PG25. Interpreters / Communication Facilitators

For a record of all amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

Specific definitions of key concepts used by safeguarding practitioners are available through the Glossary.


Caption: Introduction table


All agencies need to ensure that they are able to communicate fully with parents and children when they have concerns about child abuse and neglect, and ensure that family members and professionals fully understand the exchanges that take place. Agencies should make arrangements to ensure that children are seen with an interpreter within the same timescales for assessment or investigation as for any other intervention.

2. Recognition of Communication Difficulties

Caption: Recognition of Communication Difficulties


The use of accredited interpreters, signers or others with special communication skills must be considered whenever undertaking enquiries involving children and families:

  • For whom English is not the first language (even if reasonably fluent in English, the option of an interpreter must be available when dealing with sensitive issues);
  • With a hearing or visual impairment;
  • Whose disability impairs speech;
  • With learning difficulties;
  • With a specific language or communication disorder;
  • With severe emotional and behavioural difficulties;
  • Whose primary form of communication is not speech.


When taking a referral, local authority children's social workers should establish the communication needs of the child, parents and other significant family members.


Family members and children themselves should not act as interpreters within the interviews.

3. Interviewing Children

Caption: Interviewing Children


If a child has communication difficulties, these should be considered and planned for in the strategy meeting / discussion. See Child Protection Enquiries Procedure.


If a child communicates by means other than speech, professionals should seek specialist expertise to enable the child to properly express themselves and to ensure that the interview with the child meets criminal proceedings standards.


A written explanation should be included in the child's plan about any departure from usual interviewing processes and standards.


Every effort should be made to enable such a child to tell their story directly to those undertaking enquiries.


It may be necessary to seek further advice from professionals who know the child well or are familiar with the type of impairment the child has (e.g. paediatrician at the child development centre or from the child's school).


When the child is interviewed, it may be necessary for the interviewer and the child to be assisted by specialised communication equipment and / or an appropriate professional, such as a:

  • Speech and language therapist;
  • Teacher of the hearing impaired;
  • Specialist teacher for children with learning difficulties or a suitable professional who is skilled in using facilitated communication methods (e.g. Makaton);
  • Professional translator (including people conversant with British Sign Language for hearing impaired individuals);
  • Child and adolescent mental health professional;
  • Professional from a specific advocacy / third sector group;
  • Social worker specialising in working with disabled children.

4. Video Interviews

Caption: Video Interviews


Achieving Best Evidence, provides guidance on interviewing vulnerable witnesses, including those who are learning disabled and of the use of interpreters and intermediaries.


Interviews with witnesses with special communication needs may require the use of an interpreter or an intermediary and are usually much slower. The interview may be long and tiring for the witness and might need to be undertaken in two or three parts, preferably, but not necessarily, held on the same day.


A witness should be interviewed in the language of their choice, and vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including children, may have a supporter present when being interviewed.

5. Interpreters and Communication Facilitators

Caption: Interpreters and Communication Facilitators


If the family's first language is not English, the offer of an interpreter should be made even if they appear reasonably fluent, to ensure that all issues are understood and fully explained.


Interpreters / communication facilitators used for child protection work should be subject to references, Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checks and a written agreement regarding confidentiality. Wherever possible, interpreters should be used to interpret in their own first language. Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships should ensure that interpreters / communication facilitators for this work are specifically trained so as to ensure that they are able to work effectively alongside professionals in the role of interpreter in discussing highly sensitive matters.


Social workers need to first meet with the interpreter / communication facilitator to explain the nature of the investigation and clarifying:

  • The interpreter / communication facilitator's role in translating direct communications between professionals and family members;
  • The need to avoid acting as a representative of the family;
  • When the interpreter / communication facilitator is required to translate everything that is said and when to summarise;
  • That the interpreter / communication facilitator is prepared to translate the exact words that are likely to be used - especially critical for child abuse;
  • When the interpreter / communication facilitator will explain any cultural or other issues that might be overlooked (usually at the end of the interview, unless any issue is impeding the interview);
  • The interpreter / communication facilitator's availability to interpret at other interviews and meetings and provide written translations of reports (taped versions if literacy is an issue);


Family members may choose to bring along their own interpreter / communication facilitator as a supporter but not another family member. This person will be additional to the agency's own interpreter / communication facilitator.


Invitations to child protection conferences, reports and conference minutes must be translated into a language / medium that is understood by the child, where appropriate, and the family.