8.41 Use of Interpreters, Signers or Others with Communication Skills
- Interviews of Children where there are Communication Issues
- Who may act as Interpreters?
- Preparing Interpreters
All agencies need to ensure they are able to communicate fully with parents and children when undertaking child protection work and ensure that children, family members and professionals fully understand the exchanges that take place. If the family's first language is not English and even if they appear reasonably fluent, the offer of an interpreter should be made, as it is essential that all issues are understood and fully explained.
The use of accredited interpreters, signers or others with special communication skills must be considered whenever undertaking enquiries involving children and/or family:
Interviews of Children where there are Communication Issues
The particular needs of a child who is thought to have communication problems should be considered at an early point in the planning of a Section 47 Enquiry (i.e. at the Strategy Discussion stage).
All interviews should be tailored to the individual needs of the child and a written explanation included in the plan about any departure from usual standards.
Professionals should be aware that interviewing is possible when a child communicates by means other than speech and should not assume that an interview, which meets the standards for purposes of criminal proceedings, is not possible.
Every effort should be made to enable such a child to give her/his account directly to those undertaking enquiries.
It may be necessary to seek further advice and assistance with the interview from professionals who know the child well or are familiar with the type of impairment (s)he has e.g. paediatrician at the child development centre or for child's school, social worker from the deaf services team or disabled children's team.
Careful planning is required of the role of this adviser and the potential use of specialised communication equipment.
Achieving Best Evidence provides guidance on interviewing vulnerable witnesses, including learning disabled (at page 53, Chapter 3) and on the use of interpreters and intermediaries.
Interviews with witnesses with special communication needs are generally much slower. The interview may be long and tiring for the witness and might need to be broken into two or three parts, preferably, but not necessarily held on the same day.
A witness should be interviewed in the language of their choice and vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including children, may have a supporter present when being interviewed.
Who may act as Interpreters?
Suitable professionals are likely to be drawn from the following groups:
Generally speaking, it is not appropriate to use family members as interpreters in child protection work although it may be appropriate to ask family members to clarify the child's or person's communication needs.
Interpreters used for child protection work should have been subject to references, DBS checks and a written agreement regarding confidentiality. Wherever possible they should be used to interpret their own first language and not have any significant links to the community in which the family lives.
Social workers need to first meet with the interpreter to explain the nature of the investigation, the aim and plan of the interview, and clarify: