4 February 2010

RNID websiteRNID is proposing to axe its highly valued casework team without seeking the views of service users, possibly within three months.  The team provides advice and representation in relation to welfare benefits as well as support with employment and disability discrimination issues.

RNID’s casework team has built up a unique level of expertise in relation to social security law as it affects claimants who are deaf or hard of hearing.  It not only provides support to individual claimants, but also offers highly respected second tier advice to welfare rights workers in other organisations and takes on complex cases where there is an opportunity to influence benefits law for the good of all deaf claimants.

It came as a highly unwelcome shock to the casework team to discover, then, that RNID considers that their services are not ‘ inline with its new strategic direction announced in November last year’ and that it is proposed that they be dispensed with as part of an organisational restructure.

Internal consultation on this proposal began on January 15th and ends on February 15th.  Information posted on RNID’s website in November about the proposed restructure stated that “We hope to have our changes in place by April next year.”

When we asked RNID why they were considering this proposal at a time of increased need for welfare benefits support, a spokesperson told us:

“Previously RNID was funded by the National Lottery to provide individual legal advice to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. This funding was withdrawn in 2007, in part following a national strategy from the Legal Services Commission to provide all front line legal services through the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and local legal advice centres.

“RNID supports the move to make all services inclusive and accessible and will work with front line legal services to ensure they meet the needs of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. As part of this, we have already delivered deaf awareness training to the Citizens Advice Bureau and we offer it to all businesses and services.”

The idea that a day or two of deaf awareness training for CAB staff can replace a specialist benefits advocacy service for deaf people is likely to raise a hollow laugh both from CAB staff and from deaf claimants alike.

But then, there is a rather large question mark over the degree to which the opinions of the people whom RNID is funded to serve are being taken into account as this closure is considered.   We asked RNID whether service users would be consulted about the proposed changes before any decision is made.  The closest we could identify to an answer in their emailed response was:

“If the proposed changes to casework go ahead, RNID will ensure that all current cases are fully supported until their issues are resolved.”

We rather think that means no.

If you wish to offer your opinions to RNID, even though they haven’t been asked for, you can download their highly complex feedback chart from this page

If you wish to read about the proposed restructure and learn how RNID aim to “clearly integrate our engagement with our message and extend the reach of our services and products” via “three distinct directorates - Corporate Resources, External Engagement and Service Provision” then you can do so here.

If you wish to lament the fact that a national charity now talks about itself in terms that would not be inappropriate for a multinational private sector company planning world market domination, be assured you are not alone.


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