Written evidence submitted by SignHealth (VIC0060)
- I am the Service Manager for SignHealth Domestic Abuse Service. I am also a qualified IDVA with 10 year’s experience of working with Deaf survivors.
- SignHealth is a deaf-led service for Deaf people who have or are experiencing domestic abuse. Our present service areas include London, the South-East, and all of England via remote support, and we are eager to grow our work with the Deaf community. In our team we have IDVAs (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor), Deaf YPVAs (Young People's Violence Advisor), and CFWs (Children and Family Worker).
- From the first point of contact, our team creates a support plan and develops coping skills with the client so that they can continue to live their life independently. We make sure our clients have access to statutory services including immigration, the police and courts, housing, and social services during this procedure. The team also collaborates with women's refuges to support Deaf women, delivers the Freedom Programme for Deaf survivors, and the service can refer clients to our psychological therapy service which is delivered in British Sign Language as appropriate.
- We welcome the Victim’s Law policy paper and the recommendations and agree with the points that have been raised. However, there are points in the paper that we would like to highlight to ensure that Deaf victims are protected.
- Recommendation 8: Victims in cases tried by the Crown Court be entitled to an offer of a free transcript of the judge’s sentencing remarks within six weeks of the conclusion of the trial.
- As English is not Deaf people’s first language, we would like this to be amended to reflect that the judge’s sentencing remarks will be made available in accessible formats for those who need it.
- Recommendation 21: A statutory duty placed on all criminal justice agencies listed under the Victims’ Code to promote the Code and its contents and draw them to the attention of every victim of crime.
- It would be necessary to make all frequently used public materials available in other formats. A Deaf BSL user will occasionally require any frequently downloaded or accessible materials. To ensure that people can access it in their own language when needed, the government and other related agencies should take proactive measures rather than waiting for them to request it. As a rule, anything that is translated into another language should immediately have a BSL translation made available. BSL is one of the most popular language translations. It will be important to proactively reach out to communities that have previously been ignored rather than expecting them to immediately respond to new communication. Investing in community engagement should be a priority.
- Participants were adamant that disaggregation of CJS and victim service data is crucial, otherwise assessing the scope and scale of any problems, such as disproportionality of victimisation, inadequacy of access to justice or support or delivery of Victims’ Code entitlements, is difficult. Information regarding categories such as LGBT+ identities and people with disabilities are not collected, and rates of for example honour-based violence cannot be effectively monitored. This leads to invisibility within the system.
- We are pleased to see that there is information relating to the disaggregation of data relating to disability has been mentioned. This will help us become informed of how many Deaf people have experienced abuse, however, we would also like to mention that it would also be useful to know how many deaf victims of crime were able to report their crime via an interpreter; and if yes, how long it took to book one. Are those timescales comparable to hearing people? Furthermore, the lack of interpreter bookings for perpetrators also has significant consequences for the victims of crime because inevitably, the failure to source an interpreter for a police interview will result in the suspect being released on bail until an interpreter can be sourced. This leaves the victim vulnerable.