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?

NRCPD Statutory Regulation Survey

The NRCPD have sent out a survey to communication professionals to assess their thoughts on statutory regulation. The deadline is Friday 11th July.
My answers are below. If anyone has any comments please post in response:
1. Do you support the NRCPD aim of statutory regulation? Yes
I support the aim of statutory regulation. I am not convinced the NRCPD are the right body to hold this as it is still not independent from Signature/CACDP and I haven’t been happy with the way UKCoD have dealt with the AtW enquiry and how interpreters have not been involved as much as they should have been.
2. Do you think requiring registrants to agree to a code of conduct is a good thing? No
The Code of Conduct is too prescriptive and does not allow for the breadth of ethical decision making that a BSL interpreter has to practice every day. The Code of Ethics was much better and reflective of other professions. A teological approach to ethics rather than deontological would be much more suited in the case of interpreters. This is a much more up to date way of thinking in the interpreting profession (see Dean and Pollard’s Demand Control schema).
3. Do you think requiring registrants to continue their professional development is a good thing? Yes
I agree with CPD but do not agree with the way that NRCPD have mandated that some hours should be structured but also limited to only courses about interpreting. This has created a market for CPD courses but not increased the value of CPD to practitioners of more than five years post qualification. For example I would like to attend courses on voice production, mime and another language. I believe these would all enhance my work as a practitioner but none of these courses would fit the NRCPD’s criteria. I have completed most of the courses that are on offer in the market and am struggling to find anything that would enhance my professional development.
The rather arbitrary numbers allocated to structured and unstructured do not make sense and were not created in consultation with interpreters.
The more experience one has the more unstructured CPD is completed rather than structured: peer supervision groups, clinical supervision, evaluating ones work, attending or facilitating interpreter meetings, volunteering for interpreter organisations, reading research and articles.
I also do a number of hours of voluntary interpreting which I often record and evaluate.
I would recommend that NRCPD readjust the hours of structured and unstructured or rather put the total amount of hours an interpreter should complete without being prescriptive.
I would recommend that NRCPD allows courses indirectly related to interpreting to be counted as CPD.
I would recommend that NRCPD consult interpreters when reviewing CPD.
4. Are you willing to meet with members of the NRCPD Board to discuss statutory regulation, continuing professional development and the code of conduct’ if the opportunity arises? Yes
Further comments:
The NRCPD should consider asking TSLIs to take an ASLI trained mentor and provide funding to ASLI to provide this. Currently any RSLI can support a TSLI and they would not necessarily have the skills to offer that support.
Before any statutory regulation takes place Signature should be completed independent from NRCPD.
The alternative would be that another body holds the power to regulate.
When representations about interpreters are made to government the NRCPD should be representing the interests of interpreters as well as Deaf people rather than the view of Signature or UKCoD. This represents a direct conflict of interests and independence is paramount