowdfunder. Every single donation counts and will make a difference.

Helping hands high-fiving