Starting out in the interpreting world can be a daunting task – especially when working as a freelance interpreter, with seemingly no where to turn to for advice.
Recently, on social media I became involved in a discussion about the costs associated with registering as an interpreter in the UK. Another colleague quoted that to register as an interpreter in the UK, it would cost an RSLI in the region of £2000 -£2500 to maintain their registration.
As an RSLI myself, I pay nowhere near this figure to maintain my registration and this got me thinking; is this because I do things differently or because I have more of an understanding about what is needed (the other person was a newly qualified interpreter, entering into their first year of registration, so therefore might not have had a clear understanding of exactly what is needed) or because I have learned how to keep associated costs down?
Registration While registration for a Sign Language Interpreter is not compulsory to be able to practice in the UK, it is recommended. Increasingly, consumers and agencies who book interpreters want proof of registration before an interpreter can be added to their books, campaigning and raising awareness of the benefits of registration to the profession and to consumers has lead to clauses being added to many of the public tender documents which now state that interpreters must be registered with a regulatory body. So, if we have to register – who should we register with?
I would say that there are two main regulatory bodies for Sign Language interpreters in the UK (not including Scotland who have SASLI – Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters) the NRCPD – National Register of Professionals working with Deaf/Deafblind People (www.nrcpd.org.uk ) and RBSLI – Regulatory Body for Sign Language Interpreters and Translators ( https://rbsli.org/ )
There are others, such as the Institute for Interpreting and Translation but these not as widely recognised amongst the Sign Language Interpreting profession. You only need to be registered with one of these organisations to be classed as a ‘Registered Interpreter’.
NRCPD allow both trainees and qualified interpreters to register (and they hold registers for other language services professionals too) with a yearly fee of £235 fro RSLI while RBSLI only allow qualified interpreters to register with a yearly fee of £150 (but their register is not as widely accepted as NRCPD so this might impact on the number of bookings you can receive)
NRCPD is the most widely known regulatory body and the one which holds the most registrants, it is also the registration body that I would be most likely to recommend to any colleague thinking of registering, as NRCPD is accepted by all agencies and most consumers as the body that interpreters are likely to be registered with. Holding an NRCPD ID card indicates to consumers that you hold the relevant qualifications to be registered, hold a DBS check and valid insurance (which are all requirements to register) and so carrying / wearing your ID card (and by consumers knowing this), can inspire confidence in the services that you are providing.
Membership organisations. As a RSLI you might feel compelled to join one of the two membership organisations that are open to sign language interpreters in the UK, for support with training, mentoring, access to interpreting news, discussion forums etc. The two associations operating in the UK are Visual Language Professionals – VLP ( http://www.vlp.org.uk ) or the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (www.asli.org.uk)
Both organisations are run for their members, by their members. ASLI is the older of the two organisations and at one time was the only membership body available to interpreters to subscribe to; that was until the birth of VLP. It is important to note that the membership categories for each organisation are different. ASLI allows students and trainees to join, while VLP has reserved its membership just for qualified interpreters and translators only. Both organisations can provide Professional Indemnity Insurance for interpreters as a benefit of membership, though VLP is the cheaper of the two organisations to join with a joining fee of £75 including insurance, while ASLI charges £204.
Unions There a plethora of trade unions available in the UK that interpreters can join, however there is only one union specifically for sign language interpreters and it is called NUBSLI – National Union of BSL Interpreters. NUBSLI operates as a branch of Unite the union and they have been in operation for a number of years now and have been successful in helping to protect interpreters pay and working conditions, lobbying government and influencing public tender criteria in relation to BSL interpreters. For more information and to see a list a of reasons to join you can check out the NUBSLI website at http://www.nubsli.com The fee for joining NUBSLI equates to £3.25pw which totals £182 per year. (For a full time interpreter)
Continuous professional development CPD As part of registration with NRCPD it is compulsory for all RSLI’s to complete a required number of hours of CPD on an annual basis. NRCPD state that the reason their code of conduct states you must complete CPD is to keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date; and to use your CPD to maintain and develop your competence and performance. Both very valid reasons for completing CPD I would say.
NRCPD states that 24 hours worth of CPD must be completed on an annual basis and that 12 hours must come from structured activity such as formal training or supervision etc and 12 hours from unstructured activities such as reading, reflecting, peer support etc – more information can be found in the CPD handbook ( https://tinyurl.com/y9m5v44w )
There are a whole host of CPD providers now, providing structured training for RSLI’s from 2 hour webinars, full day courses and full weekend conferences. On average for a full days training you are likely to pay around £90-95 and for a 2 hour webinars you are likely to pay around £20-25.
It is important though that any CPD training you undertake is done because it fits with your training plan and training needs analysis and that it will enhance your skill set, not just because it is ‘cheap’ or ‘nearby’!
So, in conclusion the associated costs of maintaining your registration in the UK could amount to the following.
NRCPD Registration RSLI £235
VLP Membership /Insurance £75
NUBSLI Membership £182
CPD training for 12 hours
1 x day course £90 and 3 x 2 hour webinars at £25 per webinar £75 £165
Grand total £657
Not quite the £2000-£2500 that my colleague quoted on social media but still a hefty bill and something that needs to be planned for in advance.
It is worth. Noting that by registering with NRCPD that they will also advertise your services too and I personally find that the work I receive from agencies/individuals that have found my details on their website more than covers the fee that I pay to register.
CPD, while some see it as an arbitrary expense, I strongly believe that it is the key to continued success as an interpreter and will help to increase the frequency of repeat bookings is and allow you to be able to break into new domains of work, again increasing your earning potential (As long as the CPD undertaken is relevant and beneficial to your own professional development!)
I hope this post was useful to you in starting to understand the interpreting bodies and CPD requirements for BSL Interpreters in the UK!