London Councils told: ‘you could be compromising the needs of ethnic minorities in your borough’

04 June 2009. Local authorities in London are being told that they need to consider the translation and interpreting needs of their non-English speaking residents if they want to communicate better with everyone in their borough.

And now a campaign is being mounted to get London Councils to take their responsibilities of communicating with ethnic minorities seriously.

All councils are judged on how well they deliver their strategic plans to the community, and these results determine the councils’ star ratings.

Colin Dudley, Local Authority Business Development Manager at language services provider Prestige Network, said: “The announcement by the former Communities Secretary Hazel Blears to bring in a £50 visa surcharge for people from outside the EU moving to the UK to work or study is intended to help fund more translators and police support – this is good news for London Councils.

“There is a growth in demand from local authorities throughout the UK, but we are concerned that London Councils seem to be missing out. At the moment these councils could be compromising the ability of ethnic minorities to gain access to services in the same way as other residents in their boroughs.

“Ethnic minorities would be in danger of losing out if this money announced by Hazel Blears does not filter through for translations and interpreting. It is important that the Department of Communities and Local Government maintains the momentum of communicating with ethnic minorities – with Hazel now gone, it’s important for continuity to be maintained.”

Effective communication is one of the key criteria for councils’ star ratings.

Mr Dudley said: “Being able to communicate with staff is crucial for everyone using council services: it enables people to say what they want, to understand what is going on around them and feel connected to others. Translation and interpreting services give people access to support – this enables communication which underpins the human right to be treated with dignity and respect and to take personal decisions.

“Many London councillors are up for re-election next year – 2010 – and will have the star ratings of their authorities in the back of their minds already. It’s important that these councillors are seen by the electorate to do well in helping their council officers deliver their services to everyone within their borough and this means considering the needs of non-English speakers.

“We believe that providing language services are one of the best ways for London Councils to meet the communications criteria which affect their council’s star ratings.”

Mr Dudley said:“The increased demand for language services by public sector organisations and commercial companies alike is symptomatic of the need to meet the country’s continually expanding and diversifying language base.”

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