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Face to Face Sign Language Interpreting Service – Update November 2020


The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) is working with the Business Services Organisation (BSO) and other partners to deliver the Regional Communication Support Services (RCSS) Programme. This Programme is a work in progress. It aims to deliver high quality, accessible, regionally consistent, and sustainable communication support for people who are Deaf, Deafblind, or Hard of Hearing across all Health and Social Care services, and to establish Northern Ireland as a recognised centre of good practice in this regard.

The RCSS Programme includes a new Face to Face Sign Language Interpreting Service that will be provided by the BSO. The design and development of the new Face to Face Sign Language Interpreting Service is based on extensive research, public consultation, and engagement over the period 2011 to the present. Detailed information about this background work is provided in the update published on this website in November 2019.

At that time, it was anticipated that the new Face to Face Sign Language Interpreting Service, which will involve the BSO directly recruiting Sign Language Interpreters to work as employees in Health and Social Care, would be implemented this year. However, in March 2020 it was necessary to temporarily suspend that work, due to pressures and constraints associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, despite the ongoing and considerable challenges facing Health and Social Care, the delivery of the Face to Face Sign Language Interpreting Service remains a priority. Over recent weeks the HSCB and BSO have worked on the plans outlined in the previous update. We can now share our progress and next steps as follows:


Job Descriptions for the Sign Language Interpreters to be recruited by the BSO have been finalised and assessed by Human Resources.

The posts have been confirmed at the anticipated professional levels, namely:

Next steps

The BSO will advertise the Service Manager/ Senior Sign Language Interpreter (Band 7) post in early December. The job will be advertised on the official website for Health and Social Care Jobs in Northern Ireland – jobs.hscni.net

It is anticipated that interviews will take place in January 2021. The HSCB and BSO are already engaged with the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf people (NRCPD) in relation to the recruitment and assessment in terms of best practice and ensuring appropriate service user involvement. We will engage local Service Users and independent sign language experts to become involved in that process.

Once the BSO successfully appoints a Service Manager, it will then recruit for the Sign Language Interpreter (Band 6) posts. We will ‘grow’ the service over the following months, incorporating one Health and Social Care Trust area at a time. We will share more information about these service developments as it becomes available. In the meantime, Service Users, Carers, and Sign Language Interpreters should continue as normal.

The previous Regional Communication Support Service Steering Group will not meet again, as its work is complete. At the Steering Group’s last meeting in January 2020, it was agreed that it will be necessary to renew the membership and Terms of Reference of a group that can monitor this project into the future. The HSCB will therefore establish a new committee called the Regional Advisory Group.

The Regional Advisory Group will include Service Users and other relevant stakeholder representatives from the community/voluntary sector, the Health and Social Care Trust Equality and Sensory Support Teams, and the governing bodies that register and set professional standards for Sign Language Interpreters. The HSCB will contact individuals and organisations from December 2020 onwards to establish the new membership. The Regional Advisory Group will aim to meet for the first time in early 2021.

The HSCB remains committed to maintaining open and accessible communication with service users and everyone who is involved in and affected by this process.

The HSCB wishes to thank all the people who have committed their time and expertise to this important programme of change up to now. We look forward to continued positive engagement with all of our stakeholders, as we work to deliver equal access to all Health and Social Care services for people who are Deaf, Deafblind, or Hard of Hearing.