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Interpreter and Translation Services

1. Interpreter and Translator Roles

The role of an interpreter

Put simply an interpreter is a person who is able to support effective conversations to take place by:

  1. Listening to the first person; and
  2. Understanding what they want to say; and
  3. Communicating this to the second person; then
  4. Listening to the second person's response; and
  5. Understanding what they want to say; and
  6. Communicating this to first person.

Interpreters can also interpret written communication into the spoken word.

It is important that any person acting as an interpreter:

  1. Understands the communication needs of the person they are supporting; and
  2. Maintains impartiality; and
  3. Maintains confidentiality; and
  4. Can make the person they are supporting feel at ease (and therefore able to communicate their views openly); and
  5. Asks questions to check their own understanding, if this is not clear; and
  6. Rephrases things or breaks them down if this will help the person to understand, and does not simply repeat what has been said word for word; but
  7. Makes sure that the intended meaning is not lost in their interpretation; and
  8. Captures emotion and feelings, not just the spoken word; and
  9. Checks that the person they are communicating to understands what they have said.

The role of a translator

A translator is a person who:

  1. Reproduces written communication or information in one language; into
  2. Written communication in another language; so that
  3. The person reading it can understand it.

This could be:

  1. A letter;
  2. An email;
  3. An information leaflet;
  4. An assessment or other report;
  5. Minutes of a meeting.

2. Identifying the need for an Interpreter

The need for an interpreter should be considered whenever a person/carer is likely to have substantial difficulty being involved in care and support processes, but specifically if:

  1. They are known to use British Sign Language, and you are not able to do so; or
  2. They use Makaton, and you are not able to do so; or
  3. English is not the person's first language, and you cannot speak their preferred language.
Need to know
Anyone with responsibility for allocation should consider the specific communication skills of available staff to avoid the need for an interpretation service wherever possible.

3. Identifying the need for a Translation Service

The need for a translation service should be considered whenever written communication is to be provided to a person:

  1. In a language that is not accessible to them; and
  2. If they would be likely to understand it fully if it were translated into another language.

If the person would be likely to understand the communication in another language, all practicable steps should be taken to translate the document. Failure to do so:

  1. Takes away the person's independence, privacy and control over their own information; and
  2. Forces them to rely on others unnecessarily.
Need to know
For the purposes of translation services, Braille is included as a language. However, a person who is blind may not need for written communication to be translated into Braille if it can be provided electronically, and they have access to appropriate technology to enable them to read it (e.g. Jaws).

If a person lacks capacity to understand the information regardless of the language it is written in, then there is no need to translate it. However, there is likely to be some benefit in supporting them to understand the key meaning in the communication, either through interpretation or advocacy.

4. Family and Friends as Interpreters

The Care Act

The Care Act statutory guidance states that it is not normally appropriate to use a family member, carer or friend as an interpreter.

However, in certain circumstances it may be appropriate to consider;

  1. The person's style of communication is unique to them; or
  2. The person can only be fully understood by someone close to them;
  3. The person refuses to engage with a formal interpreter.

The use of a family member or friend must also be considered if the person has capacity and specifically requests it. Any decision must take into account the impact on the person's individual wellbeing.

Requests from the person

Family members and friends should always be considered as interpreters when:

  1. The person/carer has capacity and specifically requests it; and
  2. The family member or friend agrees; and
  3. The family member or friend understands the role of an interpreter; and
  4. There is no evidence that it would not be appropriate for them to act.

Requests from a family member or friend

Requests from a family member or friend should only be considered when;

  1. The person lacks capacity to request it; and
  2. The family member or friend understands the role of an interpreter; and
  3. There is no evidence that it would not be appropriate for them to act; and
  4. You decide it would be in the Best Interests of the person based on the presenting circumstances.

Evidence of appropriateness

In any of the following circumstances it would not be appropriate for a particular family member or friend to act;

  1. Concerns have been raised in regards to possible on-going abuse or neglect of the person (or any other vulnerable adult or child) by the family member or friend;
  2. The family member or friend has their own strong views about the current situation, and is unlikely to act impartially;
  3. There are indicators that a family member or friend may not be appropriate, and it has not been possible to mitigate any risks (see below).
Case Example:
Ali only speaks limited English, and his son has asked to be an informal interpreter to support him to explore available options to meet his needs during the Care and Support Planning process. Ali is in agreement to this, but the social worker is concerned because Ali's son has told her on several occasions that he believes his father should be provided with a residential care placement, and has refused to even consider that there may be alternative options available. The social worker feels that Ali's son may not provide information about other options in a positive way, and may place undue influence on Ali to request residential care.

In all other situations you will need to make a judgement, but the following are some of the indicators that it may not be appropriate;

  1. You are concerned that they may not understand the role of an interpreter;
  2. Other people express concerns about their motivation or impartiality;
  3. The person appears to be easily influenced by them during routine conversations;
  4. They stand to gain financially (or in property) from the decision to be made;
  5. They will be significantly and directly affected by one or more of the available options (either positively or negatively).

Some of the supplementary questions you could ask about the family member/friend to help make a final decision include:

  1. Do they have a genuine interest in the person's welfare?
  2. Do they normally support the person to make their own decisions?
  3. Have they acted as an interpreter before, and if so, did this work well?
  4. What is the basis for any concerns raised, specifically are these evidence based?
  5. Have there been any concerns raised before?
  6. What would the impact be on the person if they acted/did not act?
  7. Is there anyone else who would be suitable to act?

You should:

  1. Seek the advice of your line manager as required; and
  2. Explore whether there are ways to enable them to act, especially if the person has requested it; and
  3. If not, make arrangements to use an interpreter service.

Declining for a family member or friend to act

If a decision is made that it is not appropriate for a family member or friend to act you should:

  1. Explain the rationale for the decision to them; and
  2. Explain the rationale for the decision to the person; and
  3. Explain that an interpreter service will be arranged; and
  4. Advise them of their right to complain about the decision.

You should also explain that declining for them to act as an interpreter does not mean that they cannot be involved in the care and support process taking place, so long as:

  1. The person/ carer consents to them being involved; or
  2. If the person lacks capacity, a Best Interests decision is made to involve them.

Concerns whilst they are acting

Sometimes evidence of a family member or friend's inappropriateness to act may not become apparent until they are doing so.


They may not be communicating the person's true feelings and wishes.


“Mum is happy to go into a care home”


'Mum' is crying.


They may not be communicating all of the intended information to the person (or back to you).

Before making a judgement you should be aware that some languages;

  1. Use less or more words to say the same thing; and
  2. Some languages do not possess certain vocabulary in their diction.
3. The family member/friend is unable to explain the rationale for a person's decision.

The family member/friend appears to be arguing with the person.

Before making a judgement you should know that some languages do apply a firm or assertive tone, and the person's body language may be a better indicator of an argument.

5. The person does not appear at ease with the family member/friend.

If you are concerns about the appropriateness of a family member or friend to continue to act as interpreter you should:

  1. Seek the advice of your line manager as required;
  2. Discuss concerns with the family member or friend, reiterating their role;
  3. Postpone any further conversations with them as the interpreter;
  4. Consider making arrangements to use an interpreter service.

5. Arranging Interpreter and Translation Services

When to arrange an interpreter service

Interpreter services should be arranged when:

  1. The need for an interpreter has been established; and
  2. There is no appropriate family member or friend to act.


The referral to interpreter services can only be made when:

  1. The person/carer has given consent; or
  2. If the person lacks capacity, a Best Interests decision has been made to make the referral.

You should provide the person/carer with information and advice to support them to make a decision about consent. This includes information about:

  1. The reason an interpreter is required;
  2. The benefit of involving an interpreter;
  3. The process of arranging an interpreter;
  4. What to expect from interpreter involvement; and
  5. The timeframe for arranging an interpreter.

If there are communication barriers to the person understanding the information you should:

  1. Identify any carers, family members, friends or others who may be able to support the person to understand the information; and
  2. If not arrange a provisional interpreter; who
  3. Should provide information to the person so that they can make a decision about consent.

If a person/carer with capacity refuses consent to arrange an interpreter you cannot arrange one. However, in this instance:

  1. The person should be deemed to have substantial difficulty under the Care Act; and
  2. An independent advocate must be provided; to
  3. Ensure that their involvement in any care and support processes is maximised.

Arranging interpreter and translation services

Interpreter services should be arranged in line with available local processes and guidance. These can be found in the Local Resource area by clicking here.

If you have any queries about the process you can email for support.

6. Raising Concerns about Interpreter Services

If you are concerned about the actions or abilities of an interpreter service you should:

  1. Discuss this with your line manager; and
  2. Agree the most appropriate course of action.

Depending on the nature of the concern this could be:

  1. Ending an interpreter service and arranging a different one;
  2. Raising a safeguarding concern;
  3. Raising a concern to the interpreter service about an individual interpreter;
  4. Notifying the person with commissioning responsibility using

tri.x adults procedures