in regulation

Yellow Fever: Causing Confusion over Registered Interpreters

Sign Language Interpreters in the UK are regulated by the NRCPD. The main, and only for most, professional membership association is ASLI. The differences are clear cut. One regulates: provides a register, deals with complaints and looks at how to become a stronger regulator to ensure that in future the profession will be protected. One supports and develops the profession by providing training, CPD, information and guidance, representation at all levels and strong networks of interpreters so we are all in contact locally and nationally.
The NRPCD could still do some more work on publicising the register. They initiated the Sign Safe campaign this year, trademarking the term along with the yellow registration badge. With the additional hard work of interpreters the message has been getting out to the Deaf community: an NRCPD registered interpreter has a ‘yellow badge’. A registered interpreter is a mark of someone who has been through training and is safe to practice. Someone who turns up at an appointment with no badge is someone who has not yet gone through training or is not committed to providing a certain safeguard for Deaf consumers, or to those bookings interpreters, where users can submit a complaint.
The system may not be perfect but it is still important we have faith in that system and all work towards improving it.
Even interpreters who have been long time opponents of the register have joined up in recent years. We have come to a watershed moment. The NRCPD have made a few unpopular decisions recently causing uproar. This is partly due to the legality of CRB checks. It is apparently safer to ask interpreters to hold their own CRB checks and to ask the consumer to check them. Not easy when not using a reputable agency, not easy for Deaf people trying to book direct. This decision is in part due to the government changes from CRB to DBS checks and the decision that the spoken language interpreters’ register, NRPSI, could not hold details. (NB: NRPSI after representations from professional associations now includes standard CRB/DBS checks and provides details of security clearances in their listings.) All interpreters know how easy it is for them to be in situations where they are left alone with the vulnerable. The government is of the opinion that interpreters will be in the presence of other professionals at all times which is not the reality. An unscrupulous interpreter could very easily do a lot of damage, were they that way inclined, to the Deaf person they are with. The naivety of the government in making these blanket decisions about interpreters is astounding. They clearly have not consulted nor listened.
Just as we have seen over the last 18 months, the continuing solidarity of NRPSI registered interpreters, despite criticisms or government changes, is still as apparent today. They are supporting and publicising their register in order to distinguish trained professionals from those with no interpreting qualifications.
All Sign Language Interpreters seem to want the same thing: regulation, an independent register, more protection of our title and profession; we just cannot agree on how to do it. Perhaps it is easier for us to rally against each other? Perhaps the only time some of us feel we have a voice is when we are arguing with each other? Or perhaps some of us just do not want to work together or know how. Just as we have seen a split in those supporting the register, we have a seen a split in those willing to be part of ASLI.
A few years ago an alternative membership organisation was set up under the guise of disagreeing with compulsory CPD, a move that later saw a u-turn decision usually only seen in government departments. This very cheap organisation, offering no benefits bar insurance and a badge, attracted interpreters by cost who did not value being part of a profession. Whereas for even less than the membership fee, at around £35, interpreters can get insurance from companies such as Hiscox.
Why bother to mention this association when there are bigger things to focus on? One wonders why interpreters would support an organisation such as this and what the motivation is behind the latest move which does not support the interpreting consumer’s need for clarity, undermines the register and is more evidence of a lack of support for the profession: the latest membership badge is yellow.


  1. Could you please specify what you mean by “the decision that the spoken language interpreters’ register, NRPSI, could not hold details.” – what details do you have in mind? what decision? by whom? if you have a link to the decision, could you provide it, please.
    You also say: “The government is of the opinion that interpreters will be in the presence of other professionals at all times” – could you please provide a link to this opinion? Where, when and by whom has this opinion been expressed?

  2. Erm. really?
    This post seems to sow dissent, rather than promote the idea of organisations working together towards a common good. If there is more than one, err, political (small ‘p’) party out there then why not suggest common ground rather than pointing out the differences.
    Yeah, we all know there’s two players in the BSL terp world now. yawn, old news. So one of them has a badge that you imply has some sort of colour match to a different body, the NRCPD. As long as terps dont try to pass one card off as the other, then I really dont care.
    I aslo think the Deaf community are well enough informed these days to tell a CACDP registered terp from something else. Time to move on (as an online email group also suggests).
    What I do care about is contracts awarded to agencies that dont care or know about the Deaf communty; dont know or care about us BSL terps; in fact … just dont care about anything other than profit. I do care about ATW funds being slashed. I do care abut Deaf people being easy targets for companies ‘downsizing’. I do care about working alongside competent colleagues, but I dont care what flavour they are. We all dance to the same tune these days … it’s called NRCPD!
    Your other blogs seems really well balanced! So why this one?

    • There is no dissent. The article says we all want same thing but we can’t seem to agree how to do it.
      CACDP registered? A bit out of date perhaps.
      You refer to an online email group which has suggested it is time to move on. Without a clear reference, direct quote or link this neither makes sense nor can I reply to your comment which on the whole is rather vague.

      • Sorry for the vaguness, I’m just having a go at this.
        The email group I’m referring to is E-newsli. I seem to remember the requests for ASLI and VLP to stop making comments about each other.
        In my opinion you are right, they need to sort themselves out. For me it’s not about being in one or the other .. or neither, its if I can see any benefits in membership above the insurance.
        Its easy for me to get independent insurance and some of my bookers request £1M cover anyway (as interpretincourt mentions). I dont think either ASLI or VLP offer that.
        Can you suggest a way that they could work together? For instance, I had an email from NRCPD (yes I am a bit old fashioned – sorry) asking me to fill in a survey about changes which they hadn’t asked or notified me about regarding the Code of Practice. Are we changing it yet again? Are ASLI and VLP in on the act?
        (Oh and just looked on NRCPD website. Seems they are a “Service provided by Signature … the trading name for CACDP”.
        Hey ho!

        • No problem, thank you for commenting.
          It’s funny as on the e-group you mention I only ever see ASLI comments as being made in defence to what are mostly attacks or the use of erroneous information. This is not a conducive way to getting an organisation to work with you to start with. Additionally the ASLI fee is more for a reason: benefits and it enables the organisation to do the work it does with making representations to government and liaising with other organisations it works with. You need a budget, manpower, structure etc… to do that. How can an organisation with little in its coffers do that? It’s not a reality.
          I agree NRCPD is not perfect and it has a long way to go to improve its basic communications as well as to achieve the kind of regulation we all want but unless we support it and do not seek to undermine what do we have? That was one of my main points.

    • You are right in that it doesn’t matter which organisation you belong to… At the end of the day we should be, and mostly are I think, all working towards the same goal. Which is fair access for deaf people and fair pay and conditions for interpreters. I do however raise an eyebrow if it is true that VLP badges have been tweaked to look like NRCPD badges. That feels underhanded – VLP are not a regulator and we have been fighting for years to get people to understand what the yellow badge means. To have a ‘yellow badge’ which is a membership card is naughty. It tricks the deaf community into believing they’re something they are not. The goal should be consumer protection, not blurring the lines.

      • I’m still not clear about membership. But then again when I worked for a public body, I was never convinced about unions either. Each to their own. It seems that NRCPD is the real power player here. We need to be (should, need to be) registered with them to get work. My badge clearly says NRCPD Registered. That is the one that I show consumers – and in some small way am proud to have achieved a standared whereby I’m entitled to register as an RSLI (whatever happened to the “M” anyway)
        I get the impression that ASLI does what ASLI does & VLP seems not very clear about itself. But maybe the question still needs to be asked. If both bodies represent a sizable number of interpreters, what is thier collective approach?
        I’ve not seen a VLP badge. Does it say “NRCPD registered” on it? If so that would be fraudulant, and I expect they should have their knuckles rapped. Otherwise, I would assume that profesional interpreters would use the proper NRCPD badge anyway. And if someone is passing themselves off as registered, then surely thats what the Complaints system is for.
        So, colour schemes notwithstanding, is there a collective voice?

        • Agreed we should all need to be registered.
          I think people forget that ASLI can only represent and provide services to its members who have paid a membership fee. To do otherwise is unfair to the membership. It also has a budget for external representation and, again, can only represent its members.
          The new VLP badges are alarmingly like NRCPD ones. Especially last years ones: white, black writing, yellow stripe down the middle. Why design it in such a way? No one has yet to answer that question with any kind of clarity.
          The problems are: registration years do not run parallel to membership years.
          An interpreter could be suspended from the register.
          Soon there will be an NRCPD practice breaks policy for those on maternity or other types of leave.
          There’s no guarantees someone stays registered once they have done so. If an interpreter is not registered you can not complain about them.
          Without appropriate checks, it leaves the Deaf community without consumer protection. In my view badges should be distinguishable as ones belonging to the NRCPD, leave them to check and we should not be adding to the layers of confusion already experienced by the community. Not all Deaf people know what the badge stands for. This is all especially important with the dodgy contracts we have in place.

  3. Dear Interpreteranon/ Jennifer
    You seem to have placed this same piece on asli twitter account and under your own name? Can I assume therefore that this is an official asli point of view?
    Thank you for such an interesting train of thoughts for us to ponder all be it full of misleading inaccuracies!
    Firstly, you said “The main, and only for most, professional membership association is asli.” Errrr not so, as VLP now has a membership of 414 with 376 being qualified, which compares with asli’s 369 full members (as of 17th August). That’s not the first time this year you seem to have made this false claim to alsi’s position in the interpreter world is it?
    Secondly, you seem to be very free with the word ”profession” through your discourse. However even NRCPD have stated that we are not a profession, hence this is a part of their reasoning for introducing CPD as part of the registration process along with having to meet certain other criteria before we can even consider the using of that word in conjunction with what we do. I have yet to see any interpreter with a qualification certificate that carries such wording as “Professional Qualified Interpreter” but I would be happy to be corrected on this.
    What we in fact do is work alongside other professionals from different professions in our capacity as interpreter, this in no way and has ever made interpreting a profession as far as I know. Again I would be happy for you to provide evidence to the contrary?
    Third, NRCPD have not and as far as I know cannot trademark the colour yellow. I would also like you to consider the fact that the un-announced, ill-considered and to my mind inaccurate “Safe Sign Campaign” was probably the first time I can remember NRCPD advertising the yellow badge. When in fact is has been us the interpreters all over the country for the past 4 or 5 years that have been banging that particular drum around the deaf community and everywhere else we could think of. This is why, after last year’s VLP conference, VLP members chose to use yellow on our ID badges. Also a quick vox pop recently carried out by some of our VLP members showed that the deaf community thought that the yellow badge meant qualified and the rest of what NRCDP feels it meant just didn’t register with them!!!!
    Fourth, I think both VLP and especially asli at over 4 times the cost would be struggling for membership if interpreters could get insurance from Hiscox for £35.00 which happens to be the group rate that both VLP & asli get from the same insurance company. My understanding is that individual PII insurance through Hiscox is more like £140.00 per year.
    Fifth, and now we come to it…..
    The new membership organisation that set up 4 years ago is called VLP, or the rebel alliance if you wish, broke away from asli under no guise at all. The facts are that asli had a committed to a policy as membership organisation to enforce CPD as part of registration which was voted in by the smallest of numbers from their conference. At that time membership was 710 and the vote was 145ish but somehow it passed!!!!! Interesting to note that this decision has since been rescinded thus showing it was a mistake in the first place, so who did the U-turn? At the time asli sent out a road show and at one particular meeting in the North of England the asli rep said “it’s going to happen anyway and if you don’t like it you can “F… off!”, (please excuse the language I am only quoting verbatim what was said), to the gathered interpreters and deaf people present. Now I have since heard that the asli rep in question has said that this was an error? Once perhaps, but as one of the interpreters there I can state quite clearly that the asli rep said this twice during the meeting, so to my mind, not an error but a deliberate challenge, I will let you decide in that one. So as ordered a group of interpreters did just that and formed VLP a few weeks later. Incidentally you might be interested to note that NRCPD has openly stated at a meeting that they felt this was a good thing as it now provided choice to interpreters rather than monopoly domination by a single membership organisation. Words NRCPD themselves might do well to consider don’t you think?? It later transpired that soon after VLP formed an asli regional rep asked the asli executive what to do as the regional membership had shrunk to virtually zero!! The executives reply, I’m told was “ don’t panic it’s just a few rebels and they will soon be back when no-one wants to know” Well 4 years and over 400 VLP members later I wonder what they are thinking now??
    Jennifer, the point is that really it does not matter which badge we wear or flag we fly, as interpreters we still have to work together don’t we? I know for a fact that VLP has offered on several occasions to work on various things with asli but for some reason asli just don’t seem to get passed the fact that VLP came into being because asli shot themselves in the foot over issues 4 years ago but, as they say, things move on so perhaps it’s time you learned to live with it and there should be an end to these stupid efforts at one upmanship that clearly serve no-one? So I say again isn’t it about time to stop all these inaccuracies and silliness and start to live alongside each other?
    Oh and by the way for your information and clarification VLP do offer more than insurance to their membership, we just don’t go on about it! In fact this September VLP is having a weekend conference in Birmingham where there is an opportunity through the conference and training over the weekend to gain full structured CPD hours to cover the year and all for £60.00 early bird and £75.00 up to the end of this month. We will also be making a number of announcements that are aimed to benefit our membership
    Sorry VLP members only.

    • Dear Van
      Please see my blog disclaimer, any views are my own.
      Firstly, you quote numbers that are misleading and accurate. ASLI numbers are more than those you state. You hand done this treated lot before.
      Secondly, I think we are a profession. It is not only my opinion but most definitions of a profession fit what we are. What we do not have is statutory regulation or a protected title. Please do not confuse these.
      What qualification does have the word profession on it? That is only one thing that makes a professional.
      Your argument is also flawed. What does the P stand for in VLP?
      Thirdly, I have stated it is down to the hard work of interpreters that the ‘yellow badge’ has been publicised so it is not clear why you think I have been misleading on this point. Did you mean membership badges when you said ID badges? For what purpose are they used for ID? This only muddies the waters and does give a clear explanation as to why a membership badge should be yellow.
      I do not think a ‘quick vox pop’ constitues appropriate evidence. Perhaps you could collate some more valid data?
      Fourthly, in terms of membership benefits and benefits to us all such as external representation: you get what you pay for.
      Fifth, as a democratic organisation, membership voted a policy in. I don’t know why old ground has to be dredged up. Further changes were made as NRCPD rules had changed. Members again took a vote. No u-turns.
      I won’t comment on hearsay but what I will say is its a shame people can’t now come together. I’m sad to say it doesn’t look like this can happen in this current climate with the antagonist tone of some of the comments I have received and everyone has read previously in differing forms. Sad indeed. For organisations to work together there would have to be an equality of budgets, representation, manpower, structure alongside less use of targeted PR. I am sure ASLI will continue to do what it does best as its main focus, working to support its members, continuing to deliver an international standard of benefits and develop the profession.
      There are neither inaccuracies nor any incidences of one upmanship as far as my post is concerned just a clear statement of the facts. I’ve yet to hear any concrete evidence to contradict that in your comments.

  4. Thanks for your tweet asking me for my view on this blog post.
    With regards to professional association membership cards generally in the UK, I think they’re borderline redundant. ASLI doesn’t have membership ID cards any longer, though this evolution came about as a by-product of an internal administrative process change rather than from debate and/or consultation with members on the merits of providing ID cards. I don’t miss my ASLI membership card one bit — all it did was take up room in my wallet and no one cared that I had one except other people who had one too.
    ASLI, SASLI and VLP have searchable directories and accordingly should require members to provide a current photo for individual directory profiles; RSLIs should then continue to rely on their NRCPD ID card (as many seem to do already in spite of whatever professional association cards they have) as their professional “seal”. No confusion, no fuss, no cost.

  5. Jennifer, they are your opinions not facts, they support what you believe which is the current system. Many of the arguments are flawed in my opinion.
    I’d suggest to you that the whole point of your blog and some others is to basically bang on about the current system and why interpreters need/should be part of it.
    Is the blog really necessary or is it that current system supporters are worried about the lack of support for their system.
    Paul Hann

Comments are closed.


  • PSA accreditation: It has nothing to do with the medical model | Anonymous Interpreters 7th September 2013

    […] If only the government saw Deaf people that way. What we have had since 2010 is an tidal wave of outsourcing of interpreting services which has seen the lowest bidder win contracts across all sectors. This has been especially bad with cash strapped hospitals, mental health trusts and primary care services. Many NRCPD registered interpreters can no longer get any medical bookings now. Many Deaf people are not provided with registered interpreters when attending appointments. The examples of interpreters being used are few and far between. Just see the Our Health in Your Hands work for surveys and, for real life examples, the BSL Act Spit the Dummy campaign. Contract holders often send BSL users to hospitals to interpret who then tell Deaf people they left their yellow badge at home (the NRCPD one). […]