According to our research the cost of providing translation services is currently estimated at 140 million pounds per annum. Of this sum Local Authorities spend in the region of 20 million, the Metropolitan Police 7 million pounds and the NHS around 33 million (the latter having increased by 41% in 4 years). The Department of Works and Pensions can deal with claimants in 165 languages, providing translations at taxpayers’ expense. Amongst the languages it offers is Pidgin English which is the native tongue of an estimated only 2% of Nigeria’s population. This is one example of a less spoken language, but the highest demand for translators is for Polish, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Interpretation is contracted out to private providers, one company received 3.5 million pounds of public money in 12 months. It is possible that some of these costs could be cut. Eric Pickles the then Minister for Communities and Local Government, issued a directive in February 2012 advising Councils that they were misinterpreting the Human Rights and Equalities Act, which provide no basis for producing translated material. The directive instructed that translated material should only be provided in emergency situations and that even where literacy or learning difficulties existed, material could be produced in very basic English. Yet one London Council provided material in languages such as Fulani, Karen and Tagalog, all extremely rare in this country. Jonathan Isaby of the Tax Payers Alliance quoted “People expect the DWP to spend their resources on helping those genuinely in need, not on language services. Anyone who has chosen to live in Britain should be making an effort to learn to speak English”.
Of course when immigrants settle here they are afforded certain rights. In return they are required to do all possible to integrate into British society. Learning English must be a prime consideration when discharging this responsibility. This resolution does not set out to target any one particular group, nor does it seek to deny translation services where they are required. Its intention is to try and address an imbalance that currently exists between the state and some of its immigrant partners. A period of two years should be sufficient time to grasp the fundamentals of our language, thereafter individuals who still require translation services should either make their own arrangements via family and friends or should be charged for any services received through official channels.
Reply from: Department of Health – Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
The NHS serves one of the world’s most diverse countries and aims to provide an equitable service in all aspects to its users, patients, staff and healthcare professionals. Anyone who experiences a communications barrier is entitled to access interpreting and translation services. This includes people from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds who may need to communicate in another language, or disabled people who may need information in alternative formats such as braille or audiotape. Access to NHS services is based on a patient’s clinical need and not on their ethnicity.
The NHS provides interpretation services to all patients requiring them. This may be either because English is not a first language, or because they use alternative forms of communication (for example, British Sign Language). Providing communication support to service users is driven by the requirement to comply with relevant legislation including the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 and supporting guidance. This makes it imperative for organisations to provide language and communications support to ensure that patients are able to communicate effectively and appropriately with clinicians and other health service professionals. If a patient requires translation or interpreting services it is the responsibility of their local NHS trust to ensure that it employs the services of an interpreter who has the necessary knowledge and understanding required. The appointed interpreter is selected on the basis that they will interpret the dialogue between the patient and the physician accurately. The interpreter acts as facilitator between the patient and the healthcare professional and will be in a position to seek clarification directly should the patient require it.