22 Nov 2023

Translators and interpreters call for fair play from the MOJ

In a white paper published yesterday, 21 November 2023, Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), representing interpreters and translators within the legal system (of which ITI is a member), has called on the Ministry of Justice to review the delivery of interpreting and translation services in the courts and tribunals of England and Wales.

The paper provides evidence of the growing resource allocation issues, and it is published in response to a survey conducted by the BBC Radio 4 “File on Four” programme which found that 10% of Public Service Interpreters are unlikely to stay in the profession after the next 12 months due to poor remuneration exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis and challenging contractual terms and conditions.

Data from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) shows that over the past 11 years, the number of interpreters registered has fallen by 33%, from 2,400 registrants in 2011 to 1,600 in 2023. Another key measure of the pipeline of interpreters, the NRCPD Register of Trainee Sign Language interpreters, is currently showing a troubling 30% drop in the last five years. These illustrate the long-term trend in the decline in the number of registered Public Service Interpreters.

Fluctuating patterns of demand, rapid regional and national changes in the need for different languages, plus growing requirements for rare languages pose challenges both for procurement and provision of services and ultimately equality, fairness, and public safety. Timely and consistent access to high quality interpreting services is a necessity if the UK’s legal systems are to operate effectively and efficiently.

The white paper proposes 10 recommendations to remedy the situation. Among them are:

  1. Fair and equitable fees for translators and interpreters
  2. Contracts linked to inflation
  3. A review of the fees paid for travel time and costs
  4. Fair cancellation policies
  5. The promotion and prioritisation of the use of qualified professionals.

Mike Orlov, on behalf of Professional Interpreters for Justice said “The UK’s public sector interpreting and translation landscape is fragmented across the four UK nations, Government departments and different public services. This complicates the way interpreters and translators are engaged and creates challenges and disparities around delivering and monitoring best practice at all levels.”

“We believe that implementing these recommendations will result in a more uniform service delivery across the courts and tribunal service and create an equitable and sustainable working environment for freelance, self-employed interpreters and translators.”

Read the full white paper and all its recommendations here.

The Professional Interpreters 4 Justice (PI4J) working group comprises representatives from the following bodies:

  • Association of Interpreters & Translators (AIT)
  • Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI)
  • Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI)
  • Association of Translation Companies (ATC)
  • Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL)
  • Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru (CCC) – the association of Welsh translators and interpreters
  • Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI)
  • National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)
  • National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI)
  • National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) (a branch of Unite the Union)
  • National Union of Professional Translators and Interpreters (NUPIT) (a branch of Unite the Union)
  • Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK (SOMI (UK))