Sign Language interpreters facing pressures in Scotland

By NUBSLI | Published on 13 July 2018

Last updated on April 5th, 2019 at 5:54 pm

Related: framework agreements Scotland

The National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI), a branch of Unite, are aware of issues and threats currently faced by the BSL/English interpreting profession across the UK, including in Scotland.

It was as a direct result of these, and specifically in response to the national frameworks for interpreting and translation services which Deaf and non-Deaf (e.g., health service professionals, judicial services personnel, etc.) end service users, interpreters and translators vehemently oppose, that our Scrap the Framework Campaign was launched in February 2015.

The ability of these organisations to deliver, or not, their contractual obligations is contingent on interpreting professionals accepting what are, at best, reduced and, at worst, derisory, fees and terms and conditions for their services.

These organisations rely on the assumption that interpreters will bow to their pressure, but what they do not account for is the fact that interpreters talk to one another, share good and bad experiences and are working collectively to tackle these issues at both political and institutional levels.

We have already heard concerns from Scottish members about potential conflicts of interest in relation to service providers being present when policy and contractual information is being discussed, fees paid to trainee interpreters having been reduced and contracts for interpreting services in healthcare settings having been agreed at sub-industry norms, to name a few.

A further concern are the moves by some public organisations to establish in-house interpreting services. Although some of these work well, we believe others have been ill-conceived, resulting in interpreters finding themselves unwilling to work in these settings as they refuse to collude in the systematic undermining and devaluing of the profession and the subsequent associated failure to meet the needs of the Deaf Community.

In addition to this, NUBSLI are aware that interested parties across the UK are watching to see what happens in Scotland following the passing of the BSL Scotland Act (2015), publication of the Scottish Government’s National Plan in October 2017 and the public organisations’ local plans which are to be published by October 2018.

NUBSLI is interested in the impact these will have on Deaf BSL users and the provision of interpreting services due to the increased demands that will inevitably be made on sign language interpreters in order that organisations can meet their statutory obligations. This is particularly true with regards to the delivery of local plans, as our members have told us that very few of the public bodies have sought professional interpreters’ views during the consultation and development period for these plans.

We would encourage Scottish colleagues to continue to contact us with issues they are experiencing as a result of frameworks or contracts in order that we can include these in our campaigns, as we rely on your evidence.

We would also urge you to become members of the union and join with us “Standing up for interpreters; standing with the Deaf Community”.

You may also be interested in:

reading our #Scraptheframework campaign

learning how framework agreements are a threat to our profession by reading our Dossier of Disgrace

joining NUBSLI; we’re stronger together.