CONTENT OF LETTER
SignHealth has welcomed the introduction of a BSL bill to the Scottish Parliament.
The charity says that if it becomes law it could significantly improve the health of many Deaf people in Scotland. Earlier this year SignHealth published the Sick Of It report, a research document which proved that Deaf people have a reduced life expectancy because of poor access to health care and information in their own language, British Sign Language.
“SignHealth is delighted that a BSL members bill has been introduced at the Scottish Parliament. If it succeeds in becoming law it will dramatically improve Deaf people’s access to health information, and start to remove the inequalities which make Deaf people generally less healthy than hearing people”, says Steve Powell, the Chief Executive of the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth.
There are many steps to go through in the Scottish Parliament before the bill can become law, and it may not make it. It’s likely that the bill’s future will be decided by whether the Scottish Government decides to give its full support. Opposition from ministers would end its chances of becoming law.
“We urge the Scottish Government to give this bill their support, to make sure that it becomes law”, says Steve Powell, “They have already shown the rest of the UK the way with a sign language based service to contact the NHS out of hours in Scotland, now is their chance to lead the way again.”
The NHS24 sign language access service has been running as a pilot project for 2 years, and has now been extended until May 2015.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
For immediate release
Please contact Paul Welsh, SignHealth’s Director of Communications, on 01494 687631 or
Purpose of the proposed Bill
The proposed Bill would encourage the use of BSL in Scottish public life and raise awareness of the language among the hearing population by requiring—
The Scottish Government to create a designated, or lead, Minister for BSL.
The Scottish Ministers to develop a Scottish Government BSL strategic plan detailing what action the Government is taking and plans to take to promote BSL within areas of its responsibility.
“Relevant public authorities” to produce action plans to be published by these authorities and submitted to the Scottish Ministers.
The Scottish Ministers to report to the Scottish Parliament at least twice in a Parliamentary session on the content of their strategic plan and on the performance of the public authorities in terms of their BSL action plans. (In practice, during the first half of a parliamentary session, Scottish Ministers would prepare and publish their strategic plan and guidance, which would be laid before the Scottish Parliament. In the second half of the parliamentary session, the Scottish Ministers would report to the Scottish Parliament on how they were performing in relation to the strategic plan; the report would include details of the relevant authorities’ plans and performance).