Deaf Project Barrier Busting

Deaf Project Barrier Busting


One of our administrators is undertaking adviser training – with a difference. He’ll be blogging about his progress as part of the Barrier Busting project…


For more information about this project, Steve Emery is the National British Sign Language (BSL) Strategy Coordinator at Citizens Advice and he has posted a BSL video explaining the project and his role.



I have been working as an administrator for many years in a busy bureau in the centre of Birmingham. I was born profoundly deaf and went to Braidwood School for the Deaf in Birmingham. I have learned BSL and this has helped me to overcome many communication issues.

Now I have changed my role from an administrator to my new role as a Deaf adviser specifically for the new Barrier Busting project.

I started training as a Generalist Adviser for a new project, my training commenced in October 2015. I have started on the CAB training programme and will continue this for the next few months, after which I will be ready to advise Deaf clients on many advice issues in January 2016. BSL signers will be available for advice sessions and are also accompanying me in my training. This initiative will improve access to advice for the Deaf community in the Birmingham area. I am very excited to be able to help the Deaf community in my home city of Birmingham.



Well it’s been a month now since I started this new role and project here at Birmingham CAB, so far so good with regards to my training, and it has been interesting to learn new things that affect our everyday lives.

Training Programmes
I have completed a few simple modules, produced by national ‘Citizens Advice’, covering areas such as ‘Aims & Principles of CAB’, ‘History of CABx’, ‘Main Enquiry areas’ (Benefit, Housing, Employment, and Immigration etc.), ‘Legal Framework’ (understanding how UK legal systems work) and ‘Using CAB information system’ (AdviserNet).   

Due to my years of service and experience with the CAB I found some of the modules familiar and easy for me to understand. I have my own ‘Learning Journal’ which tracks my progress and can help me look for any improvement. 
Although each module states I need to allow 2 or 3 hours to complete, I find that with the time taken for my Interpreter to translate the English into BSL for me it has taken a little while longer to complete each module. 

I am very grateful for Steve Butler and Rob Heath for their patience and time to complete the modules with a lot of reading off the computer screen and translating for me.

In keeping up with IT technology, I have been using ‘One Drive’ (cloud software) to copy and paste my notes so I can use my smartphone/tablet to recap so it will save me time in writing up and printing on paper.

Soon I will be attending the ‘adviser skills’ course. Added to that I will observe interviews with ‘hearing’ clients here at Birmingham and also many Deaf Clients when I visit the Wolverhampton CAB.


Barrier Busting Project progress for Birmingham CAB
We will shortly be producing a standard ‘Referrals’ template for referring deaf clients to Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau from various deaf communities, deaf organisations, GP surgeries and NHS hospitals enable us to book in to see Deaf Advisers. 

Access to Work
I am very pleased to have my Access to Work arranged.  I would like to thank Sarah at DWP and Debbie at Communication Plus and my colleagues for sorting and arrange for interpreters to be put in place in time for my new role.  This will enable me to overcome many communication issues and providing me with opportunities to practise and improve my BSL sig



Third month into my training programme, I have learnt a lot in dealing with clients who are distressed, angry or at risk of Suicide and how we can deal with and offer assistance. I have completed many more benefits modules like Housing Benefit, Income Support, Fringe benefits, Tax Credit and Universal Credit.

Recently I have observed a few deaf clients who required a benefit check, advice on ESA and PIP issues. Normally it takes around 45 minutes but it has taken around 1.5 hour with a volunteer adviser, interpreter and myself.  

One client recently started a new job and wished to stop claiming ESA so we contacted ESA and it got sorted very quickly and easily.
Then the client wanted to challenge the PIP that had been recently awarded (8 points) ‘daily living’ standard rate to enhanced rate (12 points) and go for standard ‘mobility’ component (8 points).  We reviewed our client’s PIP rather than appealing or make a new fresh claim, we drafted a review letter to PIP with more information on client’s deafness - e.g. client cannot go on ‘unfamiliar’ journeys alone due to safety reasons, unable to read symbol or hear public announcement system or fire alarms, also needs translation of letters from English to BSL. Deaf client always relies on someone else to be with them in order to translate information into BSL.


Recently I attended “Direct2Deaf Cancer Prevention” session to survey many Deaf clients to find out what their lifestyle is like and their eating habits. 


Training Programmes
In the next few weeks and into New Year, I will be continuing further training modules such as Debt, Consumer and Employment.


Barrier Busting Project progress for BCABS
Referrals and posters are still in the pipeline and we will hopefully have this up and running in the New Year.
We are now getting a few Deaf clients come in as and when
appointments are available until the New Year.



A few weeks ago, I started my first interview with a BSL client to do a Benefit Check. Normally we ask for client to bring in their proof of income and what benefits they have, then we do a calculation and finally write a letter to client for them to decide the next action or make an appointment for further assistance. Another client required assistance with an ESA form and Tax Credits with regards to a separation issue.


Training Programmes

Well we are in 2016, I'm continuing on with my training programme on Benefits Bite Size modules for people on a low income, seeking work or unable to work.  I am also currently studying Debt and now know what the common Court forms are.


Barrier Busting Project progress for BCABS

Shortly we will be setting up a drop-in and appointment system and will be available to various deaf organisations, deaf consultants and GPs.

Next month, I will be attending Sheffield CAB to see how they work with their deaf clients. It will be interesting to see how their system works, so we can implement something similar here at Birmingham CAB.


MARCH 2016

A busy two months for me! I have been seeing deaf clients, visiting Sheffield CAB Deaf Advice Team, giving a presentation at Deafinitely Community in Birmingham and designing our webpage, complete with a BSL video clip. 

We visited Sheffield CAB to see how they worked and we were very impressed on how they work with a small team in the City Centre.  My thanks to Kate Bushen, Service Supervisor for allowing us to go and give us some idea how we can run our service in Birmingham.

I also gave a presentation at Deafinitely Community to explain our service, what we do and how to make a referral.  My thanks to Phillip Freeman, Deaf Consultant in organising this coffee morning and I enjoyed having a chat with many of the deaf people that attended. 


Training Programmes

I completed the Employment module of my training. This means I have some understanding of how employers and employees work with regards to dismissal, holiday pay owing and redundancy. Now my training is focusing on Housing issues.


Barrier Busting Project progress for BCABS

I am pleased to say we now have a new ‘Deaf Advice Service’ webpage. Scroll down to ‘Information and Advice’ click on this and you will see a video clip of myself and our contact details. A pdf document fully explaining our service can be found under “Where Are We”. 

I have created a standard referral form for any deaf organisations, deaf consultants and GPs who wish to refer any deaf clients to CAB, so if you need a copy please contact us directly.

We have now have an appointment system up and running, available every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 10am to 2pm.
To book an appointment see ‘How to Contact’ on our web page or see below.

This month, I will be attending the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf to give a presentation of our service and to create a link between BID and CAB.


JUNE 2016

Since my last blog back in March, I have been seeing many more deaf clients and visiting first national BSL Citizens Advice conference.

It’s been a very busy few months for me, I have been seeing deaf clients coming in with Personal Independence Payments requesting assistance in filling in the form because they have been notified that their Disability Living Allowance is due to be end soon.   Also I have been seeing clients requiring assistance in filling in HC5 (Help with NHS Health Costs), ESA1 and ESA50 (Employment Support Allowance) and Immigration forms.

I visited the first national BSL conference in Birmingham, to see Deaf advisers from all over England and see how they worked and share ideas for improvements. It’s been lovely to meet up with other deaf advisers in the same role as myself.

Recently, I gave a presentation at Birmingham Institute for the Deaf to explain our service, what we do and how to make a referral.  My thanks to them in organising this information session.

Training Programmes

I completed the Housing module of my training. This means I have some understanding of how the housing system works and dealing with homelessness. I am now moving onto Immigration training.

Barrier Busting Project progress for BCABS

I will be arranging Deaf Awareness training shortly for all staff, trustees and volunteers to attend, so they can be made aware of how to approach and communicate with deaf people in the best way and have good understanding of what is like being Deaf.

To remind you the deaf advice service is only by appointment - available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 
To book an appointment anyone can email to or phone 0121 262 3863 - more information see Deaf Advice section within our website, please do leave your name and contact information to return.

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