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Working with interpreters to
safeguard children

Good safeguarding is built on a foundation of effective communication. Through your safeguarding work in Lambeth, you may be supporting children or families where there is no shared language.


People who require interpreters report facing barriers when accessing services. And a number of national and local Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews emphasise the importance of breaking down those barriers to keep children safe.


It is vital that everyone working in Lambeth is confident in using interpreting services to effectively communicate and build relationships with the children and families we work with. Language intersects with power and inequality. Effective interpreting is part of our collective commitment to anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice.

Top tips!

Before the conversation

Schedule enough time for your call, meeting or visit. Communicating effectively through an interpreter takes time. 

Identify any jargon or legal terms you may need to communicate. Ask the interpreter to communicate these using the English terminology and then explain their meaning. 

Set boundaries with the interpreter supporting you, ask them to kindly translate everything said, rather than simplified summaries - detail matters.

Encourage the interpreter to explain the relevant cultural context when translating. 

Ensure that any written reports or letters are translated and circulated to the child or family ahead of your meeting. 

Consider the possible emotional and mental impact of the conversation on the child, family and translator. Are there culturally sensitive services you can sign-post to?

During the conversation

Make eye contact with and speak directly to the child or family member and speak in the first person. 

Slow down. Speak in concise sentences. Ask one question at a time and allow the interpreter to translate each point. Allow for thinking time. 

Take turns. If there are multiple people involved ensure that all contributions are translated to ensure all contributions are heard. 

Be aware that sometimes meaning gets lost in translation. There may be regional or dialect differences between the interpreter and child or family member. Ask the child or family member to summarise what they have understood from the conversation. 

Be aware of cultural difference, body language or sensitivities which may affect an answer. Explain why personal or sensitive questions are being asked.

After the conversation

Check in. We have have an ethical duty to be aware of the emotional impact that interpreting sensitive information may have on the interpreter. Encourage them to seek support through their agency. 

As you continue to support the child and family, ensure all future conversations are always conducted through an interpreter. Written material should always be translated. And remember, never use children or family members to translate. 

Video Guides

"How to use interpreters effectively to create a healing environment: A guide for refugee service providers"

Working with Interpreters

Working with Interpreters

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Dos and Don'ts of using interpreters

"Hints and Tips for working effectively with interpreters "

Support and Resources

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Interpreting: migrant health guide

Advice and guidance on the health needs of migrant patients for healthcare practitioners.

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Learning from Reviews

This NSPCC briefing summarises the key learning from child safeguarding reviews. 

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