Who Benefits from the Privatisation of Public Sector Interpreting?

Three recent blog posts from Aisha Maniar, a human rights activist and writer, are absolutely brilliant. They’re informative, comprehensive and offer us an insight into the whole history of the pitfalls of privatising interpreting services and the government’s incessant drive to do so.

For BSL/English Interpreters it is so important that we understand the context and politics of what happens to the contracts we are booked under, that we join a union (NUBSLI) and support our counterparts: spoken language interpreters.

I re-blog the articles here for anyone who may not have seen them yet. They really are worthy of your time, please read.

Who Benefits from the Privatisation of Public Sector Interpreting? Part I

Who Benefits from the Privatisation of Public Sector Interpreting? Part II

Who Benefits from the Privatisation of Public Sector Interpreting? Part III

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Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Nicky EvansNicky Evans is a BSL/English interpreter and the co-founder of the Stop Changes to Access to Work campaign (www.stopchanges2atw.com). The campaign was established in November 2013 to oppose cuts being made to the government’s Access to Work (AtW) scheme which provides the support Deaf and disabled workers need to access employment. 

Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Before we get into it, I’d like to make one thing very clear: I do not condone fraud. It is wrong and the people involved must be held accountable for this and brought to justice.

But what of the DWP’s role in all this?

Here is a system that isn’t accessible (to an extent that the end customer (the Deaf Access to Work user) can’t always understand the forms and needs support completing these), relies heavily on the customer to do the bulk of the administration and where any contact with the DWP has become so stressful that they feel unable to ask for support or advice when needed.

Having been involved in Access to Work campaigning in various guises over the years, I have been continually frustrated by the DWP’s lack of response to our concerns over fraud. I have attended meetings over the past three years with various senior DWP staff/Ministers and have fed back the concerns of both the deaf community and interpreters. Information being provided by advisors is continually inconsistent and interpreters who work for three different clients could be paid using three different processes.

Three years on and several fraud cases later the claim system has seen little or no improvement. 

Interpreters have asked continually for improvements to be made to the DWP’s finance system: our remittance notice often doesn’t arrive (it is still usually sent by post) so we can’t check amounts received or know which clients these relate to; a remittance notice often doesn’t record our invoice numbers; and we can’t speak to AtW to sort any of these issues out (as we are told we have to go through the deaf person – adding to their stress and workload).

Only this year I have been overpaid by a large amount of money and have spent the past two months trying to return this – to no avail. I am not the only interpreter to be overpaid. Interpreters are regularly overpaid, underpaid, part paid, not paid at all, owed late payment fees (which despite being a statutory entitlement, the DWP don’t seem to think it applies to them)… I could go on….

All this raises the question: what role has the DWP had in recent fraud cases? 

There has been a failure to respond to concerns or develop tighter financial controls as a result of these. As I said at the beginning, I do not condone fraud, but I do feel that the DWP must accept some responsibility for this. Systems so open to abuse following several cases of fraud have remained wide open. For a government who continually tell us there is a need for austerity and to balance the books, they should perhaps start by examining their own internal processes.

Market Solutions Part 2: Co-operatives

co-ops

The rise of outsourcing of interpreters, a triple dip economy, a lack of service user involvement and a battle of the more unscrupulous agencies fighting to supply the cheapest have left us with a situation akin to the recent horse meat found in burgers scandal.

Professional Interpreters and service users have been left out in the cold with little say in quality and standards, the NHS and the Ministry of Justice being the worst culprits by far. With little monitoring and a lack of standards written into the contracts, this leaves us with little quality control and a sour taste in our mouths.

The first solution to the current market proposed on this blog was the most important: protection of the title of Interpreter making it illegal for anyone to call themselves an interpreter unless they had reached the appropriate standards such as those upheld by the national registers: NRPSI for spoken language interpreters and NRCPD for sign language interpreters.

The next solution proposed is the greater use of co-operatives. They are a British invention, examples including, The Co-operative Group and John Lewis. They have been proven  to work time and time again. There are over 5,000 in the UK already and it is increasingly the business model of choice as an antidote to the economy.

For years we have already had various networks, national and regional, formal and informal, and we need these more than ever if we are to protect our profession.

At the most basic level interpreters already pass work to trusted colleagues and have done for years. Many interpreters get several calls a week for work which they can not accept due to full diaries or other commitments. Many refer callers to the directories on the ASLI or NRCPD websites. For Deaf people asking, many interpreters go the extra distance. We often recommend someone we know who would be good for the job and may have other advantages such as living nearby, works in a particular specialty or would have a good rapport with the person asking. Sometimes we may even send out a text to our local network to see if someone is free or ask other local ASLI members.

Another example of local networks are websites that advertise the names of interpreters, some complete with testimonials and bios. Examples are BSL Interpreters in London and Conversant in Brighton. Ones that are run by trusted interpreters and that only advertise the details of NRCPD Registered Sign Language Interpreters (RSLIs) are obviously better. There are some terrible examples of websites of people saying they are experienced in interpreting but they do not have the safeguards in place that come with registration such as the right qualifications, professional indemnity insurance, CRB checks, adherence to a Code of Conduct and being subject to a complaints procedure.

Co-operatives take this to the next level and there is talk of a few being set up in order to combat the economic position we are left in. These would especially suit interpreters covering small geographical areas who have been hit by the worst contracting decisions leaving experienced interpreters with a shortage of work in favour of the barely fluent and untrained so-called signers.

The Co-operative Group states that,

‘A co-operative is a group of people acting together to meet the common needs and aspirations of its members, sharing ownership and making decisions democratically. 

Co-operatives are not about making big profits for shareholders, but creating value for customers – this is what gives co-operatives a unique character, and influences our values and principles.’

In short, setting up such a business would involve getting together with colleagues, creating a business plan and legal structure, discussing the hiring of staff and whether you would also want to bid for contracts. The sky is the limit.

With local interpreters on the board and the potential to consult with service users, co-operatives could provide the answer to many of the issues of outsourcing. It is not just about protecting the jobs of professional interpreters but the standards long fought for and protecting consumers of interpreting services. Users of languages other than English are now left out, unable to request the interpreters they want and often too disempowered to be able to complain. Contracts are between service providers and agencies. If a service user requests a particular interpreter this request can only be passed to the agency, often to be ignored. If there is a complaint, this too may be passed to the agency who may not do anything to resolve the issue. As far as both service provider and agency are concerned, they sourced an ‘interpreter’, job done. Stretched personnel such as hospital administrators, nurses, court clerks or judges do not have time to chase up complaints, check on standards or monitor contracts. Commissioners and government departments are allowing contract holders to do their own monitoring leaving us wide open to scandalous wastes of money.

Co-operatives have the potential to provide some real advantages to working interpreters and users of interpreting services including the following:

  • Members are more in control of local work.
  • Service users could have greater power in requesting interpreters.
  • Contracts can be gained along with all the advantages that brings for interpreters and local communities.
  • Greater protection of interpreting standards.
  • Keeps local interpreters working locally without having to travel further distances.
  • Co-operatives are social enterprises and can reinvest in local community projects.
  • Mitigates economic risk.

As with anything, there are some disadvantages:

  • Just as in a new business, setting up a co-operative can be hard work and requires the work of all of its members.
  • There are associated start up costs which need to be agreed and financed, though these can be kept to a minimum.
  • Potential conflict between members.
  • Needs all members to participate and share workload.

It would be nice to think this blogpost has inspired more interpreters to move on from networks to establishing co-operatives. This would go some way to better guarantee that the interpreters working with Deaf people in all areas, and especially courts and health services, can continue to work in their desired profession and are delivering a greater quality of service sandwiched between their hands.

More tips on setting up a co-operative can be found at the following websites:

Co-operatives UK – What is a Co-operative?

Bectu – New Guidance on Setting up a Co-op

The Ecologist – How to Start a Co-operative in Five Easy Steps

The Guardian – How to set up a co-operative – part one

The Guardian – How to set up a co-operative – part two

The Guardian – How to set up a co-operative – part three

The Guardian – Live Q&A: Starting up a co-operative

Seeds for Change – Worker Co-operatives Code of Conduct

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

CSWs – Register your Disinterest for proper Deaf access

We have an established register for interpreters, the NRCPD. Though not everyone has faith in that register. I would suggest that is partly due to interpreters regularly accepting work for which they are not skilled enough which has brought about the misconception that the RSLI standard is not good enough. I’d suggest it is in most cases but that interpreters need to be supported to gain experience gradually and safely. There has, as yet, been no moves towards creating a category for senior practitioners to distinguish the more experienced from those that have just started. There is in short no advanced driver equivalent as yet.

A recent letter from the NRPSI, the register for spoken language interpreters, asked for continued support from interpreters to strengthen the register and stated that they were working towards publicising the register.

Where there is little support for the NRCPD I suspect there are a few reasons:

1) Scant work to publicise to service users or commissioners that registration is of the utmost importance.

2) No regulation of agencies – a charter mark guaranteeing quality and adherence to standards would be a start.

3) The previously stated perception that standards have slipped.

4) The removal of the Code of Ethics. We have a weaker Code of Conduct. This was to bring us in line with others on the register. I’d suggest rather than weakening our Code, other professionals should have had the opportunity to abide by an ethical code rather than a pared down, prescriptive, behavioural code. Recent emails on e-groups have shown some interpreters barely understand the Code they purport to follow.

I think, just like the statement by NRPSI, that interpreters should support their register. If we are to be united, especially without a union, this is the only way. One caveat. For the register to be supported those that run it need to listen to the interpreters on that register and work towards making it as robust as possible i.e. if you are not on the register, you can not work as an interpreter.

The latest news and the subject which gets me blogging is astounding. It has been mooted for years and is incredibly unpopular with interpreters: the establishment of a register for CSWs. A letter and a proposal has been forwarded to NRCPD and a process is underway to develop a proposal and take this to further consultation.

I’d urge the NRCPD to think carefully about the disastrous effects this will have on Deaf students. Interpreters, once qualified and working for a few years, understand the difficulty of the job. It can not be done by those not yet assessed as fluent in BSL i.e those with level 2 and 3 qualifications.

Those that run CSW organisations, run training courses for CSWs or agencies that use CSWs usually have a vested interest: money or status. The only training CSWs should be doing is not how to perfect their interpreting into English or courses in international sign. There should be a single focus on the main language and interpreting qualifications in order to make them ‘safe’ and get people to the point where they can register for the sake of students and the wider Deaf community.

Use of CSWs rather than interpreters was only ever a stop gap in the 1980’s, and one which was supposed to be temporary. Harrington’s excellent paper The Rise, Fall and Re-invention of the Communicator: re-defining roles and responsibilities in educational interpreting still makes for interesting reading. This is the history of the CSW and one which various people with those vested interests have worked hard to continue. It is not in our interests to have those working with low fluency in BSL with Deaf children. Many Interpreters around the country who do not have enough work would jump at the chance to be Educational Interpreters. Anyone who supports the Deaf community knows that is what Deaf children and students deserve: proper access to their education.

For too long CSWs have been expected to fulfil the roles of interpreter, tutor, classroom assistant as Harrington states. I started my interpreting career as a CSW. I do not speak from a position of elitism. I speak as someone who understands the CSW as inadequately trained, as an influent and untrained pseudo-interpreter, as someone who is expected to do 80% plus of their work acting as an interpreter but who is ill-prepared and ill-trained.

The CSW course I experienced over nine months had little language training, no interpreter training and was, for me, a disappointment, a waste of time and a waste of money. Most people worked with little support and some were encouraged at the time of the promise of a career that they carried on in the route of interpreting until realising there were never going to be fluent enough to achieve registered interpreter status and eventually either gave up or remained as influent untrained pseudo-interpreters.

Not only do we miss the chance to increase standards for Deaf students but a CSW register puts a proverbial nail in the coffin for anyone campaigning for higher standards of access in schools. The names of CSWs will not be used for education only but agencies will access them as lists of cheap labour to do the job of interpreting in hospitals, in councils, in offices. There is enough confusion surrounding standards and registration categories as it is, a confusion most of us work towards alleviating.

I can see the benefits to the NRCPD of ensuring this proposal goes through: increased revenue from registrations, increased use of the registers by those involved with the Deaf community, an increased profile extended to schools, colleges, universities and all those agencies that will continue to use CSWs to fulfil bookings. I also understand the NRCPD may have to entertain proposals and be seen to be giving ideas a fair hearing without seriously considering the setting up of such a register.

In my opinion these are the risks if the NRCPD decides to go ahead with this proposal:

1) Of 1,082 professionals on the NRCPD registers, 977 are either Registered Interpreters, Translators or Trainees. In other words 90% of the registers. I can not imagine that many of that 90% would agree with a CSW register and would possibly add that to one of the above possible reasons for the NRCPD not getting their full support. Interpreters have already lost out to a weakened Code and some have felt they have not been listened to in previous consultations. It would not be wise to take an unpopular decision at this stage.

2) Signature would make less money from NVQ qualifications were people allowed or encouraged to go on a register and then not further develop their skills by achieving the National Occupational Standards in Interpreting.

3) Allowing a CSW register takes work away from interpreters at a time when they need the register to fight for them. If interpreters do not have enough work, they will not support or pay for continued registration.

4) A CSW register ignores the campaign work Deaf people and interpreters have done for over 25 years to raise standards. It is not a way to get buy-in from the community for whom you are supposed to be registering professionals.

5) It will negate any further campaign efforts by the community to raise standards in schools such as the parents who successfully campaigned the school their child was at and at the time managed to get agreement for a Trainee Interpreter.

There is more to say, these are just some initial thoughts. I await this news to hit the interpreting and Deaf communities with interest.