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The Welsh Government believes it is essential that all forced migrants are able to effectively access all required services. It’s vital, for not only their health and wellbeing, but also to successfully integrate and flourish into their host communities. For many forced migrants, key to this success is access to appropriate foreign language interpreter services.

For this research the Welsh Government identified the following aims and objectives:

  • provide a detailed overview of current foreign language interpretation services provided to Forced Migrants living in Wales
  • determine how well the foreign language interpretation services provided to Forced Migrants living in Wales offer adequate and timely support
  • propose viable recommendations for future policy development which could improve the foreign language interpretation services provided to Forced Migrants living in Wales

To achieve these aims, the Welsh Government required participatory research with 5 cohorts of people who use, organise, commission, or deliver foreign language interpretation services for Forced Migrants in Wales. This qualitative approach focused on the knowledge and perceptions of participants working in, or receiving the service. This meant engaging with participants to reflect on their experiences within the system, moving onto their assessment of how the system can be improved. The 5 cohorts were:   

  1. the forced migrant population of Wales
  2. formal interpreter providers
  3. informal interpreters
  4. public sector stakeholders, commissioning agents and migration/integration officers
  5. Third sector forced migrants support organisations and voluntary community support bodies

This report presents the research’s findings and recommendations designed to respond to the studies aims and objectives. This review was guided by working within the principles and practices of systems, and grounded theory analysis. The research was conducted during the first half of 2022.

Key findings

For each cohort, there were many findings. The findings listed below are those where there was cross cohort support.

Interpreter/forced migrant fit

Almost all respondents, in 1 form or another, commented on the ‘all too often’ lack of fit between the interpreter and the forced migrant. They suggested that the pairing of the forced migrant with an interpreter should include:

  • dialect issues
  • socio-cultural background
  • civil conflict background
  • gender
  • religion/movement
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender plus (LGBTQ+) status

Face to face rather than phone

Face to face interpretation was the preferred choice while the use of telephone services was not popular. The use of video conferencing was supported as an alternative to telephone services.

The Welsh Government suggested to create universal interpreter system

All support organisations, plus half of informal interpreters, suggested the Welsh Government should create a streamlined universal translation service that takes into consideration the needs of both the third sector as well as people accessing services.

Public Sector suggested to provide dedicated translation budgets

All forced migrant support organisations who received financial support from the public sector believed that translation costs are not properly accounted for within grant funding. 

The Welsh Government suggested to create sensitivity guidelines / code of practice

This suggestion was supported by all the migrant support bodies. All informal interpreters were seeking support but did not formulate it in these terms. It was felt by the support bodies that while privately run translation services all had codes of practice, it was not always clear that they were being followed.

The need for pan organisation community support hubs: to support both migrants, support bodies and informal interpreters

The creation of some sort of support hubs was suggested by 57% of the informal interpreters and 2 community support organisations. Creating geographical community hubs that encompass, but are independent of the support bodies in their location, could help:

  • develop wider and richer peer support systems
  • create a valuable information exchange
  • facilitate a greater understanding of the wider informal interpreter services
  • provide free foreign language interpretation services (formal and informal) to all forced migrants in community hubs and also through the third sector organisations
  • provide support for community interpreters


Promote and facilitate individual rights to foreign language interpretation

Public bodies must ensure that everyone, including forced migrants, regardless of language and communication needs, has equal access to their services.

Encourage better interpreter / forced migrants / sign language user compatibility

Compatibility between client and interpreter can be key to an effective service, and to achieve this, robust processes must be put in place. The evidence indicates that a lack of compatibility (religious, gender, cultural differences, LGBT+ bigotry and dialect) can have a direct impact on the outcomes for forced migrants. To help ensure this compatibility:

  • gather the appropriate forced migrant data
  • create robust and shared booking processes
  • allow sign language users to select their interpreter of choice
  • take into account the forced migrants’ mental health support needs

Explore the creation of a common code of conduct practice

A common code of conduct could facilitate more appropriate interpreter bookings, in terms of matching client to interpreter; and a shared expectation of service quality.

Explore the creation of regional Community of Practice Networks for community interpreters

Informal interpreters are often very isolated receiving little to no support from anyone. Creating Communities of Practice offers a strong solution. They are formed by people who engage in similar activities, have similar goals, and are working within the same domain of human endeavour. They are an extremely effective way to support people and can:

  • provide/facilitate accessible equality, human rights and cultural awareness training
  • encourage awareness regarding the importance of migrant/interpreter fit.
  • provide training on professional terminology, including medical and legal
  • provide GDPR training
  • facilitate the creation of a shared code of conduct
  • provide mental health and wellbeing support to informal interpreters

Recruit, train and retain community interpreters

Explore ways to support community interpreters to qualify as interpreters to at least Level 3. Consideration should also be made to supporting the take up of Level 4 Health and/or Criminal Justice Interpretation. All interpreters working within a public realm should be required to undertake a basic course in Professional Conduct in Public Service Interpreting. Consideration should be made for supporting community interpreters to do so.

Professional status of foreign language Interpretation and Translation services

The Welsh Government should explore the feasibility of formalising, regulating and protecting the professional status of foreign language interpretation and translation services in Wales. Currently, there is no formal professional identity of interpreters or translators as a regulated profession in the UK.

All interpreters to undertake equality and cultural awareness training

Explore ways to provide and encourage community and professional interpreters to undertake appropriate equality and cultural awareness training.

Wales Interpretation and Translation Service (WITS) to expand its service to charity and third sectors

WITS service should carefully explore the feasibility of expanding service provision to charities and the third sector in Wales. 

Adopt technology and innovation

Whilst it is acknowledged that physical face-to-face interpretation is preferable in most circumstances, public services in Wales should also be encouraged to adopt technological innovations to improve the accessibility and provision of foreign language interpretation services. When comparing remote face-to-face video conferencing (Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc.) to using phone, remote video conferencing was by far the preferred method.

Governmental bodies to provide more easily available translated information, including:

  • information regarding all available services
  • details on all available translation services and how to access them
  • literature outlining the different support bodies in Wales, local authorities and health providers provide translated literature detailing all their services
  • for people who are illiterate, this information could be provided via accessible audio or video

Recruit more staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities

Welsh Government should encourage forced migrant support organisations to consider how best this can be achieved. 

Ensure Welsh Government funding to organisations working in this landscape includes an element for foreign language interpretation cost

For support organisations who receive public sector financial support, as an addition to their project budget, the grant should include the true costs of foreign language interpretation services.

Explore improvements to sign language interpreter service provision

The waiting times for sign language interpretation in all languages is unacceptable. While there is already available training, the numbers of interpreters remain static and waiting times high. The task then is to maximise the efficiency of the existing pan UK resources. The better use of live video technology could be a game changer as could artificial intelligence driven software.

Public bodies directly employ interpreters

Direct employment for the most popular languages could be a way forward in Swansea, Cardiff and Newport.  

Create complaint and feedback systems

During this study, many instances were shared where the quality and attitudes of interpreters has had a negative effect on the outcomes of several forced migrants, and none were aware of a complaints procedure.