To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to increase the number of British Sign Language trained interpreters; and what assessment she has made of the potential merits of reducing the costs of training courses for those interpreters.
There are a range of British Sign Language qualifications currently approved for government funding. This include qualifications linked to interpreting which are approved for delivery in Advanced Learner Loans (ALLs) – such as The IBSL Level 6 Diploma in Sign Language Interpreting Studies, IBSL Level 6 Diploma in British Sign Language Studies, Signature Level 6 Diploma in Sign Language Translation and Signature Level 6 NVQ Diploma in Sign Language Interpreting. These qualifications also are approved by NRCPD for interpreters.
Students are encouraged to seek an institution that may offer loans-funded study for one of the qualifications listed above. Students in receipt of an ALL for one of these courses may also seek support from the ALLs Bursary Fund from their institution to help with course related costs.
Advanced Learner Loans provide extensive coverage of a range of regulated qualifications at Level 3 to Level 6, helping to pay the up-front tuition fees and removing one of the main barriers to adult learning.
British Sign Language courses delivered by private organisations are widely available but funding, delivery and regulation of these is not a DfE matter.
The British Sign Language Act 2022 was brought forward to help promote and facilitate the use of British Sign Language by providing legal recognition of BSL. It gained Royal Assent in April 2022. Alongside the Act, the government committed to a package of policy measures, including how the government might help to increase the numbers of properly accredited BSL interpreters and how this might be increased. This could include an assessment of costs to individuals in attaining BSL interpretation accreditation.