Consultation on National Occupational Standards for CSWs

Following the last blogpost (Does Signature Support a Lowering of Standards?), Signature are now requesting information on the feasibility of National Occupational Standards (NOS) for CSWs in education. My view is that anyone interpreting for Deaf BSL users in classrooms should have achieved the NOS for interpreting a stated in the previous post and I will be responding to that effect. Please see info below and respond with your views: 

A message from the BSL Coalition:

I would be very grateful if you could forward the link, below, to any of your colleagues or networks that you feel would be able to contribute.
The survey closes on the 19th September and your support is very much appreciated.
Kind Regards,

Gillian Marshall-Dyson
Funding and Projects Co-ordinator


A consultation to determine the feasibility of developing National Occupational Standards for Communication Support Workers (CSW)

Communication Support Workers provide access to the curriculum and the wider learning environment in education institutions for young people with hearing loss, sight loss or multi sensory impairment.

The BSL Coalition has commissioned this consultation to establish whether a set of National Occupational Standards is required to benchmark training and qualifications for CSWs working with people with hearing loss, sight loss or multi sensory impairment. Although CSWs can work with all young people in education, this piece of research is focusing on CSWs working with children under the age of 16.

If the need for National Occupational Standards for CSWs is identified, they will be developed as a separate piece of work through consultation with the CSW community as a whole.

National Occupational Standards are detailed statements of the skills, knowledge and understanding needed in employment. They inform vocational qualifications and can be used for a range of purposes including benchmarking, recruitment, training, assessment and course design.

Everything you tell us in this questionnaire will be treated in the strictest confidence and used for research purposes only in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Any reports generated from the information received will be presented in an aggregated, anonymous format.

If you have any queries about the BSL Coalition, please contact

Thank you for your time


Communication Support Crisis in Scotland

Submitted Anonymously

Much has been said about the national shortage of British Sign Language/English Interpreters compared to countries such as Finland. Over the years, there have been various initiatives to increase their numbers and improve professional regulation. In Scotland, there are around 80 BSL/English interpreters registered with either NRCPD or SASLI, covering approximately 13,000 BSL users.

Action on Hearing Loss (AoHL) estimates that there around 850,000 people with a hearing loss in Scotland. The majority of these communicate using English. They rely upon communication support provided by speech to text reporters (STTRs), electronic or manual notetakers, and lipspeakers.

Collectively, this group is known as Access to Communication in English (ACE) professionals. NRCPD is the only body which holds a register for all of the ACE professions.

So there are lots of registered ACE professionals, aren’t there? In fact, there are only three registered ACE professionals for the whole of Scotland. That is equivalent to one registered electronic notetaker or lipspeaker for every 283,000 D/deaf people.

A further eight are eligible, but not registered with NRCPD. The figures are similar for Northern Ireland and Wales, with only a moderate improvement for England. Deaf English users are unable to access registered communication professionals when and how they need to.

Signature withdrew its entire portfolio of ACE qualifications in 2011. Since then, there has been no training pathway towards NRCPD registration for notetakers or lipspeakers anywhere in the UK.   To compound the problem, NRCPD no longer recognises the old Level 2 lipspeaking or electronic/manual notetaking awards for the purposes of registration. There is a new Signature lipspeaking course due to be launched soon.

For electronic notetaking however, the only formal qualification available is an Open College Network Award. This is run by training centres in London (City Lit) and Manchester. This award has still not been accredited by NRCPD and does not lead to registration status.

Why is registration important?   NRCPD registration ensures that you have met the national occupational standards (NOS). Registrants agree to adhere to a code of conduct and abide by a formal complaints procedure. This protects service users and ensures that confidentiality will be maintained. Registrants must also hold professional indemnity insurance, have undergone criminal records checks and commit to at least 30 hours of continuous professional development each year.

In Scotland, there are no registered verbatim speech to text reporters. Therefore, electronic notetakers provide a non-verbatim communication service. They work in the same domains as BSL/English interpreters. This includes all levels of court, tribunals, police interviews and medical settings.

The Scottish legal system largely recognises the importance of using qualified, registered BSL interpreters. However, this is not the case with electronic notetakers. The emergence of “Remote Respeakers” is set to complicate matters further still.

Remote respeakers use voice recognition technology to produce live captions at meetings and events. Currently there is no recognised respeaker training programme that leads to NRCPD registration.

For BSL interpreters, there is a risk of co-working with unqualified, unregistered electronic notetakers or respeakers. Each of these produce a permanent record of the interpreter’s English interpretation. Most of these people are not registered so if there is any dubiety over what appears in the transcript, then it’s the SLI who is more likely to be sanctioned since only the interpreter will be registered.  Many interpreters do not seem to realise that the Electronic Notetakers are unregistered, or in some cases, unqualified. Increasingly, they are expected to provide a transcript of the discussion not just to clients but event organisers. The transcript might then be shared with a wider audience or even published online.

If a complaint is made to a registration panel about the accuracy of an interpreter’s words in a transcript, only the registered communication professional can be disciplined. How would this affect the interpreter’s insurance cover? This has yet to be tested.

What can be done to address this situation? Deaf people should be able to access communication in their own language. Whenever, and however they need it. If booking an electronic notetaker or lipspeaker, ask if they are qualified. Ask if the communication professional is registered with NRCPD. Ask if they hold any qualifications. And if not, why not.

Campaign for Access to Health Care: Petition Launched

The problems of the outsourcing of interpreter provision by the NHS since 2010 have affected Deaf people’s access to quality interpreter provision. This an issue that has been ongoing for years which outsourcing to spoken language interpreting agencies, who have little regard for the use of NRCPD registered Interpreters, has exacerbated.

The recent survey by Deaf organisations showed that 41% of respondents had left an appointment confused about their condition because they couldn’t understand what was signed and 57% had left an appointment confused about how to take medication because no Sign Language Interpreter had been provided.

The government and statutory organisations are ignoring their legal duties under the Equality Act 2010, and Deaf people aren’t receiving appropriate access to health care.

A petition has been launched to mark Deaf Awareness Week, 7th – 13th May, and to highlight the issue of untrained and inappropriate people being used to communicate for health care services rather than Interpreters registered with the NRCPD which proves they’ve reached the required standard of training and are recognised as professionals working with the Deaf community.

Some agencies, which evidence suggests will happily put someone with a basic sign language qualification into a hospital assignment, are either not being monitored effectively or this is lip service. A way for health care providers to think they’ve met their duties under The Equality Act.

Thank you to the organisations involved in the campaign for their good work (Action on Hearing Loss, ASLI, BDA, BSMHD, NRCPD and SignHealth).

Please sign the petition below if you haven’t already and spread the word.

MoJ Interpreting Contract: Parliamentary Questions Update

Parliamentary questions that were being asked by the MP Andy Slaughter were published on a few forums this week. The answers by Minister Crispin Blunt were sent around today and are published below. The contract started on 30th January. Two weeks in, the MoJ were made aware of the difficulties in service delivery.

Mr Blunt uses an interesting word here: safeguarding. The very nature of this contract does in fact the opposite by renegading on a National Agreement that was previously in force to use only registered interpreters. Allowing a private company to set up their own register was folly. Many spoken language interpreters are saying their names are on the ALS database even though they never agreed to it giving the agency a falsely elevated figure of interpreters willing to work for them. The stories on the ground illustrate the fact that the rights of those needing a vetted, qualified interpreter were quashed with this contract.

Mr Slaughter: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) when he was made aware of problems with the provision of translators to the courts service by Applied Language Solutions; and if he will make a statement; [96653]

(2) whether (a) he, (b) other Ministers in his Department and (c) officials in his Department had any involvement in the acquisition of Applied Language Solutions by Capita; and if he will make a statement; [96654]

(3) whether providers of interpretation and translation services to the courts are required to undertake Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on their employees; and whether Applied Language Solutions undertakes CRB checks on its interpreters; [96655]

(4) what long-term measures he plans to implement to ensure that Applied Language Solutions provides qualified interpreters to the courts service. [96656]

Mr Blunt: The information is as follows.

(1) Ministers were made aware of difficulties with the service provided by Applied Language Solutions on 14 February 2012. We are committed to ensuring that the rights and needs of those who require interpreters are safeguarded and we have asked the contractor to take urgent steps to improve performance. I am receiving regular reports on progress.

(2) Neither the Secretary of State for Justice, nor Justice Ministers or Ministry of Justice officials had any involvement in the acquisition of ALS by Capita.

(3) The contractor is required to ensure appropriate Criminal Records Bureau checks are undertaken.

(4) The Ministry have made clear to the contractor that the problems must be addressed immediately. The contractor is taking urgent steps to improve performance including providing additional staff to deal with bookings, further targeted recruitment of interpreters

27 Feb 2012 : Column 72W

in key languages and improvements to the call handling and complaints process. The Ministry is monitoring performance on a daily basis.

Remaining Anonymous…for Now

There has been a spate of enquiries, mutterings and one dig on an e-group as to why this blog should be anonymous.

Time to clarify the matter for those whom it sits uncomfortably with. Even though one would think it was obvious to anyone who read the first comment on the last post: Media Reports Chaos: Interpreters, Make Your Stand.

Predictably, a threat of defamation was made by ALS, which was promptly followed by support and comments from interpreters. Thank you. They called for ALS to provide evidence of their self-proclaimed exhaustive list of trained and assessed interpreters. There have been reports of the sheer amount of no-shows where requests by the courts for interpreters have remained unfilled. Other reports have filtered through of speakers of other languages turning up then trying but failing to interpret the more obvious legal jargon any court interpreter must understand.

Secondly, there is an e-group many interpreters subscribe too where a poster commented on the anonymous nature of this blog, inadvertently highlighting the other main reason for posting incognito. That particular e-group is renown for its negativity, back-biting and occasional venom. The real issues often get lost in a tide of personalities and politics with rants about perceived injustices and ‘what has happened’.

Identities will no doubt be revealed in the future, perhaps keeping the option for others to post anonymously. In the meantime it is a useful way to be able to post with the occasional in-fighting which is depressing to say the least, pointless at best. As a profession we all essentially want the same things:

  • To legally protect the profession of interpreting.
  • To maintain the standards we have strived for and to keep raising the bar.
  • To ensure we strive for professional development, individually and collectively.
  • To protect access for the Deaf/* communities we serve (*insert your language/nationality or linguistic group here if you are a spoken language colleague).
  • To protect our livelihood and to enable us to go on working in the profession we love.

Sometimes it is important to find out why people care about ‘what has happened’, whatever that is for the individual. It may help foster that much needed sense of unity or be something that helps the rest of the profession.

Sometimes, it is nothing more than hollow reasoning to justify bad behaviour towards others or opinions that are completely out of date. If ‘what has happened’ is something that could be fixed or in some way improved for others, please approach someone and talk about it, albeit in a constructive way. If ‘it’ happened more than a year or two ago, was on a larger scale or is not something anyone can remedy now, for your own sanity, the sake of others and the unity of the profession as a whole: move on, the rest of us did.