Access to Work crisis: Another Deaf leader speaks out

Another leading Deaf figure has come forward to describe the damage the government’s botched Access to Work (AtW) changes have caused to his career.

Last week, Jenny Sealey, chief executive and artistic director of Graeae, described how her AtW support had been cut by more than half, while other Graeae staff were facing similar reductions, as well as delays of up to eight months.

Now Craig Crowley, chief executive of the Deaf-led charity Action Deafness and honorary president of UK Deaf Sport, has described how he has also faced cuts to his support.

He was told last year that he could not continue to use freelance interpreters for more than 30 hours a week, which he was told was “an operational delivery decision based upon principles adopted across our programme and as such is not one that we have discretion to change”.

This “30 hours rule” states that a Deaf person needing more than 30 hours a week AtW support had to recruit their own salaried interpreter.

If they did not want to do that, AtW would only fund an award for an hourly rate equivalent to a £30,000 salary, well below the usual rate for a qualified British Sign Language interpreter.

Crowley was told he was funded only for a full-time interpreter at £30,000 per year, but despite advertising the post twice, did not receive a single application.

He said this was because the 30-hour rule and the £30,000 per year threshold were “seriously flawed and unworkable”.

He was forced instead to use a freelance interpreter at £17.50 per hour, while one of his staff secured a “far better” package of 28 hours per week at £30 per hour.

Crowley and Sealey are only the latest leading Deaf figures to speak out about AtW.

Earlier this year, Jeff McWhinney told ITV how he was forced to bring a non-Deaf managing director into his company SignVideo after his AtW support was cut, which meant he was no longer able to attend networking opportunities in the evenings.

He said at the time: “I have to effectively make myself redundant and employ a hearing person, a managing director, to cover my job, so I am now effectively out of my own job.”

News provided by John Pring at

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