Statutory regulation

We protect the public by raising standards. To further that aim we are seeking statutory regulation of communication and language professionals.

Why we want it

Communication and language professionals are often needed so people who are deaf, deafblind, hearing or have a hearing loss can communicate with each other. If a communication and language professional does their job badly the consequences can be serious. In a health or criminal justice setting it can threaten someone's life or freedom.

Currently we raise standards and protect the public by holding and promoting voluntary Registers of communication and language professionals. We check that sign language interpreters, sign language translators, speech to text reporters, lipspeakers, interpreters for deafblind people and notetakers are properly trained to do their job safely and consistently.

If they meet the standard of education and training we think is needed for them to do their job safely and consistently, they can apply to be on a Register. To stay on a Register they also have to do what our Code of Conduct says they have to.

If those standards aren't met, the professional can be removed from a Register. However, currently there is nothing to stop them from continuing to practise.

Statutory regulation of communication and language professionals will make it illegal for someone who isn't registered to practise. It will further raise standards and increase public protection.

Who we will work with

To achieve statutory regulation of communication and language professionals we will work with

  • people who are deaf, deafblind, hearing or have a hearing loss and need the services of communication and language professionals;
  • private, public and not-for-profit organisations who need the services of communication and language professionals; and
  • communication and language professionals.

What we are going to do

Statutory regulation is a long term aim. To achieve it we have to make changes to the way we do things to make sure we are as effective as possible.

We will work with you to make sure

  • you understand what we are doing and why;
  • you understand how and why we make our decisions;
  • the way we do things means we make similar decisions in similar circumstances;
  • you are involved in helping us decide what we do and how we do it;
  • we all know and understand what we are going to do and why we are going to do it;
  • what we do helps our Registrants become better at what they do;
  • our legal structure, Board, policies and procedures are the right ones to help us do what we want to do;
  • we protect the public but don't make it difficult for anyone to get the communication and language services they need;
  • the standards we set are based on real life interaction between communication and language professionals, and the people and organisations who use their services;
  • there is a way to raise complaints and concerns about Registrants and NRCPD that is easy to understand and easy to access;
  • we know how much what we do is going to cost and how we are going to pay for it; and
  • we are working with the right organisations to make the most of our resources.

When we will do it

Because statutory regulation is a long term aim we are not going to set a timescale for achieving it. But we will decide a timetable for action to make NRCPD as effective as possible after we have talked to stakeholders about what we need to do.

How you can help

First, we want to know what you think about this plan. We're arranging to meet with groups of people to talk about it. Please contact us if you want us to speak to a group of people at a meeting.

Next, we will want to talk to you about specific changes that need to be made. We will tell you when we are ready to do that.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, statutory regulation is the same as protected title. The public can be sure anyone using that title is properly trained.

If a title, such as ‘sign language interpreter’, is protected, it means the profession has an exclusive right to use it. Only people who are registered with the regulator can use that title.

The benefits to deaf and deafblind people, and organisations that use communication and language services, include the guarantees that every professional

  • is qualified and continues their training and development;
  • can be held to account by the complaints process; and
  • if necessary, can be barred from practising.

The benefits to Registrants and regulated Trainees include

  • raising the profile and status of the professions;
  • educating the public about the professions and their importance; and
  • making sure unqualified people cannot do their job.

We know there are some very good unregistered professionals and some registered professionals whose practice needs to be improved. But there are also unregistered professionals who do a bad job, and unqualified people who are doing the job when they shouldn't be.

Statutory regulation would stop the use of unqualified people in place of registered professionals and educate people about why a registered professional must be used. It would also make sure that a registered professional who did a bad job, however experienced they were, could be complained about and held to account.

Yes, whenever and wherever someone was doing regulated work under a protected title the law would apply.

Regulation usually applies to use of the protected title, but we hope the important thing would be not what someone called themselves but what they did. So, for example, if someone called themselves a communication facilitator, but what they were doing met the legal definition of interpreting, we think they should have to be registered.

Ultimately, yes, we will seek statutory regulation for all the professions. They all do an important job and the public has a right to be confident in the competence of all communication and language professionals.

We recognise it may not be practical to do so. For example, there are not many interpreters for deafblind people. We do not want to stop people getting the support they need because the interpreters they use are not yet registered.

But it could also make sense to seek statutory regulation for the professions that have fewer members. It could raise their profile, encourage more people to become qualified, and secure funding for training.

We will therefore consult with the professions, and the individuals and organisations that use their services, before we make any decisions about the best way to proceed.

No – we will make sure that whatever happens, what we do will not stop people getting the support they need. In fact, by raising the status and visibility of the professions, it should increase the support available.

Maybe – it will depend on the legislation. In some cases it is a criminal offence (aiding and abetting a criminal act) to knowingly use an unregistered person to carry out the duties of a regulated profession.

Trainees are not usually regulated, but we believe they should be. Trainees need to be able to practise, but there also need to be restrictions on how they practice.

We are always looking for practical ways of raising standards. Post qualification skills assessment, either a set number of years after qualification or every few years, is something we will continue to consider. The same goes for specialist training, such as for working in the legal field. Any new policy or procedure will be designed in partnership with the professions.

No. Government usually gives responsibility for the regulation of a profession to an independent organisation. And that organisation usually has no role in the terms and conditions of employment of the profession. The government can only decide how much a profession is paid when that profession is directly employed by the government or a national service, such as the NHS.

We believe a modern profession requires a code of ethics to underpin its practice. As it relates to practice, that code of ethics should be set by the professions.

A regulated profession requires a code of conduct to make it clear to the public what it can expect in terms of behaviour. We have recently updated ours following a consultation process, and have no plans to change it in the near future.

A good example of this division of codes of ethics and conduct is found in the social work field. Social workers are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council, which sets ‘standards of conduct, performance and ethics’. At the same time, the British Association of Social Workers sets the profession’s code of ethics.

There is no set route for gaining statutory regulation. But to meet that aim we are

  • changing NRCPD, so what we do raises standards further;
  • promoting registration, such as making sure it is included in contracts and standards, so fewer unregistered people are used; and
  • identifying opportunities to make regulation statutory.

We will create an environment in which statutory regulation increasingly makes sense by

  • making sure contracts and specifications say only Registrants must be used;
  • increasing the number of agencies that only supply Registrants, and
  • convincing politicians and other policy makers that only Registrants should be used.

Statutory regulation is a long term aim. We do not know how long it will take, or even if we will achieve it.

But we are preparing for statutory regulation by strengthening NRCPD, with the aim of raising standards amongst the professions. We have

  • changed the composition of the Board to reflect that of a regulator (four Registrants, four lay people and a lay chair);
  • strengthened our Code of Conduct, complaints process and practice breaks policy;
  • begun a consultation on the standards required of Trainee Sign Language Interpreters;
  • opened negotiations with Signature about our governance arrangements;
  • along with our sector colleagues, made sure the Crown Commercial Service framework agreement, the Ministry of Justice language services contract, and the NHS England accessible information standard require the use of Registrants; and
  • increased the number of agencies that only supply Registrants.

Yes – including barristers, GPs and gas engineers.

There are other regulated professions that are largely self employed, such as barristers, GPs and gas engineers. They are required to register with a regulator, which sets the standards – such as qualifications, training, declarations and insurance requirements – they must meet.

In the case of well established regulated professions, most people would never think of doing the job without being registered. The fact they are regulated is generally accepted, and the reasons for it understood.

Everyone who comes into contact with such professions has a role in enforcing their regulation. For example, if you suspected your GP wasn't registered with the General Medical Council, you might contact the Council, the police or your local NHS Trust.

No, because our work towards statutory regulation is not in addition to our other work. Statutory regulation is the long term goal towards which all our other work is leading us.

Improving our communication with deaf and deafblind people, working with all sectors to stimulate the market, exploring the need to review the national occupational standards, reviewing and improving our CPD system, consulting on and updating our policies and requirements, improving the complaints process, and encouraging more people to come forward with concerns are all ways in which we make ourselves ready for statutory regulation.

Our aim is statutory regulation of the communication and language professions. We think they should be regulated by the most effective and appropriate body.

We will pursue whatever route helps us to achieve that aim. If it makes most sense for NRCPD to become the regulator, we will follow that route. If the creation of a new body makes most sense, we will follow that route.

We're not sure, but probably not. We are currently in negotiation with Signature about our governance arrangements.

We have agreed they will change to give us more independence and are working on the detail. We hope to make an announcement by spring 2016.

We want to know what all our stakeholders think about what we’re doing. That’s why we involved them in developing our Code of Conduct, complaints process and practice breaks policy.

We work closely with the professional associations and expect them to gather the views of their members. But we also want to know what Registrants who are not members of a professional association think.

As we continue to plan and make changes, we will be asking you to attend open meetings and respond to surveys. We'll also be attending meetings held by associations and groups.

Of course, we’d like to be able to sit down with everyone but it’s simply not possible. Anyone is welcome to write to us or give us a call to talk about our plans or invite us to a meeting.

We will also consult

  • people who are deaf, deafblind, hearing or have a hearing loss and need the services of communication and language professionals;
  • private, public and not-for-profit organisations who need the services of communication and language professionals; and
  • communication and language professionals who are not registered with us.

As we continue to plan and make changes, we will be inviting people to attend open meetings and respond to surveys. We'll also be attending meetings held by associations and groups.

Of course, we’d like to be able to sit down with everyone but it’s simply not possible. Anyone is welcome to write to us or give us a call to talk about our plans or invite us to a meeting.

We believe working towards statutory regulation is the right thing to do to protect the public. There would have to be a very good reason for us to change our mind.

But we do need the help of Registrants, regulated Trainees and the people who rely on their services to form our plans. That's why we've begun this consultation process and will keep it going.

We don't know how much it will cost. However, at the moment the work we are doing to prepare for statutory regulation represents no extra cost. It is part of the development and improvement of NRCPD, so we would be doing it anyway.

At the moment the work we are doing to prepare for statutory regulation represents no extra cost. We are not therefore planning to raise fees as a result of our plans.

We are working with awarding bodies and professional associations to make sure there are routes to registration for all the professions. We will identify what qualifications and training need to be made available. However, whilst we can urge these organisations to make qualifications available, we cannot force them.

Signature will make a course available in 2016 that should allow level 2 notetakers to upgrade to level 3 and register.

Signature is also working on a course for speech to text reporters which we hope will be a route to registration.

Signature and iBSL have asked us to map qualifications that should lead to routes to registration for interpreters for deafblind people.

Yes. We will be exploring ways to recognise qualified interpreters from other countries. We have started by contacting regulators in Australia, New Zealand and the United States to find out how they register British sign language interpreters. If you are a fully qualified interpreter from another country and would like to register with NRCPD, please contact us.

No, we don't plan to regulate agencies, but we do think agency standards need to be raised. We are exploring the development of a quality mark for agencies, which would guarantee a level of service. If you are interested in being involved in this work, contact us.

Yes, we have a good working relationship with the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI). We are keeping SASLI up-to-date with our plans, and seeking their feedback and involvement.

Yes, we have a good working relationship with the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) and the Consortium for Public Service Interpreting. We are keeping them up-to-date with our plans, and seeking their feedback and involvement.

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