Children should not be used as interpreters for their parents, finds report

Janaki Mahadevan
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Too many children are being called upon by professional bodies to act as interpreters for their parents despite guidance showing the negative impact this can have on families, a report has found.

In Families New to the UK: Confident Families in Cohesive Communities, 4Children and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation argue that using children as interpreters can create a cultural gap between the generations.

Using findings from the Family Commission, which published its final report last October, 4Children identified that young people are regularly being asked to translate and interpret for their parents, particularly during interactions with government agencies and public services.

The report recommends that professionals must stop calling on children to translate for their parents and asks the government to continue funding English for Speakers of Other Languages classes for those people most in need.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: "Families who have moved to the UK from elsewhere tell us they want to work, pay taxes and help people, just like everyone else. They just need help and support from dependable local services to get there.

"At a time when our economy needs as many people contributing to the recovery as possible, relatively small investments in such services represent good value for money in the long term to help families achieve the ambitions they have invested so much in."

The report also calls on government to improve regulation of private housing to ensure families are not living in substandard accommodation and review immigration laws to allow asylum seekers to work.

Recommendations for councils include encouraging families new to the UK to get involved with their local communities; help children and family centres to provide support; and provide parenting support to help bridge the cultural gap that can appear between parents and children.

Andrew Barnett, director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, said: "With our interest in understanding and assisting all members of society to fulfill their potential, we were keen to look at what might be done to ensure that families new to the UK are able to flourish; giving their children the best possible start in life and contributing to the community as a whole."

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