British Sign Language (BSL) national plan 2023-2029: consultation analysis

The independent analysis by Alma Economics of the BSL National Plan 2023 to 2029 consultation, commissioned by Scottish Government.

7. Conclusion

As part of its commitment to making Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work, visit, and learn, the Scottish Government has drafted a renewed BSL National Plan for 2023 to 2029. The BSL National Plan 2023-2029 focuses on six key priority areas: (i) BSL Data Strategy, (ii) BSL Workforce, (iii) Supporting Deaf Children, Young People and their families, (iv) BSL Accessibility, (v) the Promotion of the Heritage and Culture of BSL, and (vi) Social Care and Wellbeing.

Between 7 July 2023 and 3 September 2023, the Scottish Government launched a consultation gathering the views of stakeholders on the draft BSL National Plan 2023-2029 to inform the final publication in autumn 2023. Community consultation events were also held between 30 June 2023 and 3 September 2023 in addition to the consultation to allow BSL users to participate in a two-way dialogue in their own language and in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way to express their views.

Its purpose was to better understand what actions people, communities and organisations would like to see under each key priority, as well as views on the BSL National Plan 2023-2029 overall. Feedback on the Contact Scotland BSL online interpreting Video Relay Service was also gathered to inform future improvements.

The consultation posed a total of 24 questions, including 10 closed questions (e.g., receiving yes/ no/ don’t know responses) and 14 open-text questions (receiving free text responses). A total of 80 responses were received, in addition to 40 community consultation events. Amongst consultation respondents, 36% were BSL users, 50% were not BSL users, and 14% preferred not to say. Responses were received from individuals, local councils, academic institutions, public body representatives (including executive agencies, NDPBs, NHS, etc.), third-sector service delivery organisations, and organisations representing the deaf, deafblind, and BSL communities.

Alma Economics was commissioned by the Scottish Government to analyse all responses. Descriptive analysis was conducted on the closed-format questions, and thematic analysis was used to synthesise themes raised in the open-text questions and community consultation event reports.

Following the thematic analysis, 5 recurring themes were identified across consultation responses and community events. A brief summary of these themes is presented below; for a more detailed description, please refer to the executive summary.

Focus on clear, tangible, and measurable actions

Respondents discussed the need for more clear, tangible, and measurable actions to be included in the BSL National Plan 2023-2029. This included more detailed and clearly articulated actions for each key priority, as well as clarification on how each action will be monitored and who will be responsible. Respondents were ultimately interested in a BSL National Plan 2023-2029 which will explicitly commit the Scottish Government to delivering on its promises.

Continuous collaboration with BSL users

Respondents emphasised the importance of continuous collaboration with the BSL community throughout the development and implementation of the BSL National Plan 2023-2029. This was expressed as a requirement to ensure that actions remain meaningful, beneficial, and relevant to all stakeholders. Respondents were wary of tokenistic or ‘tick-box’ actions, recommending continuous dialogue with the community, opportunities for feedback over the duration of the BSL National Plan 2023-2029, and actively seeking diverse opinions.

Equal opportunity and inclusion

Equal access, opportunity, representation, and inclusion for all BSL users was understood as a fundamental right for Scotland’s people. This included access to essential services (such as healthcare, social care, mental health services, and transport), BSL education for BSL users and their families from the point of need, and access to activities (such as sports, entertainment, or the news) which were typically considered low priorities for the community.

Promote BSL as a language and culture

Promoting BSL as both a language and a rich culture was particularly important across the consultation and community events. Respondents did not want BSL to be reduced to language alone and described their rich, vibrant, and unique culture, which they believed should be shared amongst the wider population. This holistic approach would both improve awareness of the BSL community amongst the wider population and become a key source of pride and empowerment for the community.

Inclusion of the whole D/deaf community

Respondents were concerned that certain groups within the wider D/deaf community would be overlooked by the BSL National Plan 2023-2029. To address this, respondents suggested using an intersectional approach to better understand the diverse preferences, needs and experiences of the whole D/deaf community and considering differences across age, geographical region, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected characters. All actions delivered as part of the BSL National Plan 2023-2029 should reflect this nuance to ensure that greater accessibility and awareness will benefit the community as a whole.



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