Being away…


This blog has been inactive for a while as I’ve been completing my Masters (got a distinction), volunteering for NUBSLI (brilliant experience, stood down to go on maternity leave) and had my second child (now a year ago). I currently have other family commitments too. All of this plus the complexities of being a working mum, leaves little spare time.

I’ve left the blog up as the articles mostly represent a historical record of the failed 2011 Ministry of Justice interpreting contract from my perspective as a Sign Language Interpreter. Although this was the main impetus for starting this blog, articles have covered the creeping privatisation of our work from around that time, problems with Access to Work funding, issues with fees, NUBSLI’s work, membership organisations, the problems of regulatory/registration bodies and the general state of our profession.

Will there be more writing to come? There is much I have missed over the last year or so that I may well come back to write about but for now the blog stays up as it is. Before I write any more posts, I am committed to canvassing for the Labour party leading up to the general election in June which takes up much of my remaining spare time!


Interpreter Brain Drain? NUBSLI’s Exit Survey of British Sign Language/English Interpreters

imageNUBSLI has done another excellent piece of work following on from the annual working conditions report out early 2015. This report found that an alarming number of sign language interpreters were exiting the profession. Now they’ve collected data by adding an exit interview to the website to find out how many were leaving or diversifying their income and what their plans were.

An astonishing 79 interpreters filled out the survey in the first four weeks indicating this is an ongoing issue. To put this number into perspective that’s around 7 percent depending on what figures you use (in this case NRCPD, RBSLI and SASLI combined). When there is a proposed shortage of qualified interpreters, that’s a big loss, especially when most of those leaving are skilled and experienced.

Recent work on updating a database of registered interpreters has provisionally shown that it’s either those new to the profession dropping out or the more experienced that are leaving. So even though numbers of NRCPD Trainee interpreters remain stable at just over 200, as they become Registered the total numbers of interpreters should be increasing faster than they are at present. NRCPD has been asked previously if they collect data on those not re-registering and they have said they do not.

The NUBSLI report is comprehensive and well worth a read.

The original article and report can be found on The Nub – NUBSLI’s news page:

An Uncertain Future: Findings from a Profession Exit Survey of British Sign Language/English Interpreters.

Round up…

I’ve barely blogged since the election. The challenges the sign language interpreting profession are facing in the UK are huge. What does this mean if this is happening to a small niche profession such as ours? 

  • The very existence of our profession is under threat.
  • So to other professions who serve the Deaf community e.g lipspeakers.
  • Deaf people are being affected too in every area of life.
  • The challenges we all face fit into the sweeping blanket changes happening to the disabled community whose equality, independence and dignity are being dug away in droves.

What happened? We got a Tory right wing government with no coalition partners to temper them. Forget the 12 MP majority in the House. That didn’t stop them when they put out an Equality Impact Assessment notice announcing Access to Work cuts hours after the election result was announced in May. See the excellent Stop Changes campaign blog for your round up on all things Access to Work related. And make sure you watch the TedX talk by Jenny Sealey for a moving summary of exactly how Deaf and disabled people are being affected by the cuts.

What else? The independent living fund has been scrapped for severely disabled people  despite the high court declaring this illegal. Supposedly funds have been transferred to local councils though a series of freedom of information requests show that many don’t know about it. Two weeks ago we saw DPAC protestors storm the House of Commons which gained great media coverage. Anyone who isn’t sure of exactly what these cuts are going to mean should watch Liz Carr’s speech at the People’s Assembly demo. The government won’t want you to be thinking about incontinence pads and people sitting in their own wee waiting for someone to show up when more budgets cuts are announced on Wednesday 8th July.

NUBSLI has been working hard making representations to various government departments and framework providers who want to see us paid the least amount possible yet still provide a ‘quality service’. This a government who does not believe in professions, independent regulation or quality. Just cost. If it did then the weighting for awarding contracts to private companies would be 100 quality/0 cost or something closer to that than the 40/60 for the first MoJ framework which brought us the disastrous Applied Language Solutions. This allowed a route in for Capita to try and take over a market it has little understanding of and certainly no duty of care to the people receiving the end service. A fact made more obvious since Capita declared at one government stakeholder meeting last year that they could control the interpreting market if given the chance. Not something the Deaf community would ever choose. Or interpreters.

Many frameworks are now being discussed and frighteningly the people that draw them up have no clue. You need professional interpreters in mental health? What do you mean someone with level 3 and no interpreter training will not suffice? We really haven’t moved on.

And on the perpetuation of the myth that CSWs are somehow ok and we’ve all forgotten the work done in the 1990s by the then, more ethical, CACDP… CSW and interpreter apprenticeships are still being discussed, the threat of a CSW register is still around, NDCS (a charity that is supposed to campaign for the best for Deaf children) is part of the ‘BSL coalition’ (along with BDA, Signature and others). Awful misnomer. NDCS advertises funding for BSL language qualifications for CSWs. Maybe a slight admittance there that CSWs are not good enough for Deaf children?  The Deaf children that should be seen as the important future of the Deaf community rather than being let down. The Adept UK machine still rumbles on and no one seems interested in reframing the debate. Why is no one talking about the ideal for Deaf children’s access to education, about what options could be possible then trying to find solutions that are a better than the two tier interpreter/CSW mess we have now. Where are the academics, experts and organisations to come up with something better? This blog aloNe can not address this. It needs a much larger public debate intiated by the very organisations who seem to perpetuate the myth itself.

Of course the existence of this two tier system presents risks in an environment where a new government sees qualified professional interpreters as expensive, unnecessary and replaceable. Since the high profile People’s Assembly demo where NUBSLI interpreters featured all over the media and Deaf people and interpreters stood side by side in protest we have gained strength as a grass roots movement who want the same thing. There are pockets of good work being done by the organisations who serve the Deaf community but they seem mostly absent, too busy  fighting for their own survival amongst the cuts. This is now a grass roots fight for what is right. Deaf people and interpreters: get on board quick. We’ve got work to do and we are all on the Tories’ radar.

NUBSLI launches survey into interpreters’ working conditions

In order to find out the reality of the working conditions of interpreters, NUBSLI has created a survey to ascertain if interpreters have enough work, whether this differs by region, whether they are employed enough and how interpreters feel about their working conditions.

The survey closes at 5pm on Friday 2nd January. If you work as an interpreter and have not got the link please email

Time for a Name Change

I stopped being anonymous a long time ago, once the threat of legal action had passed. I still accept anonymous submissions from guest bloggers.

If you wish to submit a post, anonymously or not, and you think your post fits the ethos of this blog see the policy on the disclaimer page.

The new name? Quite simply: Interpreting Signs.


NRCPD Statutory Regulation Survey

The NRCPD have sent out a survey to communication professionals to assess their thoughts on statutory regulation. The deadline is Friday 11th July.

My answers are below. If anyone has any comments please post in response:

1. Do you support the NRCPD aim of statutory regulation? Yes

I support the aim of statutory regulation. I am not convinced the NRCPD are the right body to hold this as it is still not independent from Signature/CACDP and I haven’t been happy with the way UKCoD have dealt with the AtW enquiry and how interpreters have not been involved as much as they should have been.

2. Do you think requiring registrants to agree to a code of conduct is a good thing? No

The Code of Conduct is too prescriptive and does not allow for the breadth of ethical decision making that a BSL interpreter has to practice every day. The Code of Ethics was much better and reflective of other professions. A teological approach to ethics rather than deontological would be much more suited in the case of interpreters. This is a much more up to date way of thinking in the interpreting profession (see Dean and Pollard’s Demand Control schema).

3. Do you think requiring registrants to continue their professional development is a good thing? Yes

I agree with CPD but do not agree with the way that NRCPD have mandated that some hours should be structured but also limited to only courses about interpreting. This has created a market for CPD courses but not increased the value of CPD to practitioners of more than five years post qualification. For example I would like to attend courses on voice production, mime and another language. I believe these would all enhance my work as a practitioner but none of these courses would fit the NRCPD’s criteria. I have completed most of the courses that are on offer in the market and am struggling to find anything that would enhance my professional development.

The rather arbitrary numbers allocated to structured and unstructured do not make sense and were not created in consultation with interpreters.

The more experience one has the more unstructured CPD is completed rather than structured: peer supervision groups, clinical supervision, evaluating ones work, attending or facilitating interpreter meetings, volunteering for interpreter organisations, reading research and articles.

I also do a number of hours of voluntary interpreting which I often record and evaluate.

I would recommend that NRCPD readjust the hours of structured and unstructured or rather put the total amount of hours an interpreter should complete without being prescriptive.

I would recommend that NRCPD allows courses indirectly related to interpreting to be counted as CPD.

I would recommend that NRCPD consult interpreters when reviewing CPD.

4. Are you willing to meet with members of the NRCPD Board to discuss statutory regulation, continuing professional development and the code of conduct’ if the opportunity arises? Yes

Further comments:

The NRCPD should consider asking TSLIs to take an ASLI trained mentor and provide funding to ASLI to provide this. Currently any RSLI can support a TSLI and they would not necessarily have the skills to offer that support.

Before any statutory regulation takes place Signature should be completed independent from NRCPD.

The alternative would be that another body holds the power to regulate.

When representations about interpreters are made to government the NRCPD should be representing the interests of interpreters as well as Deaf people rather than the view of Signature or UKCoD. This represents a direct conflict of interests and independence is paramount

I am a BSL level 3 signer can I charge for signing?

A thorough check of the stats for this site show that there are some interesting search terms that have led people here. Amongst the normal searches for ‘Anonymous Interpreters’ and ‘sign language interpreting blog’ were the below. In a bid to right some misinformation and myths out there, there follows some comments:

BSL level 2 signer pay
Level 6 BSL signer pay
How much do level 3 BSL interpreters charge?
ads for unqualified BSL interpreter low rates
Court signer
Can I interpret in courts with a GCSE

There are two comments:
– The terminology of Signer Vs Interpreter – There is a clear distinction between signers who have some BSL qualifications but have not yet attained fluency in sign language against the National Occupational Standards. Registered Interpreters have attained fluency and have additional training in interpreting. Not everyone with language skills can be an interpreter. Any news item on the Ministry of Justice contract shows that with clearly.
– It is shocking so many people want to either hire those with basic levels of sign language or want to work using these qualifications. Let’s leave Deaf people alone, this includes children, and give them the service they deserve i.e. Registered Interpreters who have the appropriate qualifications and experience.
BSL tutors, you have a responsibility to the Deaf community at large not to encourage those that are unskilled to work as unqualified interpreters.

Do I need to register as an interpreter?

Do I need to book a signer for a job interview?
Can children interpret for Deaf parents in the police station?

– The Equality Act 2010 states that Deaf people have a right to access services. A signer does not need to be booked for a job interview, a Registered Sign Language Interpreter does or whichever service a Deaf person has requested such as a Registered Lip Speaker.
– Absolutely not. Using children to interpret is tantamount to abuse. It may have happened years ago but no-one should be using children any longer. The Met has one of the best systems for booking interpreters and its guidelines are transparent.

Why do I need a CRB?
If I set up a business agency why do interpreters need CRB checks?

– CRB checks protect any vulnerable people interpreters may be working with. Any agency should be aware of the importance of these checks especially if they are booking interpreters for the following: child protection, mental health, courts, police, social services and medical bookings. Agencies are not monitored, registered or regulated and this is just one example of why their working practices and their employment standrards should come under close scrutiny. Especially with funds coming from the public purse.

Who is against compulsory CPD?
What are the arguments against CPD?

– The system we have for compulsory CPD is very new and as a consequence too basic. It is nowhere near the kind of regular check an interpreter should have to gauge their skillset. The system of collecting points is not an ideal refection of the safety of someone to practice. Is it just the system of collecting points that people are so against? We have even seen one organisation supposedly set up in opposition of CPD make a major u-turn and they seem to have now accepted that principle though many of their members still do not. A clear indication there is no representation of their membership.

Will the Big Word give me lots of work?
– If you are cheap, yes, or if you do not mind working for less under a sub-sub-contract. Currently Remark and Action on Hearing Loss are providing The Big Word with reduced-rate sign language interpreters.

Sign language devalued interpreters
Spending cuts on interpreters since 2010

– This blog has reported both the devaluing of interpreters and the affects of outsourcing and spending cuts on the interpreting profession in the UK regardless of the law or the government’s commitment to equality.

Access to work fraud
Access to work I need an interpreter not a CSW

– Access to work is currently a bit of a mess. Valued and absolutely necessary to Deaf employees and business owners but the bane of many people’s lives when they spend much of their time trying to get claims assessed, fighting for interpreters rather than unqualified personnel and sorting out the subsequent claim forms. Not only that but some agencies that Deaf people relied on to book interpreters have been involved in fraudulent claims, not doing any favours to the Deaf community they purport to serve. There will be a future post on this topic.