deafPLUS Awarded “Best Use of Innovative Technology” by Helplines Partnership
As part of their Annual Conference, Helplines Partnership (HLP) presented awards to helplines in six categories. A panel of independent judges evaluated the nominees and then picked one helpline that achieved excellence in their nominated category. This year’s judges were DI Ben Loose (Kent Police), Karen Ditchfield (HLP Trustee and Operations Director for the WISE Campaign), Georgina Bream (Healthwatch England), Jessica Murphy (Civil Service with a focus on well-being), and Neil Laybourn (Mental Health campaigner).
Through the awards, HLP aims to:
- Celebrate the improvements helplines have made to people’s wellbeing either locally or nationally; to individuals or the community as a whole
- Highlight the successes of ground-breaking changes in the way helplines are run through the use of technology
- Recognize the achievements of those helplines, teams and individuals who have responded most successfully to the demands being placed on them
The six award categories were carefully selected to reflect the range of skills that are essential for any effective helpline. The award categories were:
- Helpline Employee of the Year
- Helpline Volunteer of the Year
- Helpline Impact
- Best Helpline Sector Contributor
- Helpline of the Year
- Best Innovative use of Technology
iCarol was proud to sponsor the award in the category of Best Innovative Use of Technology, awarded to deafPLUS. This category was open to all member helplines who demonstrated how they have been creative and effective in the use of technology. This could be through the use of ground breaking technology to deliver the service, or how the helpline has introduced a new suite of communication channels or is trying something really pioneering. A nomination must include evidence of how the helpline operated and the benefits gained from the introduction of technology.
The nomination for deafPLUS explains why they were so deserving of this honor:
“Helplines by their very nature are not accessible to deaf people, and we wanted to change that. In 2015 deafPLUS launched the first ever national British Sign Language (BSL) Video Advice Helpline. It is the only helpline in the UK that enables Deaf BSL users to access information and advice direct in their first language without the need for an interpreter. We help with a range of issues such as money and debt, benefits and housing, civil advice and how to access external services. Deaf people can book an appointment via our website to speak to a specialist adviser who is also a native BSL user, using an online platform they are already familiar with such as Skype or Facetime. While Skype and Facetime are not new, we have used these pre-existing technologies in an innovative way to deliver this unique service for deaf people. Individuals do not have to go through the hassle of downloading a new app, or trying to familiarize themselves with a new video platform. Instead they can use an app they are already comfortable with, reducing stress, and making the advice-seeking process easier for the client. 85% of deaf people we surveyed said they had feared seeking information and advice through fears it would be inaccessible. Since monolingual BSL users will never be able to fully comprehend English, they must have fair access to information and advice in their own language.”
The judges agreed and chose deafPLUS as the honoree saying, “This is a very well thought out initiative using existing technologies in a creative way. It is beneficial to BSL users as it makes the new service easy to use and inclusive. As a project, it’s also cost effective for the helpline; easy to implement and support. Well done!”
Elizabeth Burton-Phillips MBE (right) presenting Julia Pitt, BSL Advice Helpline Manager at deafPLUS. Photo by Christian Trampenau
About their win, deafPLUS adds:
“deafPLUS provides a British Sign Language (BSL) Advice Helpline using popular video platforms such as Facetime, Skype, OoVoO and Whatsapp video. The service provides, mainly, Welfare Rights Advice which means Deaf people from all over the UK can receive professional advice through the comfort of their mobile phones, laptops or tablets without having to travel a long way to a Centre. Many of deafPLUS Centres are Local Authority funded so people who live outside of these areas are unable to receive much needed advice. Currently there are welfare benefit reforms which causes huge distress to Deaf people who find the information and letters complicated and inaccessible. Our BSL Advice Helpline breaks down these barriers and supports them with casework to ensure the best possible outcome. We were delighted to win the Helplines Partnership Award for Best Use of Innovative Technology.”
At iCarol, we deeply believe that technology can improve a helpline’s service delivery and expand their reach so that they can help more people. Clearly, deafPLUS exemplifies not only all that we at iCarol hope helplines can achieve through technology, but they were a clear choice for the Best Use of Innovative Technology award at the Helplines Partnership Conference. Congratulations to deafPLUS and all this year’s award winners!