Are Statutory Regulation and CPD cure-alls for the ills in interpreting?

photoRoger Beeson NRCPD Registered BSL/English Interpreter (since 1988)
Roger Beeson is a self-employed interpreter based in London. He was a founding member of ASLI and has held various offices, including Chair. He is a regular attendee at its London & South-East Region meetings. He was made a Fellow of ASLI (FASLI) in 2008. He is co-founder and still one of the co-owners of the long-lived independent online interpreting discussion forum “e-newsli”. He is chair of trustees of 3 Deaf organisations, drawing on the experiences of a lifetime spent living and working with Deaf people. He is scaling down his interpreting work, aiming to work a maximum of 3 days a week.
So NRCPD surveyed views on Statutory Regulation and CPD, and will no doubt come up with the expected results. What about the unasked questions?

  • What are Deaf people’s experiences of using NRCPD yellow badge holders?
  • Does the NRCPD yellow badge assure competence and quality?
  • What do interpreters see that’s not right in interpreting?
  • How many more would complain if it was as easy as pressing a button?
  • Is the NVQ system fit for purpose?
  • How do NRCPD’s CPD requirements address interpreting shortcomings?
  • Do we need a more rigorous test of interpreting, post qualification?
  • Is NRCPD really policing interpreting?
  • Does NRCPD have the personnel to understand what is happening on the ground in the interpreting world, or to find imaginative and sustainable solutions?

What would address shortcomings?

  • Statutory regulation? I don’t think so.
  • CPD in its current form? I don’t think so.

In recent months there have been two high profile court cases in London, involving Deaf defendants on serious charges, where registered interpreters have been told to stand down by a judge, following complaints by Deaf defendants and other interpreters. This is serious stuff. But nobody complained to NRCPD (as far as I know).
We could go on and on with anecdotes about sub-par performance, but we know why only a tiny number complain. Interpreting is a transient event, usually in a private space and rarely recorded.  This makes it difficult to gather evidence for a formal complaint.  However, it is clear when talking to Deaf consumers and interpreters, that there are worrying registered interpreters out there. Why can’t NRCPD proactively monitor interpreters when concerns are raised which are difficult to turn into formal complaints? Why isn’t there an interpreters’ MoT to identify weaknesses?
Before NRCPD points the finger at “cowboys” outside the fold, what is it doing to sort out what is under its control?
I’ve been a long-time supporter of the principle of registration. Even if the rhetoric rarely matched the reality, I paid my annual fee. I’d imagined that once the majority of people being paid to interpret were registered, that standards would be cranked-up. But far from that, NRCPD has become a pointless encumbrance, driving people away from registration. NRCPD is now part of the problem, not the solution.
What’s the connection between doing a CPD activity, writing about it, and high interpreting performance? Is there really any realistic prospect of Statutory Regulation in the next decade?
NRCPD needs to urgently reform itself if the whole registration system is not to go into melt-down (and I’m conscious that this contribution could precipitate that). Where is the credibility and leadership to address the real concerns of Deaf people and interpreters?

  1. Is there not a certifying entity in Britain like Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf in the US that tests your knowledge, ethical decisionmaking, and interpreting?

    • You pass qualifications which are mapped to the National Occupational Standards then you register and do some CPD. No further exams or test or other checks on your skills for the rest of your career. Not ideal.

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