Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The impact of proposed abolition of translation services

I keep blogging about UKIP, but then they keep opening the doors.

The news that UKIP County Councillor Alan Lay wants to abolish all translation services, or make people pay for them is interesting.

It is a confusing article, not helped by the fact that after 16 months as a County Councillor Councillor Lay still doesn't know how the council works. Firstly, there is no council meeting on 18th September. Secondly, he has subimitted his comments as a written question, when it does not contain a question at all and, as a result it has been refused. It may yet get resubmitted in a different way, but I doubt it. The crux of this is the on.y text I have is what is in the article - but the crux of it is clearly that we should cease to provide any free translation services.
Of course, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need translation services. But then, in a perfect world:

  • We wouldn’t have to produce leaflets and posters to explain where to turn if you are a victim of domestic abuse
  • We wouldn’t have to put social workers in front of victims of domestic abuse and explain to them that they risk having their child taken away if they stay in their relationship
  • We wouldn’t have to bring in social workers to talk to a child who has disclosed to a teacher that he is being abused at home
  • Our social workers would never have to liaise with their equivalents in foreign countries about social work cases (and that includes us liaising with overseas agencies about British families living abroad)
  • We wouldn’t have to employ staff who have to detain people under the mental health act and explain to their loved ones why that detention is necessary.
(Note: I have had this list double-checked and they are all areas where the County Council would provide translation services if the council staff involved do not have the language skills themselves)

The County Council do have to do ALL of these and more and, unfortunately, we have to do them with migrant victims as well as native English speakers – I am not going to go into the whole immigration debate here, dealing with that is outside of the County Council’s gift. However, the truth is even if, as a migrant, you are a reasonable English speaker, when you are in a situation where your child is threatened with care, or you are dealing with social workers, you are likely to come across unfamiliar language and you deserve to understand every single word that is being said to you.

So the next question is, in these circumstances, if the county Council doesn't fund it, who should pay? Councillor Lay says:



"If interpretation is required, this will be supplied by the county council at a cost to the recipient." 

In this case the recipient is the partner who has been beaten, the abused child, the mentally ill, or families of the mentally ill. Surely he cannot mean they should pay (but that is what he says). So, should the alleged perpetrator pay when they haven't been found guilty? Councillor Lay's thinking is dangerously flawed.

I would suggest that there are a number of reasons why this idea could have come forward. Either Councillor Lay still doesn't understand what the County Council does, or he lacks compassion, or he is being populist. My view is it is a combination of all three.

Now, if there was a motion to council to review the cost of translation services to see if we could cut costs, that would be worth looking at, but it is not what is being suggested. The perfect way of dealing with this would be through a scrutiny review, but unfortunately, UKIP helped get rid of the County's valuable scrutiny function.

I suspect that if Councillor Lay puts his ideas forward as a motion (the correct procedure) it would still be ruled out by the County Council's legal team on the basis that we have legal obligations to provide such services and therefore that the intent is not deliverable.

We have a by-election pending in Wisbech. I hope as many Wisbech people as possible can read this so they can see the sort of heartless, wrong-thinking UKIP Councillor has been elected.

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