“Non communication days”.
It has been brought to our attention that as a result of the 30 hour rule, some Deaf people are being asked to have “non communication days”. These are days when no communication support is provided, so they are expected to get on with tasks that don’t require any communication. This has even been agreed by some employers, who by not challenging it, are sending out the message that this is acceptable.
We are appalled by this. The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), Article 27, states that “Persons with disabilities have equal rights to work and gain a living.” This is being severely impeded by the current guidance being implemented. Our biggest fear is that the lower pay will result in deaf people having to employ sub-standard support, that doesn’t meet their needs and restricts their ability to progress, or, worse they will become unemployable.
One Deaf professional we spoke to told us:
“I have always worked in a hearing environment. I have been lucky over the past 20 years, as I have developed skills and abilities that has given me the opportunity to not just develop as a manager, but to get to the level of CEO. This would not have happened if I did not have Access to Work resources. I have valued that resource and have used it well. But one of the things that has often been difficult is the level of resources you are allocated – you have to provide very detailed information about how you will use if that is sometimes difficult to predict. This often meant that there was no resources for 5 days support, this meant that at least one day a week is what I have always called a “non communication day” – when there was no interpreter.
This can feel very isolating and lonely. It can lead to miscommunication with hearing colleagues, who assume you have understood, as well as missing out on vital office chat and information being exchanged. For a manager this information in essential. Sometimes urgent decisions need to be made, without support this is often taken over by other members of staff. As a manager this leaves you feeling powerless and that you have lost control.
I am the expert of my own situation. The resources have got to work for me and be there to enable me to do my job”.
However, this is not merely an issue to do with employment, but a basic human right.
The higher support needs and therefore hours needed by Deaf people sets them apart from other AtW users. The governments own definition of discrimination states that “You can discriminate indirectly with working conditions or rules that disadvantage one group of people more than another.” https://www.gov.uk/employer-preventing-discrimination.
We don’t feel that it is too strong a statement to suggest this is what is currently happening to the Deaf community as a result of the 30 hour rule. We are of the opinion that the DWP are indirectly discriminating against Deaf people.
The Limping Chicken mentioned the non-communication day in their article “Things I am pleased, and not so pleased about, this Christmas”. We would like to thank Jen Dodds for raising awareness of the issue and our campaign.