Signature must release their NRCPD cash cow: part 1

  Although interpreters pay to be regulated, any register does not belong to them, nor do they get a say in how the regulator they use is run. However, they do have a right to see where their money goes and that it indeed goes towards the actual public protection of people who use that regulator. I do not just mean Deaf people but the many people who place their trust in a register to provide them with information on who is qualified or in training, has insurance, is police checked and safe to book for their service/organisation to provide access to Deaf people as per statutory duties.

The holder of the NRCPD registers is Signature which is the trading name of CACDP. Another subsidiary of which is Signature Commercial Limited. A company which declared losses of £96k in the year ending 2013 and £160k for 2014. The accounts show website costs, two employees but barely any more information than that as they have “taken advantage of financial reporting standard 8 whereby subsidiary undertakings do not have to disclose inter-group transactions if 90% or more of their shares are controlled by the group”. Who knows what costs are being squirrelled away in the commercial arm.

This is one example of a lack of transparency. The next accounting practice will be more shocking to those that pay money to the register. Especially for those like myself who have called for independence of NRCPD from Signature and received the answer that it costs too much money to run the register and it could not survive without funding from Signature to keep it afloat.

In the accounting year ending July 2011, the register made a profit of £36k as follows:

Income  130,434    Expenditure  94,478     PROFIT  35,956

In July 2012:

Income  161,394    Expenditure  279,339   LOSS   -117945

In July 2013:

Income  180,810 Expenditure    285,450   LOSS   -104640

In July 2014:

Income  212,409   Expenditure  335,162   LOSS  -122,753

Why the spiralling costs of running a register? There are no separate accounts for NRCPD as CACDP/Signature does not have to provide them. The annual reports for NRCPD reveal nothing but a promise to improve transparency in their finances. A promise yet to be fulfilled.

The only clue is in the way that expenditure is apportioned to each activity in the CACDP/Signature accounts and what this percentage of overheads amounts to as a total of all expenditure. In July 2011 registration was deigned to have cost 6% of all of CACDP/Signature’s expenditure. A fairly reasonable cost which resulted in an overall profit of £36k that was made by CACDP/Signature.

Why the loss of £118k in 2012 despite an income of £161k? A whopping 18% of CACDP/Signature’s expenditure was attributed to the activity “registration” which amounted to £279k. This stayed at 18% for 2013 and has now increased to 21% for 2014.

So CACDP/Signature, with many different activites, apportions 21% of ALL of its costs to registration i.e. NRCPD supposedly costs CACDP/Signature £335k. Put in perspective a much smaller 16% is apportioned to development of examinations, training and materials.

Does it really cost £335,000 to run a register? Only if you apportion 21% of your overheads against registration. 21% of every single staff member at Signature is paid for by the register, despite the fact that not all staff members work for NRCPD.

It is time that the finances of CACDP/Signature were more transparent for registrants and Deaf people alike. It is time for the NRCPD registers to be truly independent at a time when we need them to be, more so now than ever in this political climate. Interpreters, other registrants and Deaf people need to call for independence so we finally make this happen. NRCPD’s so-called independent governance no longer cuts it, it is tied by these accounting procedures. An income of £212k is more than enough for a successful register to survive and furthermore, with not just the financial ties cut from CACDP/Signature, with employees working solely in its interests the register is much more likely to grow and succeed.

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Does Signature Support a Lowering of Standards?

For a while now various parties have been pushing for a register of CSWs. This may seem like a sound idea in principle but it is far from it. It seems that this is closer to becoming a reality and Signature is not helping matters:
1) CSWs are not fit for purpose. I started my career with the old EdExcel qualification and saw many people pass that course that should never have worked with Deaf students. Why? A lack of language skills and sound ethical practices. Most of the Deaf students I worked with in colleges and universities needed someone to interpret for them. I never did AtW bookings as I thought I’d be doing a disservice to the Deaf person who surely needed a trained interpreter. As an ex-Chair of ASLI used to explain it: anyone who is listening to English and picks up their hands to relay this into BSL for someone or watches someone produce BSL and relays that information into English is interpreting and therefore should have met the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Interpreting.2) So why then has Signature created an interpreting unit within the NVQ level 4 BSL qualification? CSW associations have been pushing for an interpreting unit within the EdExcel course for a number of years. ASLI has rightly fought against a lowering of standards. Now Signature has included an interpreting unit which will inevitably be used as a lower benchmark for interpreting, one which is lower than the NOS. All the arguments ASLI has made over the years about the National Occupational Standards are now effectively being ignored. Signature/NRCPD would stand to make funds from both the NVQ qualifications and a CSW register but perhaps has not considered the risks of further alienating interpreters. If this unit becomes a licence to interpret, as it surely will, then quality of interpreting provision will fall substantially. The term level 6 interpreter or level 6 CSW (both misnomers) will be no doubt be banded about and cause further confusion.3) And where is ASLI in all of this? ASLI has got too close to NRCPD to represent its members effectively. It has a place on the practitioners’ forum, which seems to be how NRCPD communicates fixed plans rather than how they get feedback from professionals in order to shape their direction. The ASLI Chair is on the board of NRCPD and has compromised his position in being able to effectively represent his own Association, a position which favours and defends NRCPD registration too heavily to be open to any criticisms ASLI members have of the register.

4) Meanwhile the DWP now seem to be pushing for more CSWs to work in AtW assignments especially for emails and phone calls. I’ve had appalling emails from Deaf people with terrible English grammar written by CSWs and had a plethora of appalling phone calls. Interpreters are not just for meetings. These are skilled jobs where you still need to have achieved the NOS in order to know what you are doing. Why aren’t NRCPD doing more to represent interpreters and the skills they have worked hard to attain? If they will soon also be registering CSWs then perhaps that does not matter to them. Why is no one talking about quality? AtW is designed to allow Deaf and disabled people equality in work, to find and retain jobs. The DWP would happily force people to use CSWs as quality for them is not an issue. It comes down only to cost regardless of value for money even when an unqualified Support worker charges not much less than an interpreter and cannot provide the same service. A register of CSWs rather than enabling registration for this group will inevitably be used against Deaf people by the DWP. Some Deaf people want CSWs. My personal opinion is that public money should not be wasted on unregulated and unskilled personnel. This also should not become the norm for those who do not want them and choose registered professional interpreters. The use of CSWs in education is another matter and regardless of how many self-published books support this, it still does a disservice to the BSL-using Deaf student.

5) Would a register of CSWs be used for schools only? No. For the reasons stated above. Would it benefit schools? Maybe. Would it benefit the Deaf student who is a BSL user. No. They would need a Registered Interpreter (see above). ACSW and NATED have now merged and formed ADEPT which puts CSWs in a stronger position.

Unless those supporting a CSW register stop pushing for CSWs to be used in areas outside of education such as AtW, for CSW courses to have interpreting units, for ‘career CSWs’ who do not develop skills and a qualifications body which goes against the NOS then I doubt interpreters will support moves by Signature or CSW organisations for registers or interpreting units where they do not belong.