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More than words can say; Why health and social care policy makers should reconsider their position on informal interpreters

Pollock, Sarah (2020) More than words can say; Why health and social care policy makers should reconsider their position on informal interpreters. Critical Social Policy. ISSN 0261-0183

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Abstract

In the UK, individuals with limited English-language proficiency (LEP) self-report poorer health and face challenges accessing health and social care support. Health and social care policies in English speaking countries provide practitioners with guidance that ensures access to public service interpreters for individuals who require them. The guidance simultaneously discourages the use of informal language brokers, including family and friends, suggesting that they are not educated or objective enough to conduct this role, and that they present unmanageable risks. This poses a challenge, as research exploring patient and service user choices, finds that individuals consistently prefer an informal language broker. The paper explores the contradiction between a legislative shift towards empowerment and choice within social work and the policies that restrict these rights in relation to interpretation. Exploring these challenges with a focus on policy and practice, leads to the suggestion that individuals should be empowered to choose who provides their language support. In contrast, existing policies increase the power imbalance between professionals and users of services, significantly affecting the life chances of those with LEP.

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