Agencies’ Use of Unregistered Signers

There are three different agencies in operation:

1) Those that provide only Registered Interpreters, for any assignment. They have good reputations and on the whole respect interpreters’ pay and terms and conditions.

2) Those that provide anyone that signs and do not distinguish between a registered interpreter and a signer – see many spoken language agencies fulfilling bookings on the cheap for the NHS and other statutory organisations.

3) Those that sell themselves as the first type and have a reputation for being a proper provider of Registered Interpreters but in reality for certain bookings will provide and convince the consumer that someone unregistered is acceptable for that particular booking.

Most often that is for education. This has now crept towards employment for some agencies and in the case of one agency, with a good reputation in the Deaf community, social work and mental health.

Most disappointingly the last type of agency can apply to those who are supposedly BSL specialists and should know what they are doing.

In fact they do know what they are doing but choose not to do the right thing. By either clouding the issue or somehow thinking they know best or purely because they think they can get away with it. Many experienced interpreters boycott agencies because they have bad working practices or provide CSWs/signers. As an industry (or profession) we have standards of registration in place and many interpreters recognise that. They understand the value of quality and potential damage to their own reputation by association with a bad agency. It is much more preferential to be seen as an interpreter of good standing, associated with the best. It makes good business sense.

Reputation used to be everything whether you were an upcoming interpreter or an agency. It is how you sustain your business, your future and your chosen career. For some this does not appear to be a concern. Again whether they are an individual or a company.

Some excuses seem to be:

‘Well it’s not court interpreting.’ No, but it is still interpreting. A very wise man said once that any interpreter being paid out of public funds should be registered. If you want to book a level 2 signer for your wedding knock yourself out. Registration is the only way to make sure you have someone who has been deemed fit to practice. You wouldn’t choose a car mechanic with no training would you? Or worse, a doctor?

‘They are a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and therefore great.’
We know from research a CODA does not automatically make a great interpreter. Training and experience does. Everyone knows at least one CODA that is an awful interpreter. It’s time we dispelled this myth. Without the correct training and guidance on making ethical decisions those that have not completed are not yet equipped.

‘I have a right to choose.’ Yes, the right to choose from 800 Registered Interpreters and 200 more trainees. There should be a rating system or more ways of Deaf people assessing the quality of the interpreter. Choosing someone who is nice rather than registered does not give any guarantee. It is a given that some Deaf people would be surprised if they could actually hear the voice over of the interpreter sometimes. Choose a ‘nice’ interpreter who fits with your requirements but is also registered. That way you can complain if it all goes wrong.

‘But I’ve known them for years, and they’re fine.’ How do you know? If they are fine they’d be registered by now.

‘That agency is cheap/cheaper.’ There will be a reason for that.

Many interpreters are voting with their feet. Why work for an agency that puts you in vulnerable positions, that bullies you into taking jobs, that tries to force down fees with unfair prices or will potentially ruin your reputation? Is it not better to be seen as an interpreter of standing, of dignity, of quality?

Consumers, why book an interpreter through an agency like that? Just because they say they are a BSL agency or appear to be Deaf or interpreter led (not all is as it seems). Do you get the interpreter you want or are they never available? Do you still get charged extortionate or at least high fees for what is often someone sitting in an office who cuts and pastes your email request and sends it to a list of interpreters? Do you find you don’t always get good customer service?

Deaf people, interpreters, other consumers of interpreters: it’s time to stand up for quality, standards, reputation. There is still a place for agencies in the BSL world and they will not disappear just yet.

Agency standards and the idea of charter marks or an agency register have been discussed. Until something is set up external to the agencies themselves we are left with an unfortunate situation with (some) agencies behaving badly.

Let’s endorse the agencies and interpreting services who create value for the Deaf community (and not with community services they charge for anyway or funds no-one can access) but the ones who are open to feedback, the ones who support Deaf people in making complaints, the ones who have good working relationships with quality interpreters.

Deaf people and interpreters. There is choice out there. Vote with your feet, there is a right direction in which we should all walk.

Anonymous Shopping: Apology Number Two

Submitted by ‘Emma Biel’, the Mystery Shopper who posted the original post entitled: ‘Anonymous Shopping: How Much Interpreting Agencies Really Charge’.

It seems I have another apology to make. I received a letter at 4:12pm on the 15th of August 2012. The letter was from the legal firm representing appa and they have requested that the inaccuracies in the original blog be corrected so as not to further cause injury to reputation. The remedy for libel is to modify the blog to correct all inaccuracies.

With respect to the fee quoted, which was £50 per hour for an RSLI and £45 per hour for a CSW (2 hour minimum charge) –they would like it known that this was for an ad hoc booking and that appa have a “more flexible cost structure…”. Regular clients are charged at a lower rate.

On the blog, I failed to mention that appa offer a 10% discount to new clients. Therefore the cost for that assignment would have in fact been £45 for an RSLI and £40.50 for a CSW. Not £50 and £45 as was originally stated. I am sorry for the omission.

I also did not state that in respect of travel, appa do not charge VAT. Again, I am sorry. Having looked again at the email chain I can see nothing that relates to travel and VAT so can only excuse my ignorance based on the fact that it wasn’t mentioned.

In the original blog I claimed that appa offered me a level 4 CSW. This was based on the information provided below:

“Has the deaf person asked you for a prefer level of BSL signer?

For a qualified interpreter they have level 6 in BSL

For a communicator they have level 3 or level 4.

There are various levels and it’s always good to ask the deaf client there preferred level of communication support they require. If your unable to get that information I would recommend CSW BSL level 4 but if its for a interview then I would recommend the above level”

I understood “the above level” to mean CSW level 4, but the inference I have taken from the solicitors’ letter is that they actually meant level 6. So to clarify, in the absence of information regarding a deaf person’s preference they would recommend a CSW who has level 4 BSL. But for an interview they would recommend someone who has level 6 BSL.

I mentioned on the initial blog that appa “Offered to help me apply to ATW to cover costs – then their fee becomes all inclusive” They would like it clarified that this is a free service in which they also process all of the paperwork.

I also need to apologise for some further ambiguity. I stated that appa “Offered me an interpreter for the afternoon even though I had requested the morning”, this was based on the information below:

“I do have an interpreter available for next Tuesday 14th august for 4pm

Please let me know if this is suitable for you.”

They later emailed to say “if you would like us to process this request for the morning we can.”

Because they had previously offered an interpreter for the afternoon I was confused and so did not respond. I apologise. I should have taken the time to clarify the information.

And finally, they would like it known that they are in fact ‘appa’ and not ‘Appa’ as I had previously stated.

These amendments have now been made to the original post.

Anonymous Shopping: An Apology and some Additions

There has been a rather strong reaction to the last post which was an anonymous post submitted by a mystery shopper. On the whole there was a good reaction with responses saying how finally there is some transparency as to what agencies charge and whether they provide Registered Interpreters or not.

Before I go on I need to publicly apologise to RAD (Royal Association of Deaf People) and their interpreting service. The original post stated that the mystery shopper had emailed RAD twice and had no response. After a complaint was made by RAD, the mystery shopper was informed. They got back to me after a few hours when they had investigated and found RAD’s original response in the spam folder of the Gmail account that was used. As the spam folder does not automatically show up in the navigation menu the shopper was unaware a response had already been sent. This information has now been added to the original table. Needless to say many people who work with the Deaf community and beyond are aware of RAD’s excellent interpreting service. They state any profit that is made from the service is put back into their Deaf community projects. They had also clearly stated they only use NRCPD Registered Interpreters.

The mystery shopper and I, as publisher of the information, both sincerely apologise for any inconvenience or damage done. When I realised that information was missing I should have flagged this up before publishing the post. It is regretful and I truly hope RAD, its employees and any interpreters that may be affected by this error, can accept this apology.

The mystery shopper has now added a comment on the original blog with the original script of the email and an explanation of why the survey was done in order to clear up any misunderstandings.

I also need to notify readers of the blog of one more addition to the table, with a very late response, which was K International. They quoted £250 + VAT for the mystery assignment lasting an hour. No information was given about standards or registration.

On the whole both interpreters and Deaf people have been overwhelmingly positive about the survey. There has been much talk of agency standards and even regulation over the years which has not come to anything yet. This is, in the main, because it is not in the interest of most agencies to be regulated. This needs to come from an external body. Work has been done on publicising the registration process to Deaf people who are better informed than ever about their rights to a Registered Interpreter. It is the most vulnerable who would be unaware or unable to ask to see an interpreter’s registration badge on arrival and these are the people who need protecting.

What I am also aware of is that some agencies have said they only use Registered Interpreters but I have know them to use CSWs and signers on occasion. Until we have regulation and more accountability there are agencies that will continue this practice.

It is worth noting that a cheaper price often reflected the fact that an agency had in house interpreters who they were able to provide at a cheaper cost or the agency required freelancer interpreters to work at a much reduced rate than the published average from ASLI’s Fees and Salaries survey indicating that profits were more important than quality of interpreter or standard of service. It is hard to tell as a consumer of interpreting but interpreters will find this information useful as they will know what they are being asked to charge.

What the survey has cleared flagged up is:

– many agencies are using unregistered and untrained interpreters and charging hundreds of pounds

– some of the bigger agencies are charging over double the amount a freelance interpreter would quote

– some parts of the Deaf community are still vulnerable to the unethical practices of some of these agencies

– many of the interpreter and some of the Deaf-led agencies came out favourably with the interests of Deaf people at heart

– people booking interpreters are being given wildly differing and sometimes completely inaccurate information about interpreters and the registration system i.e. being told someone with level 3 is ‘good enough’ for an assignment

– we need to set up regulation of agencies urgently

– we need to stop the use of CSWs being used for any assignment and agencies should not be allowed to decide on behalf of the consumer as to whether or not this is acceptable

– we need to protect the title of interpreter to ensure anyone who is not a Registered Interpreter can not legally work as one to safeguard all involved

Again, I would like to thank the mystery shopper. It really wasn’t me. I am merely the messenger. Please do not shoot me.

Anonymous Shopping: How Much Interpreting Agencies Really Charge

Submitted Anonymously

I decided a few weeks ago that what the profession needed was a bit of mystery shopping, so I contacted all the agencies on the list via email and requested a ‘signer’ for a small business conducting a recruitment interview for an apprentice, one of which was deaf. We were flexible on times, but needed the ‘signer’ for an hour in the morning. After getting a response I sent an email back with a confused query about qualifications and registration. You can see the responses for yourselves. All discussions took place via email and I have kept the responses should anyone wish to challenge the information provided. My personal opinion is that as a general rule, interpreter led agencies come out on top.

AGENCY QUOTE NOTES
Aditus £120 + travel + £30 admin fee Claimed to only use fully qualified and registered interpreters
Couldn’t provide anyone in house for the time requested, offered to find an alternative from their databases
Included full terms and conditions
Explained the registration process clearly.
Action on Hearing Loss £168 + travel Claimed all interpreters used were qualified and registered
(3 hr minimum)
appa RSLI – £50 per hour, CSW £45 per hour Offered to help me apply to ATW to cover costs – then their fee becomes all inclusive, they offer a free service to deal with AtW paperwork
First booking receives a 10% discount so charges would be Interpreter £45 per hour, CSW £40.50. No VAT added on travel. Explained the difference between interpreter and CSW as interpreter has level 6 BSL and CSW level 3 or 4, Recommended for an interview someone with level 6 BSL should be used
(2 hr minimum) Offered me an interpreter for the afternoon initially though I had requested the morning then later stated they had someone available
Applied Language Solutions Unknown Emailed. No response.
Bee Communications £250 + VAT + travel Offered advice on interviewing a deaf person
Try to offer fully qualified (level 5) called MRSLI
Said I probably didn’t need that level and could book a cheaper trainee
Later offered someone fully qualified and to lower the fee to £240 inclusive
Big Word £50 (3 hour minimum) Claimed that registered and qualified signers were only needed for ‘official representation’ such as courts, but not for job interviews
Total cost = £150 + VAT + travel time + expenses Offered to locate an interpreter local to me so as to save on travel costs
BSL Beam N/A Stated straight away that they were not an agency, but explained their position in the market
Offered some reputable specialist agencies local to the area
Offered a detailed and comprehensive explanation of the NRCPD registration process
Explained the risks of using someone unqualified
Provided an explanation of Access to Work
BSL Link4Comm £136.50 + travel Claim to only use experienced NRCPD registered interpreters
(3 hr minimum) Mentioned equality legislation and the impact of using unqualified people
Mentioned code of conduct
City Lit (Sign Here) Unknown Transparent – said they didn’t have anyone available until Sept
Redirected me to the NRCPD website – told me how to book direct to save money
Gave me an indication of industry standard fees to expect and pointed me towards information on working with an interpreter
Fully explained what registration and qualification meant – only organisation to correct my use of the term ‘signer’ and explain the difference
Outlined the legal ramifications of using a ‘signer’
Clarion £159 + travel + VAT Said “don’t necessarily need a fully qualified interpreter but you would want minimum level 3.”
(3 hr minimum) I asked if level 3 was enough, the response was that it depends
Codex Global Unknown Refused to quote without full information and details
Cohearentvision N/A No one available – pointed me towards the London Interpreters website
Communication ID £125 + VAT Explained the difference between RSLI and unqualified.
Claim to only use RSLI
Mentioned ASLI and NRCPD
Deaf Agency One off fee of £42 (first time customer) Said “We like to keep our costs down and try to be a flexible as possible”
Usually £126 + travel + VAT Claim all staff are registered
Deaf Direct Unknown Recommended booking an agency locally and offered some contact details
Mentioned NRCPD and recommended booking someone fully qualified, checking registration status and then explained why this was important
Told us we could save money by booking an interpreter directly from the NRCPD website
Explained ATW and provided a link to the website
Deaf Positives £145 + VAT + travel Claimed that a registered interpreter was required but not essential
Clarified what RSLI meant
Said “The other type of sign language interpreter is Registered Trainee Interpreter and they are trainees from approx level 1 to level 3.”
Deaf Umbrella £143.14 inclusive of travel and VAT Told me that MRSLI’s were more expensive
(2 hr minimum) Said ” Unless your candidate has specifically requested a fully qualified Interpreter, a lower level of sign support would be completely appropriate. “
MRSLI did not need to be booked unless client specifically requested one, but they take weeks to book in advance
They had a member of staff available to interpret
Suggested ATW as a way of covering the cost of interpreting and a member of staff could help
Diversus £162 + VAT + travel Pushy – kept requesting my full details and a confirmation
Sourced an interpreter before I’d even confirmed I wanted one
Essex Interpreting £120 + travel + VAT Claim to use only registered interpreters. Mostly qualified, some JTI
Femaura Unknown Said “Level 6 is full qualified”
Only really wanted to talk over the phone
Interpreting Matters £170 + VAT Claim to only use registered interpreters
Full explanation of NRCPD registration process
Price dependent on interpreter fee Explained ATW
Explained the ramifications of using unqualified people
Islington Council N/A Explained that they only cover council bookings in Islington
Recommended booking a registered interpreter
Mentioned ASLI
Offered a guide for industry standard freelance fees
Just Communication £210 + VAT Claim to “only use qualified registered interpreters”
K-International £250 + VAT
Language Empire £175 + travel + VAT Said “Interpreters with a Level 4 is the minimum qualification we use…”
(3 hr minimum charge) Fees are for ‘Special Disability Interpreting’ – Charges are the same for CSW’s and Interpreters, ‘Finger Spelling’, ‘Deaf Blind Manual’ & ‘Deaf Blind Hands On’ & ‘Lipreaders’
Language is Everything Wouldn’t state their charges Claim to use qualified & registered interpreters
Stated interpreter industry standard charges as: Clear about the legal ramifications of using someone unqualified – Mentioned DDA
£90-£130 + travel Referred me to ASLI
Language Line N/A Outsource all bookings to Clarion
Lexicon Sign Stream Unknown Explained the qualification and registration process in detail
Explained minimum charges and industry standard fees
Offered to source a local interpreter
Merrill Corporation £260 + VAT + travel Claim to only use qualified and registered interpreters
Mentioned NRCPD and safeguarding and standards
Provided an attachment outlining the roles of BSL interpreters, STTR & Lipspeakers (NRCPD registered) – all comprehensive and accurate
MLIS Unknown Claim to only use qualified translators and never trainees
Very non committal until had all of my details
Neal Communication (NCA) £150 + travel + VAT Asked about qualification levels but preferred to speak over the phone so no clear response
(3 hr minimum)
Newham Language Shop £120 + VAT Claim to only use qualified interpreters and do not ever use unqualified interpreters
Offered to email some advice on how to work with a “signer”
Onestop Agency £50 per hr, 3 hr min + travel Claim to only use fully qualified interpreters or trainee interpreters
Total £150 + travel Recommend not using level 3 NVQ signers and only use those on the register
Say their charges are based on interpreter 3 hour minimum charges
Offered a brief explanation of using a BSL interpreter
Pearl Linguistics £70 per hour Claim “we have access to more BSL interpreters than any other language agency”
(3 hr minimum) Fully explained the difference between a level 3 signer and what it means to be fully qualified and registered
Total £210 + travel + VAT Said “As to your situation, I believe you should be fine with a “level 3”.
Positive Signs Initially free – money accessed through government scheme Claimed to only ever use qualified or experienced personnel
Just said “variable”, has since disclosed fees as £37 RSLI per hour, CSW £32 per hour inclusive of travel + admin fee Free’ interpreters available through apprenticeship scheme, funded using public funds
Prestige £289 + VAT Said all their interpreters were BRCPD registered (could have been a typo) and explained that all people registered had to submit evidence of qualifications
Mentioned the code of conduct that interpreters were expected to follow
Mentioned the three hour industry standard minimum fee and their charges reflected that
Quick Lingo £250 + VAT When quote was challenged, the response was “we charge for the service which includes travel time, travel expenses, plus minimum interpreting time charge.”
Said “Level 3 is sufficient for this assignment and we can provide at least that.”
RAD £130 (2 hour minimum), £47ph thereafter, + travel, no VAT charged Stated full charges, on charge sheet clearly explained that only NRCPD registered interpreters were used.
Remark! £120 + £10 travel + VAT Very pushy, tried to sell me a BSL course
Offered a RSLI
Said “Costings for a qualified interpreter can be very expensive as there are not many qualified interpreters out there “
Sold themselves as deaf led and community focused. Profits fund activities in the deaf community.
Said they could only find an interpreter (in house) for the afternoon and no interpreters were available for the morning; did not offer to source a freelancer
I had requested a morning booking. Said short notice meant no other interpreters were available unless I wanted to change the date
Rosetta Translation £75 per hour No response when I enquired about qualifications
(3 hr minimum)
Half Day £300. + travel + VAT
Sign Language Direct £250 + VAT (3 hr minimum) Said “Since this regards an interview, the 3rd level shall be fine.” – in response to my query about qualifications
Half Day £300 / Full Day £450 (1 interpreter) Said that fully qualified interpreters were only ‘obligitory’ for police and social services
Half Day £600 / Full Day £900 (2 interpreters)
Sign Solutions £145 + travel + VAT Checked interpreter availability and quoted based on the interpreter fee – told me where the interpreter was travelling from
Offered to negotiate travel expenses
Signing Works £135 + VAT + expenses Explained industry standard booking half day or full day
Bristol based – offered a comparative fee.
Claim to only use qualified interpreters for job interviews
Advised about ATW
Explained the complexity of BSL levels and why it was specialist and required some who was qualified
Signs In Vision £35 per hr + travel + £15 admin fee Mentioned NRCPD & ASLI & recommended checking for badges
(3 hr minimum) Explained the NRCPD registration included CRB, insurance and qualification
Total £120 + travel Included a Deaf Awareness document
Included T&C with explanation of NRCPD & ASLI at the top
Silent Sounds £144 + travel Recommended a Trainee Interpreter for the interview
Highlighted the time involved with training
SL-I-D £120 including travel Mentioned ATW and reclaiming costs
(Half day minimum) NRCPD registered
Explained the ramifications of using someone unqualified
SLBF Unknown Emailed twice. No response.
Surrey Council £150 + travel + VAT Claims to only use registered interpreters
(First Point) (3 hr minimum)
Terp Tree £170 + travel + VAT Explained industry 3 hour minimums
(3 hr minimum) Claim to only use qualified and registered interpreters
Follow up email sent with client recommendations
(Will waive fee if unhappy with service) Mentioned ATW
The Sign Language Bank Unknown Emailed twice. No response.
Today Translations Said it can be fine for some signers to “freely pass on the meaning of spoken langauge” but as a general rule they won’t risk it.
Added that “Job interviews are stressful for everyone. If you add hearing problems on top of that…you can imagine how wrong it can go!”
Said “Most of sign interpreters grew up in a household were one or both of the parents were deaf”
Explained that becoming a sign langauge interpreter requires study and practise
Total Communication £200 including VAT and travel Told me the interpreter quote was for fully qualified. After I asked about level, I was told that they were “Level 6 , Trainee Interpreter. So it is above Level 3”
Ubiquis £300 + VAT + travel Claimed to only use fully qualified and experienced interpreters
Offered information about qualifications and registration
Stated that unqualified interpreters would charge less
Offered a local alternative to their company
UK Language Solutions £60 per hour + £30 per hour travel Said “A level 3 qualified interpreter may be acceptable for some interpreting assignments”
(2 hr minimum) But claim to only use qualified and registered interpreters
Veritas Language Solutions £164.60 + £32 VAT Aimed to source an interpreter close to the booking to save on travel
Said the interpreter had a two hour minimum charge, but would not state whether they were qualified even though I specifically asked
Wolfestone £75 + VAT Requested information about qualifications but received no response
Additional hours £50 per hour