A response to the Royal Commission? Government announces new national sign language interpreting service

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A common complaint during the Royal Commission community forums last year was the lack of interpreting services for older Australians who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing – now the Government has come to the party.

Starting this month, the Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, said Auslan Connections will provide free sign language and interpreting to people who are receiving or want to access aged care services including using My Aged Care, undertaking aged care assessments and speaking to home care and residential care providers.

Auslan Connections has previously provided interpreting and translation services to Commonwealth and State governments and has been contracted until 30 June 2022.

Interestingly, the tender is still open – so the figure for the contract is not known. However, the company typically charges a minimum of $215 per session during business hours and $275 per session after business hours.

With around 150,000 older Australians estimated to experience deafness or hearing loss, the final bill is likely to be in the millions.

Both face-to-face and online interpreting, including on-demand video remote interpreting, will be on offer nationally, seven days a week and after business hours when required, in Auslan, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, American Sign Language, International Sign Language, and Signed English for deaf consumers or consumers who are hard of hearing, and tactile signing and hand over hand for deafblind consumers.

However, the Department of Health has warned that it is “strongly advised” that bookings be made well in advance to ensure the availability of an interpreter – suggesting there may still be issues with timely access.

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