Over the past ten years many public services have been outsourced to private companies. Local government have had their funding cut and as a result have seen the only option to buy off government frameworks who largely award contracts to the lowest bidder. Whilst this may, on the surface, seem like a good idea (it isn’t – follow @We_OwnIt to find out why), for some services this change has lead to a whole host of problems.
If you haven’t read NUBSLI’s Dossier of Disgrace, this details the many failings of this approach to providing BSL interpreting services. NUBSLI have been on the forefront of tackling poor practice and defending interpreters’ working conditions and pay and in doing so protecting the access rights of deaf people (see LanguageLine Solutions (LLS) boycott, fees guidance, lobbying for improvements to frameworks etc), but there is only so much a union can do.
Can’t we change the system?
The current procurement system is failing our communities – deaf people and interpreters. We all know that. We’ve seen scandal after scandal – Carillon, Serco, G4S and others. Yet, nothing has been enough to force the government to change it: we are stuck with it.
What can we do?
We need to find a model that will enable us to work within the constraints of the current procurement system, yet still give power and control back to the communities. A co-operative can do that.
What is a co-operative?
There is a lot of confusion about what a co-op is.
A co-operative is a business. It is for profit. What makes a co-op different is how that profit is used and how the business is controlled.
A traditional business model is to make a profit. That is the businesses’ sole aim. The profit is then shared amongst its shareholders. For BSL interpreting, this means that tax payers money, which could be used for greater access and improving services, is instead being taken out of the system and given to private individuals.
A co-op is run by its members – workers, users, or investors – and they decide how any profit made is used. Some of the profit is needed to develop the business, but other than that, the only limitations are members coming to a collective decision.
Some examples on the sorts of things a co-op for interpreters could be spent on are further interpreting training and development, which would benefit both interpreters and the deaf community (by having improved standards). Or using profit to pilot a scheme to prove to commissioners that there is a need.
How can you help?
We are in our final day of Crowdfunding. If you can afford to, please give anything you can (or badger others to!). You can visit our Crowdfunding page here.
If you live or work in Merseyside and are either a deaf person on an interpreter, you are eligible to become a member – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you aren’t from the area you can sign up to our newsletter to find out how we are getting on, you can sign up to that here.
Together, we can revolutionise BSL interpreting provision.
Let’s do this!