Council’s job advert for ‘unqualified interpreter’ leads to outcry from Deaf people online

Posted on December 13, 2014

A county council’s job advert for an unqualified interpreter has led to an outcry on social media this morning.

The zero hours job involves working in the council’s ASSIST department, which deals with autism and sensory support for “vulnerable” young people over the age of 16.

Staffordshire County Council’s job advert, which also appears on a Deaf jobs website, explains that although the job is for an unqualified BSL interpreter, the person will be expected to carry out interpreting duties:

We are looking for unqualified British Sign Language  interpreters to work within the ASSIST team. Hours will vary. You will provide interpreting and translation services for internal and external partners as required in a variety of settings as appropriate. You may also contribute to the delivery of Deaf Awareness training provided by the service.

The job description gives more details on the kind of interpreting the person would be expected to do. Among the duties is this requirement:

Undertake interpreting internally for everyday liaison with members of staff (with the exception of legal and quasi-judicial contexts; in particular where legal documentation has to be completed. This may include Social Care and certain Health settings, in particular where some forms of consent is required). Unqualified interpreters will not be expected to do platform/conference interpreting.

The council also have an advert for a Communication Support Worker “to provide curriculum access, support and empower people with a sensory loss/Autism Spectrum condition in educational and community settings and be involved in all areas of the curriculum.”

The advert says: “We would particularly welcome applicants who have Level 2 British Sign Language (and above) or equivalent or with experience of autism spectrum conditions.”

It also says: “We would particularly welcome applicants who have Level 2 British Sign Language (and above) or equivalent or with experience of autism spectrum conditions.”

Terry Riley, Chair of the British Deaf Association, said:

“I am astounded that a statutory local authority would even contemplate hiring a non qualified person to be employed and to function as a sign language interpreter on such complex issues. This is a breach of the United Nations Convention of Human Rights for People with Disabilities and I also add it’s discrimination on the most blatant scale to deny anyone full and meaningful interpretation. No other languages would be treated like this. The BDA fully support the principle that only quailified and registered sign language interpreters be used.”

Jim Edwards, Chief Executive of NRCPD, said:

“Sign language interpreters are either trainees or qualified. Looking at the role description this seems to be an advert for a Communication Support Worker. Unfortunately there’s been an injudicious use of language by the Council so we will be following it up with them.”

Alan White, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Health, Care and Wellbeing, said:

“We are not seeking to recruit people without knowledge or understanding of British Sign Language. The job description clearly says that any applicant must already have NVQ Level 4 British Sign Language, or equivalent, or be working towards it.

“The wording in the advert has caused confusion and we will look to amend it, but it was phrased that way in an attempt to attract people with high levels of British Sign Language, who are looking for effectively what is an apprenticeship which will bring them through to qualification and registration through teamwork, mentorship and in-house training.”

“The routes to qualification are confusing, complex, costly and involved, but Staffordshire County Council’s Support Service – ASSIST – (Autism and Sensory Support in Staffordshire) has a proven track record of employing and supporting people with BSL skills through to registration and qualification in a safe environment and it’s worth emphasising that four of our five staff interpreters qualified through this in-house route.”

He added: “ASSIST has just celebrated its 25th anniversary and has long recognised and promoted the need to have qualified and registered interpreters working with deaf and deafblind people.

“Not only are all the in-house interpreters fully-qualified and registered, so too is the manager. In addition, where the need arises, suitably qualified and registered freelance interpreters are used.”

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