‘…quality standards are compromised to maximise profits…’
Deaf people’s ability to access public services is being restricted leading to distress and potentially life threatening situations according to a report by the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI), which is part of Unite.
The report titled, ‘A Dossier of Disgrace’ warns that UK government cost cutting and the introduction of national framework agreements have led to a shortage of skilled British Sign Language (BSL)/English interpreters and a poorer service for deaf people when they access public services.
BSL/English interpreters provide an essential service in providing communication support between public service providers and deaf people. This can range from providing interpreting in hospital and GP appointments to legal and justice matters, as well as social care and child protection.
In 2015 the government brought in framework agreements to govern the provision of interpreting and translation across local and central government. Bookings that were previously arranged through specialist, often local agencies, or with interpreters directly, are now more often than not awarded through contracts with large multinational spoken language agencies.
According to the report, framework agreements have resulted in agencies slashing interpreters’ fees leading to interpreters leaving the profession, while quality standards are compromised to maximise profits by using unqualified and unregistered individuals instead of qualified, highly skilled interpreters.
In some instances no interpreters have been provided for statutory services such as child protection meetings, court and medical appointments, while deaf defendants in court cases have been misrepresented in court by inexperienced interpreters.