£5m spent on translation services

Published Monday, 19 November 2012
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More than £5m has been spent on translation and interpretation services in Northern Ireland's health service during the last three years, it has been revealed.

£5m spent on translation services
Just over £2m was spent on translation services last year by health trusts. (© UTV)

There are 354 interpreters working across the region, according to the health trusts, offering 36 minority languages, with Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese among the most commonly needed in the service.

Services include face-to-face interpretation, telephone interpretation and written translation of documents.

Around £5.7m was spent between April 2009 and January 2012.

Overall costs were highest in the Southern Trust, with £924,135 for supplying interpreting and translation services from February last year to January this year.

The trust covers areas including Craigavon and Dungannon, with large migrant worker populations.

Belfast spent £536,461 and the Northern Trust spent £309,832. South Eastern paid out £115,391 and Western £220,052. The total cost for the period was £2.1m.

SDLP MLA John Dallat said the figures were alarming and need urgent reassessment to ensure the department of health is getting value for money.

While the trusts must ensure people are not disadvantaged due to language difficulties, care should be taken to explore the voluntary and community sector for volunteers who will do this work without charge.

John Dallat, SDLP

But a doctor with surgeries in east and north Belfast insisted it was money well spent.

"This represents a mere fraction of the overall health budget. We are dealing with a very vulnerable, unrepresentative, voiceless group of people who've come here as political immigrants looking for political asylum," he said.

"Many of them have suffered greatly in their own countries - repression, abuse and complicated psychological problems.

"This reflects the humanity in our society and demonstrates a maturity as Northern Ireland moves into a new and inclusive world."

A spokeswoman for Belfast health trust said they were required to ensure equality of access to services and to information for people who are not proficient in English as a first or second language.

"There is a raft of legislation which outlines this statutory duty for designated public authorities, including Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, Human Rights Act 1998, Race Relations Order (NI) 2007 and EU Race Directive," she added.

© UTV News
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11 Comments
Ann C in Belfast wrote (680 days ago):
James in Dungannon, not so fast. This is not the whole truth which you speak. On many ocassions the money goes back home and on other ocassions their taxes would not cover their costs, family allowances, tax credits and all other services. So get your facts straight before you come on and make statements. As for doing the jobs we wont do. Who did those jobs before these people came here. People need to do some research find the the truth and then make comments. Dont just look on the surface of how it looks, but dig a bit deeper and see the reality. Furthermore, I would lke to see the figure regarding those who are here and are not in any form of employment. That would open your eyes. Lets see if this post gets through, but Im not hopeful.
Ann C in Belfast wrote (680 days ago):
I notice, but am not surprised, my comment posted 2 days ago never got published. The comment I made was truthful not incitment or lies, but still the biased media have failed to allow Northern Irish citizens the right to voice an opinion, even when it is only telling the truth. Shame on you UTV.
James in Dungannon wrote (681 days ago):
What most of the people who have commented on this have missed out on is that this migrant population pays tax an NI here. They are doing jobs that our local "unemployed" are unwilling to do. They spend their wages in NI and help to pay natives tax and NI. They only came because of the demand for workers. So while it can be looked at as a burden to the tax payer they also are the tax payers!
Linda in NI wrote (681 days ago):
This is an appalling waste of health service funds that could be better spent on staffing and equipment for those who pay their national insurance and taxes. If I were to go to live in any other country then I would be expected to have enough funds to pay for all services then I shouldnt expect any different for foreigners coming to live in the UK
Another Ripped Off Taxpayer in Belfast wrote (681 days ago):
Millions of pounds also being spent on tranlation services in our schools, hospitals,health centres, housing offices,social security offices etc. Millions and millions of pounds. Any one got any idea where all this money is coming from?
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