PSA accreditation: It has nothing to do with the medical model

PSAThe NRCPD has sought answers from the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) as to whether they could apply as a voluntary register to be accredited. We still have no clear answer but is this really a move towards what some perceive as aligning interpreting to a medical model?
Our history as an emerging profession of Sign Language Interpreters has lead us from the DWEB (Deaf Welfare Examination Board) interpreters to CACDPs first register in the 1980s which mostly consisted of those already working with Deaf people – social workers and Teachers of the Deaf. In the late 1980s funding was sourced and the Citi Services course became the first training course for interpreters. We were moving away from the helper model towards a more professional route into interpreting.
At the same time models of Deafness went from the medical model to social model i.e. there is nothing wrong with the individual that needs to be treated but rather that it is society that causes barriers. Then to a cultural model in which Deaf people have their own culture and language.
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).
Outsourcing contracts to providers who are able to get away with not using registered personnel is going back in time and it goes against the government’s health and social care agenda. The only antidote to this is to ensure that all medical services book a NRCPD Registered Interpreter for Deaf people at their appointments. We know the damage it does if they do not. See the RNID’s A Simple Cure report, the TEA report. See the current work by OHIYH. See SignHealth’s long awaited Sick of It report, launching soon.
To ensure only NRCPD Registered Interpreters are used in medical settings is not going back to a time when the medical model is the prevailing paradigm. Sign Language Interpreters will not have to change their behaviour whilst interpreting nor will they be recognised as only being used for appointments. It is merely a step towards providers only being allowed to book Registered Interpreters rather than the situation now where Deaf people sign consent without knowledge of what they sign, struggle to understand how to take medication, their diagnoses, their prognosis and any treatments prescribed.
Whether PSA accreditation will actually get us a step closer to statutory regulation is unknown. Yet. PSA takes responsibility for both overseeing statutory regulators as well as voluntary registers. It requires registers to undertake audits, to make themselves more fit for purpose. The PSA can only improve the NRCPD and strengthen our position in getting ourselves seen as professionals and ensuring Deaf people have appropriate access. At medical appointments.
We will still work in the media, in courts, at police stations, at art galleries, at wedding and funerals, in work places, at conferences and anywhere else that Deaf people are present and want to gain access in a culturally appropriate way, in sign language. Let’s not confuse models of deafness with one of the areas in which we work. Or used to. With some work by the register we may well work in medical settings once more.

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.