Fears over funding threat for translator service interpreting for thousands of people a year

Surrey Comet: Fears after being told to fend for itself: Julie Brightman and staff at Kingston Interpreting Services Fears after being told to fend for itself: Julie Brightman and staff at Kingston Interpreting Services

A Kingston Council-run interpretation service that provides cheap translators could be forced to shut because the council has threatened to withdraw funding.

From this month, Kingston Interpreting Services (KIS), which has been running for a decade, will have to fund itself.

Kingston currently has residents that need translators in Korean, Tamil and Polish among others. Julie Brightman, co-ordinator of KIS, said: “We have got to ensure that we cover our costs.

"We have got to make it work. It is not an option. We are determined to make it work.

“If we cannot make it work it will have to be stopped or certainly reviewed. But we are definitely providing an affordable community service."

Interpreters are currently paid £20 an hour, and customers must pay £40 an hour for the service, which includes translating written documents.

There are 76 freelance translators that work for the service and help with things such as medical appointments, council queries and interviews.

Miss Brightman, who is one of two staff members co-ordinating the service, said: “We are a reactive service. If somebody rang us at nine in the morning we would try our best to find someone.”

The service takes more than 100 bookings in a week and has about 60 regular users including Kingston Citizens Advice Bureau and Kingston Refugee Action.

Sanja Kane, director at Kingston Refugee Action, said: “Oh dear. What about the quality of the service? We use at least five different interpreters for our events.

“If the prices pick up as a result it is going to affect us a lot.

“It is going to have a huge impact on us.”

John Azah, chairman of Kingston Race and Equalities Council, said the major selling-point of the service was the affordability – at least one-and-a-half times cheaper than outside companies – and its local staff aware of Kingston-related issues.

But he said: “If the service is going to be generating its own income I would be very sceptical it is going to survive.”

A Kingston Council spokesman said: “Right now we don’t yet know the financial position for the interpreting service’s 2013-14 figures.

“We are confident that Kingston Interpreting Service will show a profit from the last financial year.”

Will you lose out if the translation service has to fend for itself? Call the newsdesk on 020 8744 4288.

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