The needs of separated families wishing to use contact centres are already complex. If the first language of a family is different to that of the centre’s staff and volunteers, then this will need addressing as well to ensure that the contact experience for the child is as beneficial as possible. In order that contact can be arranged properly without any communication confusion it is imperative that an appropriate independent interpreter is used.
However, it is not the responsibility of the contact centre to arrange or pay for the interpreter, however they must check that the interpreter is from an approved agency. The Judicial Protocol states that “Where there may be communication issues related to language, arrangements have been made for the provision of an independent interpreter by the Applicant. Supported Child Contact Centres do not provide interpreters.” i Official interpreters should be used from a recognised independent interpreter service recognised by the police or judiciary.ii Family or friends should not be used as this would compromise impartiality. The advice from NACCC is that centres are best to avoid arrangements relating to interpreters and make clear that this is the responsibility of the referrer. It is also important that centre works with the interpreter prior to a service being offered to help them to understand the role of the contact service and how the interpreter needs to work with them to compliment the aims of the contact centre.
The role of the interpreter in a supported contact centre is to
- Communicate any concerns/information between the centre co-ordinator and family members during the pre-visit.
- Communicate any concerns / information between family members and the centre staff/volunteers at the beginning of the contact session.
- Sit with the family during the contact session and if a child appears to be distressed during the session to alert the centre staff/volunteers about anything that has happened or being said that might have initiated this.
- Communicate any concerns / information between the centre staff/volunteers and family members at the end of the contact session.
The role of the interpreter in a supervised contact centre is to translate everything that is said during the contact session in order that the supervisor can supervise appropriately. Supervised centres have a specific contract with interpreters that is signed before contact commences.
What support is available for non-English/Welsh speaking families going through separation?
Citizen’s Advice offices
The Citizen’s Advice network offers individuals advice on a range of issues including financial matters, housing and other family matters. Advice is either offered online, by phone and in person local to you. It could be worth contacting your local office as they may have bi-lingual staff who are able to discuss certain issues and signpost to relevant sources of help. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
Free social work clinics
AG Family Support (AGFS) is a nation-wide organisation, supporting non-English-speaking families and principally those from Eastern European countries. Arthur Gajewski, the managing director, runs ‘social work clinics’ on Monday mornings, where members of the public are offered free consultation/advice on matters relating to child protection, contact and care proceedings. Arthur is a native Polish speaker and can utilise AGFS interpreters where another language is required. Further info
Jigsaw Streatham’s video
As you will read from the spotlight article, Jigsaw Streatham who run a supported and supervised centre in London have taken the initiative to try and explain their rules in a visual way, to particularly help those where English is not their first language.
i Judicial Protocol for referrals of families to Supported Child Contact Centres by Judges and Magistrates (page 5, point 7) https://naccc.org.uk/what-we-do/protocols/judicial-protocol
The details of these companies have been provided as a gesture of good will and NACCC is not responsible for the work undertaken by people affiliated to, recommended by, or employed by these agencies. The centre should not enter in discussions regarding costs as the costs / fees are not the centre responsibility.