Hundreds of official interpreters in Sussex are mounting a campaign against cuts to hourly fees.
Some 400 people across the county who act as translators for the NHS, councils and other public bodies have this week formed the Association of Community Interpreting Standards, officially launched at Eastbourne town hall.
The aim is to raise the profile of their work and to highlight a crisis in their profession – the pressure to cut their hourly pay rates, in some cases by almost half.
They say the pressure to reduce costs comes from budget cuts in the public sector and increased competition between big translation and interpreting companies.
Translator Ali Akbar, from Brighton, is one of the founding members of the association.
He said: “We appreciate that councils and the NHS are facing serious cuts – but as community interpreters we feel that we offer a vital service to very vulnerable people.
“We do more than translate, we also help people to make crucial decisions about their lives in a culture they’re not familiar with.
“It’s very depressing to see how our pay is being eroded. Three years ago I could expect to earn between £26 and £30 an hour, with travel expenses paid on top of that.
“Now I can be asked to do an hour’s interpreting for as little as £16 an hour with no travel expenses.
“Once I’ve taken away time and money for travel I can end up earning about £3 an hour.”
Other work carried out by community interpreters can range from helping their client’s family to finding the right school or translating clauses of a tenancy agreement.
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