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Civil Service

DWP pilot's cutting-edge technology for deaf customers

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Civil Service Leaders, Diversity and inclusion
Sir Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary DWP
Sir Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary DWP

New video technology being piloted by my department could make a huge difference to our deaf and hard of hearing customers.

The Video Relay Service allows British Sign Language users to communicate with DWP in a way that is similar to a traditional phone call via a sign language interpreter and can be used through PC, tablets and mobile phones.

One of my aims as Permanent Secretary is to champion diversity and inclusion and I want to make sure we are continually removing barriers to our services. So this pilot is a great example of what we are doing to be more inclusive.

Our deaf customers want as much choice as possible in how they communicate with us and the service is a welcome addition to what we already provide, including text phones and lip reading services.

Using new technology to improve the way we help our customers

It shows my department’s commitment to using new technology to improve the way we help our customers. It has the full support of Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People, who wants to see it rolled out across all DWP services.

Our six-month pilot is running in call centres for Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Access to Work enquiry lines and hearing loss advisers. My department worked with deaf people and the British Deaf Association and UK Council on Deafness to deliver this.

I’ve been really pleased with the positive response since the pilot began last month (January). One customer, John Walker, from Peacehaven in East Sussex, got in touch to say he was ‘delighted’ to be able to call DWP in British Sign Language, which, he said “resulted in the call being resolved far quicker”. He added that the new service “was greatly appreciated for its speed, professionalism and quality”.

Within DWP, one colleague said it was “great news for all deaf people” and another went as far as to say it was the “best thing ever to be introduced to the department”.

This is the right approach for the Civil Service for the future; delivering improved services to citizens using new technology in a way that fits with their lives. I’m really proud that we continue to champion this in DWP.


Kenny Robertson, DWP’s Director of End User Computing and Support has responded to DWP staff comments on the ability to see this video on YouTube here. The video has now also been published on the DWP intranet.

Follow Robert Devereux on Twitter: @robert_devereux.

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  1. Comment by Andy Harper posted on

    Whilst this is a good news story it is still very dissapointing that the video is blocked. Also as a visiting officer this still does not help me when I am out visiting a customer as I neither have access to a tablet or a mobile phone that this service could be used on. I still have to carry a very old and antiquated micro phone and headset booster around with me which isnt very good at the job.

  2. Comment by Kenny Robertson, DWP’s director of end user computing and support posted on

    Thank you for your comments. We have also published this content on our own DWP intranet video player so all DWP colleagues can view it at work.

    Here is the reason why DWP colleagues cannot access videos on YouTube. We run many business-critical software applications on our network. These are essential to delivering the State Pension and a range of working age benefits to more than 22 million customers. The scale of this activity places major demands on our network, and we prioritise our core business processes to serve our customers.

    We recognise that the size of our network and some of our devices prevent people from accessing valuable external high definition video content. We’re increasing capacity and upgrading equipment to improve access, as we progressively deploy our future digital workplace solutions.

    • Replies to Kenny Robertson, DWP’s director of end user computing and support>

      Comment by Hazel posted on

      Can you please send us the link to the DWP intranet video player so we can watch the video at work? This innovative approach should help many deaf customers communicate with DWP. It would be useful to know when the pilot results are going to be available and also how and when will we find out if there are plans to role out the technology more widely? I work within a JCP office supporting people with different types of disability move towards and into employment. We have to employ interpreters to help us to communicate with deaf customers so any further innovative approaches are welcome.

      • Replies to Hazel>

        Comment by Jeff McWhinney posted on

        The SignVideo technology can be used to bring in a BSL/English interpreter on a tablet or smartphone screen and is being used in banking branches throughout the UK so Hazel's query can be addressed and there is a significant reduction in advance booking time for a sign language interpreter - with this system it is possible to book a video interpreter on screen within minutes and has been used by a large number of service providers in the public and private sector so I do not see any reason not to extend this to the job centres. Hope this helps...

  3. Comment by Piers Nummelin posted on

    Very disheartening to see that the video is blocked by our own software, This has been fed back, but the video remains blocked.

  4. Comment by Sharon posted on

    Can we look forward to training to enable us to deal with peoples disabilities, for instance dedicated staff to learn sign language, speech therapy and so on?

  5. Comment by Wendy P posted on

    I am a hearing aid user and have long been asking for something as simple as subtitles on training videos etc, and yet despite suggesting this over 7 years ago I still have to struggle in any training or conference type situation. I don't use sign language and rely heavily on subtitles etc. Whilst this is a great thing to be doing for our customers, will there ever be a time when staff are considered? I have to miss out on a lot of opportunities due to my struggles to communicate, I have even had a job role change forced upon me 2 years ago to become a work coach with very little support, making my working day extremely stressful and tiring. Please just try to think about simple changes that could make a huge difference!

  6. Comment by Steve Heyward posted on

    If a customer attends the Jobcentre for a work search review and their first language is BSL, how can we ensure that we are being as effective as possible and moving the customer closer to work?

  7. Comment by Oliver Mawdsley posted on

    When will this be rolled across DWP any new access routes for vunerable customers is a good thing.

  8. Comment by Kevin Stout posted on

    Brilliant. DWP blocks it's own article

  9. Comment by Simon Dolman posted on

    Why link a youtube video on a DWP webpage when you know that youtube is blocked ? Then again, why youtube is even blocked in the first place is beyond me.

  10. Comment by Janet Dickinson posted on

    Hilariously - this is blocked on DWP computers......

  11. Comment by Simon Terry MBE posted on

    I was wondering if this could be made avilable to deaf DWP staff who use BSL for tele conference and meetings? This would be a really good tool and would be able to attend any last minute meetings

    • Replies to Simon Terry MBE>

      Comment by Jake Alexander Murray posted on

      Simon makes a very good point, my first language is BSL (British Sign Language), and as much as I am enjoying this job, it's disheartening to see no deaf awareness where I am based, but hopefully we can improve this service 🙂

      • Replies to Jake Alexander Murray>

        Comment by Petra Gensch posted on

        I agree. I find it disheartening to read about telekits and Robert's Question time, but as a deaf employee I feel that I don't get the chance to participate. Not very inclusive... And: Unfortunately I do not sign in any language, but I'm a native German speaker - if that helps anyone out there?

  12. Comment by Sue Bailey posted on

    Would love to have seen the video but it is blocked by our own system under "video sharing". Thought that was the whole idea.

  13. Comment by Jackie Sutherland posted on

    Disappointing to receive a security block when accessing a news item on DWP home page.

    Your access to this website has been blocked by the DWP's internet filtering software

    What has happened?

    Forbidden URL. URL Category is
    -Video Sharing .
    Transaction ID is 56CAD29DEAE4310F2EE3.
    Site: 101866

    What does this mean?

    Please read this before taking any action

    1. This action has been recorded

    This means that any report on your internet use will show that you encountered this blocking message. Please note that you should not worry unduly as you can expect to encounter a few such messages even if you are a light user of the internet at work. The usage reports can clearly distinguish between people who encounter an occasional message or a message in a 'pop-up' advert and those who make repeated attempts to access blocked material.

  14. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    Being a deaf employee i advocated this being implented well over a year ago at least on the Bright Ideas Portal. It is both heartening to see that my idea has finally taken on, but also disheartening that an idea i had originally proposed has not properly credited! Recognition would have been welcomed.

    However i am glad the service has been provided and being very close to the deaf community i know that this is broadly welcomed across the board. But please do be careful to also cater for those who do not use BSL as there are many other forms of communication. I myself do not use BSL but i do lipread and use an amplified phone.