Booking an interpreter can feel like a daunting task when you are not sure what you are searching for; often the first question I am asked is "How much will it cost?"

You can either book a sign language interpreter directly or via an agency. Using an agency is a good option if you don't have time to search, but keep in mind that you will have to pay administration charges plus VAT and you have less control over which interpreter you work with. As with any profession, skills vary.

I would always recommend that, where possible, you source an interpreter directly. The majority of interpreters in the United Kingdom run their businesses as sole traders or small Ltd companies. There is some time investment required to book in this way, but the pay off is that you will likely save yourself quite a bit of money and you have control over the booking process.

When contacting an interpreter directly, they will offer  you a quote based on their assessment of the booking. They often factor in considerations such as distance, duration and the complexity of the assignment. There are no standard fees as such but most interpreters will quote a minimum charge. 

It is worth noting that in London and the South East of England the fee structures for fully qualified interpreters seem to range from £130-£140 for a partial day booking and £260-£280 for a full day. With the caveat that more high profile work such as legal or platform work will likely incur an increased fee. 


Sign language interpreters can best be sourced directly from the following websites:

NRCPD

Association of Sign Language Interpreters

Essex Sign Language Interpreters Network

London BSL Interpreters

Kent Freelance Interpreters Group


There are many other regional websites available which will allow you access to a local directory of interpreters. I would always recommend that you confirm that they are registered with the NRCPD prior to confirming a booking.

At present there are two NRCPD registration levels associated with sign language interpreting in the UK

  • Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI)
  • Trainee Sign Language Interpreter (TSLI) 

As the name suggests, TSLI's are student interpreters, still in the training part of their career and should ideally only undertake bookings that have the support of a qualified interpreter.

RSLI's are interpreters who have achieved a level 6 NVQ language certificate or equivalent in BSL and have also completed a post-graduate level training programme in interpreting. They have been assessed and approved as 'safe to practice' by an awarding body. This means they have proven their ability to meet the minimum competence levels required to work independently. RSLI's can work in any domain but usually refrain from undertaking mental health or legal work until they have pursued additional training.

Interpreting is both physically and mentally tiring; as such it is good practice to book two interpreters for assignments that will be quite content heavy. For medical appointments, meetings less than an hour long or office support, it is generally accepted that one interpreter is sufficient. Anything else will probably require two. This is for both health & safety reasons and to ensure a good quality of service. If you are unsure of your requirements, I am happy to discuss them over the phone or via email.

For Deaf people who are employed, working as apprentices or going through an interview process, the costs of booking an interpreter can be reclaimed through a government initiative called Access To Work. Click on the link for more up to date information.

The majority of sign language interpreters working in the UK are working on a freelance basis; they own and manage their own businesses. Like any business, they are responsible for paying their own tax and national insurance contributions, as well as overheads, travel costs and administration costs. As professional interpreters, they are responsible for ensuring that they are up to date with current and relevant vocational training, members of relevant bodies and regularly attend conferences in order to develop their knowledge and keep up to date with any professional issues.

Training to become an interpreter is a long journey and the expectations around quality and standards once you achieve your qualification are high. All professional sign language interpreters hold qualifications at a post-graduate level or equivalent. Sign language interpreters charge a professional fee, because they provide a professional service.

My fee structure is representative of my skill and abilities. In instances where I am not the right person for a particular job, I am always happy to suggest an appropriate colleague.

 

Always ask to see an interpreters badge!

All professionally registered interpreters will be able to show you their NRCPD badge. It contains information regarding their registration level, ID number and validity.

Any interpreter registered with the NRCPD will have had to provide proof of their qualifications, their right to work in the UK, and signed a declaration to say that they have an up to date DBS check and professional indemnity insurance.

If they are not registered with the NRCPD then please do not book them. They may not be professional interpreters and you will have no assurance of their qualification level and no legal grounds to complain if you feel that you have received a poor service.

In the current economic climate, many agencies and organisations are opting to use people who have minimal signing ability, and have received no professional interpreter training. This often turns out to be a false economy when the process has negative consequences and complaints are made. 

You can check and interpreter is registered with the NRCPD here.