1.8 Use of Interpreters, Signers or Others with Communication Skills

1.8 Interpreters, Signers or Others with Communication Skills


For additional information please see

Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses, and Using Special Measures, which provides guidance on interviewing vulnerable witnesses, including learning disabled, and on the use of interpreters and intermediaries.


This chapter was updated in May 2017 to provide the contact details for advice and access to translation and interpretation services.

Effective communication is vital in order to:

  • Conduct assessments of children suspected of being abused and their families;
  • Allow the child to express his/her wishes and feelings, attend court and to have his/her experience understood;
  • Undertake therapy and counselling following abuse.

Agencies and professionals have a responsibility to ensure that children and adults with whom they are working have the information they require to make sense of and understand the processes that are followed when there are concerns about a child’s safety or welfare. This includes making the information available in the first or preferred language of the child and family.


The use of children, family members or friends as interpreters is not appropriate. This is true in all cases but is particularly so in the case of forced marriages – see Wirral Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage Protocol. Learning from local case reviews has shown that where family members are used to interpret, a biased view can result which provides false reassurance. This is a form of disguised compliance.

Interpreters should be professional, appropriately qualified and independent. Advice and access to translation and interpretation services can be sought from the:

  • Local Authority Children’s Services (0151 606 2008) – Children’s Services commission the provision of a translation and interpretation service and can advise about how to access the service;
  • Wirral Multi-Cultural Organisation;
  • Merseyside Police Family Crime Investigation Unit The Family Crime Investigation Unit (0151 777 2260) holds details of all Home Office approved interpreters who should be well placed to assist in safe working with families.

Other local translation/ interpretation services available are:

Where children or family members have a disability which impairs their ability to communicate, then arrangements should be made for interpreters or signers with the requisite skills to become involved in order to facilitate effective communication.

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