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Working with interpreters, signers and others with special communication skills

All agencies need to ensure they are able to communicate fully with parents and children. When either making or receiving a referral staff must establish the communication needs of the child, parents and other significant family members.


1. Overview

1.1 All agencies need to ensure they are able to communicate fully with parents and children.

1.2 When either making or receiving a referral staff must establish the communication needs of the child, parents and other significant family members. Relevant specialists may need to be consulted, e.g. a speech and language therapist, teacher of hearing impaired children, paediatrician etc.

1.3 The use of accredited interpreters, signers or others with special communication skills must be considered whenever undertaking an assessment or enquiries involving children and/or family members:

  • For whom English is not the first language (even if reasonably fluent in English, the option of an interpreter should be available when dealing with sensitive issues).
  • With a hearing or visual impairment.
  • Whose disability impairs speech.
  • With learning difficulties.
  • With a specific language or communication disorder.
  • With severe emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • Whose primary form of communication is not speech.

1.4 Family members and children should not be used as interpreters within interviews although can be used to arrange appointments and establish communication needs.

1.5 Interpreters used for assessment and child protection work should have been subject to references and CRB checks. Wherever possible, they should be used to interpret their own first language. There should be a written agreement regarding confidentiality.

1.6 Interpreters are expected to have undertaken relevant child protection training and this should be ascertained.

1.7 Staff need to first meet with the interpreter to explain the nature of the assessment/enquiries and clarify:

  • the interpreter’s role in translating direct communications between professionals and family members;
  • the need to avoid acting as a representative of the family;
  • when the interpreter is required to translate everything that is said and when to summarise;
  • that the interpreter is prepared to translate the exact words that are likely to be used – especially critical for sexual abuse;
  • when the interpreter will explain any cultural issues that might be overlooked (usually at the end of the interview, unless any issue is impeding the interview); and
  • the interpreter’s availability to interpret at other interviews and meetings.