Building the Foundations of Deaf Mental Healthcare Services with British Sign Language
Anne Silman BA (Hons) Deaf Studies; Member of BSMHD and ESMHD; Medical Secretary, Substance Misuse Service
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
Andrew Mayers, Deafero5 – Accredited Tutor Institute of British Sign Language
Richard Speight, WULF Project Co-Ordinator, UNISON
Access to British Sign Language (BSL), the understanding of mental health development and mental health needs is a barrier to Deaf and hard of hearing people in Wales, despite continued action taken by local Assembly Members to bring equality to this vulnerable group.
A report by the National Assembly for Wales Petition Committee highlights this:
Video: To improve access to Education and services in British Sign Language, Summary Report
This project unites staff within BCUHB who have empathy and willingness to learn BSL and the aspects of deafness in order to provide a Deaf Mental Health Service (DMHS), which will provide an equal healthcare experience, improve service provision and offer future career prospects for D/deaf individuals and families within North Wales.
The aims of the project are to build the foundations for a Deaf Mental Health Service (DMHS) in BCUHB. Currently there is no DMHS in Wales. The specialist subject of Deaf mental health is not included in learning outcomes set by The Royal College of Psychiatrists therefore the expertise in this field is extremely limited.
- To collate numbers of BCUHB staff who have interest in learning BSL and working within a Deaf mental healthcare setting.
- Include in the workforce Deaf professionals who are experts in their field and are role models for our Deaf society.
- Include the British Deaf Association BSL Charter recommendations BSL Charter in service design to ensure the needs of the Deaf community.
- Liaise with English Deaf Mental Health Services to arrange staff training opportunities and future service provision.
- Embrace the concepts of all 4 Bevan Commission Principles by inclusion, training, improvement and collaboration with current DMHS.
- The timeliness of this project helps prepare for the future plans in the BCUHB Deaf mental health agenda.
- This project has taken years to receive recognition, the opportunity to present the project at a Bevan Showcase event was greatly encouraging and beneficial to the outcome of the project.
- Funding opportunities from the UNISON WULF Project enabled BSL classes to commence, but not all staff who wished to register to learn BSL were able to obtain study leave from their posts.
- The original learning schedule was to hold 2 face to face classes. Due to COVID-19 regulations class numbers had to be reduced therefore a new schedule was made to provide an additional Zoom class.
- In December 2020 due to the new COVID variant, health and safety resulted in the loss of our venue and the suspension of face to face classes. Classes will recommence in April 2021.
- COVID-19 lockdown added pressures on staff, work environment and home life, affecting the time, health and moral of iBSL learners, which resulted in class numbers reducing. It was necessary to delay the start of the classes a number of times, and change venues. Currently 8 of the 20 lessons have been taught and unfortunately some learners have left the course.
This project was presented at the BCUHB Bevan Exemplar showcase event in early 2020.
Short questionnaires asking of DMH experience, BSL interest and learning opportunities, plus adverts in Newsletters were sent within BCUHB resulting in 65 staff members from various disciplines corresponding their interest.
Correspondence via Zoom to the Institute of British Sign Language provided the opportunity to contact a freelance Deaf tutor of BSL.
- Funding requests via the UNISON WULF Project provided a budget for up to 30 staff members to learn BSL level 1.
- We were able to enrol 26 staff members on the iBSL level 1 course.
- The MHLD Directorate and Patient User Experience Team are currently working together on a Deaf mental health agenda.
- Dr Margaret du Feu, Consultant Psychiatrist, author and founder of the Birmingham DMH Service has offered to be mentor for MHLD staff for the DMH Service
- Discussions have commenced with English Deaf Mental Health Services to bring Deaf adult MH and CAMHS services to North Wales
- Discussions due to take place in early March with the Deaf Nursing Forum for the training and DMH service work experience of BCUHB staff. This will utilise skills and resources, and help care for our vulnerable D/deaf community at a faster pace.
We asked the learners ‘what are your thoughts so far on BSL in the workplace and Deaf mental health?’
Bevan Exemplar Experience
The Bevan Commission gave an opportunity to bring a business plan to fruition that has been in progress for a number of years.
Bevan Exemplar Showcase 2021
- In 2020 the Curriculum for Wales issued draft guidance on teaching BSL as a language option in schools in written British Sign Language: new opportunities through the Curriculum for Wales | Curriculum for Wales Blog (gov.wales) and BSL Curriculum for Wales British sign language (BSL) guidance with English subtitles – part 1 – YouTube form. The Welsh Government have provided the opportunity for Wales’ communities to provide written 210126-curriculum-for-wales-british-sign-language.pdf (gov.wales) or BSL How to send your response in British Sign Language – YouTube feedback on the consultation document until 29 March 2021.
- Welsh Parliament Plenary, 24th February 2021: A debate on a Member’s legislative proposal for a British Sign Language, BSL, point 265.
- I’m raising money for BSL classes in BCUHB to help achieve equal health care for D/deaf patients.