Platform co-op set up for BSL interpreters and service users

SignCo hopes the venture, based in Merseyside, will ‘change contract culture’ with improved, codesigned services

A new platform co-op, SignCo, is being formed for BSL English interpreters and translators, in a hid to halt a “race to the bottom” in the profession.

The team behind the Merseyside venture says agencies have been dictating fees, terms and conditions in recent years, and wants to “change contract culture in favour of end suppliers (translators), end users and health professionals”.

As a result, said SignCo, “health services have struggled to make their services accessible due to the poor provision created by the current procurement model”.

The co-op will be run democratically by its members, who will include service users as well as interpreters and translators. It will consult with all users to co-create a service that works for health staff, users and workers.

Members will co-design an online booking platform and hold discussions over how it should work. Once the platform is up and running, SignCo says it will “use it to get NHS contracts and provide a better service for all”.

SignCo’s founders – Jen Smith, Wes Mehaffy, Kate Boddy and Nicky Evans – have already surveyed NHS staff and service users in Merseyside and are being helped by Co-operatives UK and co-op support programme the Hive.

“The deaf community have had to endure years of poor provision due to contracts that are not fit for purpose,” they said. “Too often commissioners consulted only with agencies wishing to bid and not the community using the services.

“SignCo wants deaf people to become members and help shape all our services.”

More information is available on the co-op’s Twitter feed and Facebook page. Service providers and users in Merseyside can join a closed group and answer the team’s consultation here.