Chartered Institute
of Linguists

10 Recommendations for Translation & Interpreting in the Public Sector

A new Working Together White Paper sets out urgent recommendations for tackling immediate challenges around procurement and provision of language services for the UK’s public sector.


Changing patterns of demand, unmapped or unforeseen, rapid regional and national changes in the need for different languages and the requirements for rare languages pose challenges both for procurement and provision of services and ultimately equality, fairness, and public safety.

Produced by a joint Public Sector Working Group consisting of the Association of Translation Companies and interpreting and translation associations and organisations under the PI4J umbrella, the paper outlines challenges and proposes solutions for resolving pressing issues in a dynamic, continuously changing landscape where public sector commissioning and buying organisations, language service companies, and freelance interpreters and translators, form an interdependent ecosystem where each stakeholder plays a crucial role in the sustainable development of the supply chain.

The impact of a tightening economic situation is clear in stakeholder evidence gathered by the Working Group organisations. The White Paper highlights the impact of the growing resource allocation issues in attracting new entrants and retaining qualified and competent professionals, decline in language learning, and the continued pressure on prices.

The foundations of sustainability across public sector procurement are laid by commissioning organisations at policy, framework and contract levels. The Working Group believes that implementing best practice and unambiguous requirements at Framework specification level will result in a more uniform service delivery across the supply chain, enable good governance and oversight practices, and, importantly, create an equitable and sustainable working environment for freelance interpreters and translators.

The paper proposes 10 key, urgent improvements for public sector commissioning and buying organisations to tackle the immediate challenges of the cost of living crisis, and to ensure the continued safe provision of multilingual services for the public sector.

These are:

  1. Collaboration between stakeholders in the ecosystem
  2. Indexing cost of contracts and linking them to inflation
  3. Fair and equitable fees for translators and interpreters
  4. Increasing transparency on rates of pay
  5. Reviewing practices and fees for travel time and compensation
  6. Implementing minimum assignment durations and charges
  7. Ensuring fair and transparent cancellation policies
  8. Promoting and prioritising the use of qualified professionals
  9. Building pathways to support career progression
  10. Supporting small businesses’ access to public sector work

Raisa McNab, CEO of the Association of Translation Companies said

“In our linguistically diverse society, translation and interpreting services underpin the fair and equitable treatment of speakers of more than 300 different languages. This vital work must be safeguarded; positive action is needed to create a pipeline for new entrants into the profession and to support the retention of qualified, competent professionals.”

“This white paper signals the start of a new era of associations and stakeholders across the ecosystem joining forces in a joint effort to ensure that provision of translation, interpreting and other language services continues uninterrupted.”

Mike Orlov, Executive Director of NRPSI on behalf of Professional Interpreters for Justice said:

“The UK’s public sector translation and interpreting landscape is fragmented across the four UK nations, Government departments and different public services. This complicates the way interpreters and translators are engaged and creates challenges and disparities around delivering and monitoring best practice at all levels.”

“We believe that implementing these recommendations will result in a more uniform service delivery across the courts and tribunal service and create an equitable and sustainable working environment for freelance, self-employed interpreters and translators.”

John Worne CEO of the Chartered Institute of Linguists said: 

"What's new and powerful here is professional bodies, associations and stakeholders all coming together to sound the alarm about the health and sustainability of public service interpreting in the UK."

"Working together with the UK's Governments and public services on the ten themes we identify is the best way forward for the public's safety, and the profession and professionals which support it." 

To download the full report click here or visit the ATC's public sector resources on this link.