British Sign Language - national plan: progress report

A progress report on the British Sign Language (BSL) national plan.

8. Training, work and social security

8.1 Progress in training, work and social security

The Scottish Government is committed to making opportunities for training and work available to all, including those who use BSL as their first or preferred language. A number of the 70 actions defined in the 2017-2023 National Plan apply to the workplace, training for work, access and support for work, and social security. Significant progress has been made since the launch of the Plan.

Some key developments:

  • Skills Development Scotland is now helping to make Foundation Apprenticeships available to all learners, including BSL users, who are generally eligible for the highest level of modern apprenticeship funding.
  • Fair Start Scotland (FSS) provides tailored, one-to-one support for people who face challenges in securing work. Between April 2018 and December 2020, FSS has helped 608 D/deaf individuals.
  • The Scottish Government is making information about the Young Person's Guarantee accessible in BSL.
  • The FSS Employer Engagement Working Group – which focuses on supporting communities and finding hidden talent – has worked with Deaf Action.
  • As part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2021, Skills Development Scotland worked with the BDA on a live streaming event including online workshops with BSL signers. This was viewed by over 1,900 people on Facebook.
  • The Workplace Equality Fund, running since 2017, has supported inclusion in the workplace for BSL users.
  • Social Security Scotland's services are now accessible to BSL users throughout the benefit process. The service is currently under expansion.
  • BSL/English interpreting is offered within the Social Security Experience Panels programme.

8.2 Actions and outcomes

Action No. 32


Ensure that every Scottish Government funded employment programme and training opportunity is accessible to BSL users* and that tailored and personalised support is available to them. This includes Fair Start Scotland (FSS), our new employment programme which starts in April 2018.

Update June 2021

Fair Start Scotland supports those who face the greatest challenges in obtaining work, offering personalised, one to one support, tailored to individual circumstances. Pre-employment support can last up to 18 months depending on the specific needs of the individual, recognising that circumstances can change due to health or personal reasons.

The latest statistics published show that between April 2018 and December 2020, 608 D/deaf individuals have been supported by the service so far.

We continue to invest in our employability services including more than £20 million this financial year (2020-21) in FSS, ensuring it is appropriately funded to deliver for those who need support taking account of COVID-19 impacts.

Through our partnership with Local Authorities our jointly managed No One Left Behind model provides employability support to individuals of all ages, supporting them to increase confidence, skills and experience enabling them to progress towards or enter employment and, if needed, BSL support will be provided.

As we recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, equality for all, will be at the heart of what we do.

Parental Employability Support Fund (PESF) aims to deliver intensive employability support for low income parents to access and progress in employment, supporting them to address barriers and upskill and, if needed, BSL support will be provided.

A £2.35m Boost for PESF was announced in the PfG for 2020/21. Focusing on three key themes this investment enhances pre-employment support for disabled parents; young parents and for parents accessing funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC). On the 1st of March 2021 the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government announced that the Tackling Child Poverty Fund would allocate a further £5m through PESF to provide additional support for disabled parents enabling us to further strengthen the support for this priority group as part of the Scottish Governments efforts to eradicate Child Poverty.

Action No. 33


Provide up to 12 months support to BSL users* who access our in-work support services, including those in Fair Start Scotland (FSS). This is in addition to the 'Access to Work' (AtW) scheme.

Update June 2021

The Government is working to ensure that communications activity relating to the Young Person's Guarantee is accessible which includes providing alternative formats, such as BSL.

£30 million has been invested in this financial year through the Guarantee to ensure local partnerships deliver person-centred and place-based support for young people. This funding will further ensure discrete support for young people with additional support needs at a local level, including key worker support.

We are further providing additional funding to Our Future Now and Discovering Your Potential. These programmes play a valuable role in supporting young people with additional barriers and ensure they have the opportunity to thrive.

Action No. 34


Work with partners who deliver employment services, and with employer groups already supporting employability (for example the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Regional Groups) to promote more diverse recruitment, and provide specific advice on the needs of BSL users* so that they are clear about their responsibilities.

Update June 2021

Employers will be encouraged and supported to embed inclusive workplace practices through their involvement in the Young Person's Guarantee. Employers will commit to "creating an inclusive and fair workplace" and to "helping those who need it most". This will be linked to the organisation's own diversity and equality policies and activities, and employers will be supported to consider areas of further action and developments in line with their commitment.

Through delivery of Fair Start Scotland we have worked with Deaf Action to present to the FSS Employer Engagement Working Group, which included all FSS service providers, with a focus on supporting local communities and finding hidden talent.

Action No. 35


Raise awareness of the UK Government's 'Access to Work' (AtW) scheme with employers and representative organisations and with BSL users* themselves, so that BSL users* who are employed, (including those who are undertaking a Modern Apprenticeship) can benefit from the support it provides.

Update June 2021

Skills Development Scotland works in partnership with the British Deaf Association to raise awareness of apprenticeship opportunities to D/deaf young people in Scotland. We also raise awareness of the needs of Deaf people through our work with training providers and employers, including promoting Access to Work funding and developing a guide for providers on accessing BSL/English interpreting on Apprenticeships. As part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2021 SDS collaborated with British Deaf Association (BDA) on a live streaming event which supports Apprenticeships. This was jointly delivered with the BDA (and advertised by them) with online workshops with BSL signers regarding apprenticeships, including apprentices who are deaf. As at 4th March 2021, there had been 1,900 views of the video on Facebook. On the session of 3rd March there were around 80 people joining live and 1 hour later there were over 1,000 views of the video.

Action No. 36


Establish a Workplace Equality Fund in 2017 to address long standing barriers in access to the labour market for people with a range of characteristics, including BSL users*. The aim of the Workplace Equality Fund will be to reduce employment inequalities so that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and improve Scotland's economic performance.

Update June 2021

The Workplace Equality Fund which was launched in 2018 was designed to address long standing barriers in the labour market preventing positive outcomes for specific equality groups including minority ethnic people, women, disabled people, older workers (those aged over 50 – including menopause support).

Since its launch, the fund has provided over £1.8m worth of funding to 58 projects. 28 of these projects had a primary aim of working with disabled people & people with long term health conditions. These projects totaled over £440,000.

The fund has supported projects to help employers develop more inclusive working practices for disabled people including D/deaf BSL users.

An evaluation of the efficacy of previous funds in achieving their stated outcomes and aims was undertaken at the beginning of 2021. The report gave key recommendations including increasing the project delivery time and implementing a robust monitoring and evaluation process. These recommendations will be taken forward through the new multi-year version of the Workplace Equality Fund.

The new fund will launch in the winter of 2021/22 with up to £800,000 committed to the fund for this year.

Action No. 37


Ensure that our new social security system is fully accessible to BSL users* at all stages of the process – including advice, applications, feedback, complaints and appeals.

Update June 2021

Currently Social Security Scotland's services are accessible to BSL users throughout the benefit process. We are currently expanding the service provision and will have an improved range of BSL services by Summer 2021.

Action No. 38


Over 2,400 volunteers from across Scotland have signed up to the Experience Panels. Panel members will help to design and test the new social security system to ensure it works for them, and help ensure our new system is fully accessible to BSL users*.

Update June 2021

The Social Security Experience Panels programme offers BSL provision on our helpline service and can provide BSL/English interpreting as required. This is advertised as standard across all of our research and communication with the panel. Research with BSL users in the Experience Panels, as well as data from other sources, has underpinned the work to make Social Security Scotland's services accessible to BSL users.



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