British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan 2017-2023: analysis of consultation responses

The report sets out the analysis of the public consultation on Scotland's draft British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan.

Common themes and general comments

This section gives a summary of the common themes which were raised at the events or through written / BSL responses. They relate to the draft National Plan overall, rather than on of the 10 goals in particular.

Some of these comments were very positive and included that the draft National Plan is both very good and very important and that it should make a big difference to the lives of Deaf / Deafblind BSL users.

There were a range of suggestions about how the draft National Plan could be improved. This was sometimes about aspects which should be made clearer or given greater emphasis. There were also suggestions for other areas which need to be included.

Frequently highlighted issues were:

  • It is very important that the needs of Deafblind BSL users are considered throughout the National Plan. Particular issues highlighted included the need to consider Deafblind BSL users when it comes to researching technology or when looking at interpreting services.
  • The proposed timescales for delivering on the 10 goals are too long and it would be better to make the proposed changes before 2023. One suggestion was that there could be a staged timetable which sets out when interim improvements can be expected.
  • Some of the goals or steps could be clearer or SMARTer [1] and there are places where more detail or further information would be helpful.
  • Having the necessary funding and resources to deliver the goals set out in the National Plan will be key. It was suggested that the type and level of resources needed should be set out clearly and that there will be a need for national funding or other support if the goals are going to be realised.
  • New technologies offer considerable potential and could provide additional opportunities to support Deaf / Deafblind BSL users in a way that reduces stigma and supports independence. However, it is important to remember that not everyone is comfortable with new technologies and that there will always be occasions when a 'human element' is required.

Another frequently made suggestion was that the National Plan needs to cover BSL / English interpreting. Issues highlighted included:

  • Having sufficient and skilled BSL / English interpreters will be central to the National Plan being delivered.
  • A range of issues need to be considered including the training and/or registration of BSL / English interpreters, the funding from BSL / English of interpreting services and how we will judge if services are meeting Deaf / Deafblind BSL users' needs.

Suggestions included:

  • National support is needed to make sure that BSL / English interpreters are available in all parts of Scotland.
  • The National Plan should look at improving access to services for Deaf / Deafblind BSL users who also have additional protected characteristics [2] .
  • Ensuring Deaf / Deafblind BSL users have equal access to evolving identity terminology and covering discrimination and exclusion within minority communities.

Other comments were about how the National Plan will be delivered. They included:

  • It is important that the BSL National Plan is linked into other Scottish Government and NHS initiatives, such as the See Hear Strategic Framework and the Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027.
  • The Scottish Government needs a clear implementation plan setting out how the goals and steps will be delivered. This should cover what the different organisations involved will need to do.
  • The plans should also include standards to be met and how progress will be monitored. The plans should include the views of Deaf / Deafblind BSL users. There was a specific question about whether Local Plans be monitored at national level.
  • National guidance on the availability of services needs be developed in partnership with public bodies and needs to take account of local demand, provision and expertise.

Finally, some people or groups commented on how the draft National Plan was developed and the consultation process. The comments included:

  • The NAG should have included a representative for BSL / English interpreters.
  • The BSL version of the draft National Plan was difficult to understand, and without an interpreter it would have been difficult or impossible to respond to the consultation.
  • The final National Plan should be piloted with a group of Deaf / Deafblind BSL users.
  • It will be important that Deaf / Deafblind BSL users are also involved in developing Local Authority plans.


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