NUBSLI chairperson interviewed on the DriveTime Show, Voice of Islam

By NUBSLI | Published on 11 April 2017

Last updated on April 5th, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Related: framework agreements

Chairperson of the National Union of British Sign
Language Interpreters, Emma Lipton, speaks with Raza
Ahmed and Nauman Hadi LIVE on the DriveTime Show,
Voice of Islam on Friday 7th April 2017

Raza Ahmed: We spoke about interpreters as well, they allow
communication to take place between people who are deaf and count
BSL as their first language and hearing people. Now people with BSL as
their first language depend hugely on their interpreters, without them
they can’t speak or understand and we spoke to Neelma Saleem from
British Deaf Association and she mentioned the difficulties and the cap
the government has put on
There are many examples of deaf people being put at risk, as they were
not given the interpreters they needed to communicate with the
doctors, with police and other public sector professionals. And the
situation they are put in is terrifying. With us on the line is Emma
Lipton, Chairperson of National Union of British Sign Language
Good Afternoon, welcome to the DriveTime show Emma and thank you
very much for joining us today
Emma Lipton: My pleasure, good afternoon
Raza Ahmed: What is the role that BSL interpreters play and what are
the current problems they are facing? We spoke, as I mentioned before,
with Neelma Saleem who mentioned one or two of them, but I’m
guessing you have a lot more insight into this.
Emma Lipton: Yes, there’s lots of issues and I think it is important first
to point out that BSL interpreters are highly skilled professionals who
go through an average of eight years of training before they can practice
as a qualified regulated interpreter. So, this is a huge investment of time
and money that people put into getting into this career. They work in
huge range of domains; access to work and the NHS.
So the government has national frameworks where the agencies bid
against each other to win contracts for interpreter provision. These
frameworks are given to agencies that often focus on profit rather than
quality. As a result, interpreters see terms and conditions as being
rapidly eroded, which is why NUBSLI is in place to fight against these
cuts and against these contracts so that interpreters themselves are
protected, their careers are protected and they have a sustainable

The flip side of that is that by protecting interpreters, who have
a reasonable income and good terms and conditions they can manage
their businesses, given the eight years that they have put in to become
qualified in the first place. The deaf people who need those interpreters
are receiving qualified, appropriately trained, highly skilled
professionals, who are being paid appropriately. If lower fees are paid
and terms and conditions are eroded, it means the agencies end up
using unqualified people who have got a much lower level of skill, who
haven’t been through formal training and that directly put deaf people
at more risk. So, by protecting interpreters we are protecting deaf
people as well.
Nauman Hadi: So, would you say the government should be doing more
about BSL interpreters?
Emma Lipton: Without a doubt, yes. Like I said, the frameworks in
place are not fit for purpose and NUBSLI the union are working hard
with Unite, we are a branch of Unite Union and we are working hard
with them to prove this to the government. One of your callers earlier
from the BDA mentioned that interpreters have not been included in
the consultation processes, so these contracts go out to tender, the
government will have huge consultations with the people who run the
agencies, but have at no point ever asked interpreters about the
profession in which they work, nor have they consulted with deaf people
who are actually receiving the interpreter provision as the end user. So
the interpreter and deaf people are the two groups who are completely
excluded from all of the decision-making processes – so something has
got to change.
Nauman Hadi: So we were just speaking to Wayne Barrow and he told
us that there are so many underlying issues which are perhaps not
letting the government fix the framework, but what do you think? We
have mentioned the framework needs to be fixed. In your opinion what
should be done? What’s the first step to fixing this? Could making
British sign language part of the national curriculum be a step towards
raising awareness and sorting out this entire issue?
Emma Lipton: It certainly raises awareness and it’s certainly a really
positive step, but it’s the bigger picture that needs to be looked at. So as
I said, interpreters are training for a huge period of time in order to
become qualified because of the cuts and the erosion of terms and
conditions that are being forced on interpreters at the moment. As your
previous caller said, there’s around a thousand interpreters in the
country, there are not many of us. Many interpreters who have a
wealth of experience are being forced out of the profession because it
has become unsustainable, so that reduces the pool of interpreters even
further and we are seeing a huge decline in the people wanting to come
through that eight year process to become a qualified interpreter
because they are thinking why would I want to go through eight years of
training for a job that isn’t going to pay me a reasonable income, so it
needs to be both sides of it. It can’t be a one-prong approach. There’s
more to it.
And in regards to access to work, because a couple of your callers have
mentioned access to work and to expand on what the callers from the
BDA said with regards to the cap, aside from it causing deaf people to go
without interpreters for a certain number of hours per week it also
creates a glass ceiling for deaf professionals. For a deaf person to have a
high profile job, would mean more training for them, more meetings,
more interactions with people and if you have someone in a really high
profile job you need an interpreter who is appropriately skilled in that
area which demands a certain level of income. So actually the
government are creating a glass ceiling on deaf people progressing in
their own careers and interpreters.
Raza Ahmed: We are still a few steps away from equality isn’t it?
Emma Lipton: Yes, there’s certainly good steps being made and the
BSL being used in parliament was lovely to see and it’s a step in the
right direction, but it’s been a long fight so far and there’s still a way to
Raza Ahmed: Definitely. Chairperson of the National Union of British
Sign Language Interpreters, Emma Lipton, thank you very much for
joining us today. All the best and good work
Emma Lipton: My pleasure, goodbye

The DriveTime Show is part of Voice of Islam Radio.