Information and Advice


Support Planning

Independent Advocacy


Good Practice Guide for Social Workers in England and Wales Working with Adults with Acquired Hearing Loss (British Association of Social Workers) 

Accessible Information Standard (NHS) for bodies including social care

June 2018: This chapter was amended to include a link to the Accessible Information Standard as above, published by the NHS for bodies including social care.

1. Introduction

Some adults with care and support needs, and their carers, may require the services of an interpreter, signer or another professional who has specific communication skills. This may be as a result of not having sufficient comprehension or command of spoken English or other communication difficulties, as the result of hearing problems or learning or physical disabilities for example.

Adults and carers with specific communication needs should be supported to access interpreters, signers and other communicators to ensure  their needs are met (see Assessment) wellbeing is promoted and their needs prevented, reduced or delayed (see Promoting Wellbeing and Preventing, Reducing or Delaying Needs). They should receive the same level of service as those in the local population who do not have communication needs.

2. Principles of Communication Services

There are a number of main principles that should be considered when a person has communication needs:

  • family members should not be used as interpreters / communicators;
  • neither should children (within the family or extended network) be used as interpreters / communicators;
  • the person acting as the interpreter / communicator should be acceptable to both the adult / carer and the local authority;
  • the adult / carer should be consulted in relation to any concerns they may have about an interpreter’s / communicator’s gender and / or religion, and issues of confidentiality and potential conflicts of interest;
  • the interpreter / communicator should declare in advance of providing the service if they have any personal knowledge of the adult / carer;
  • the interpreter / communicator should also be asked in advance about any needs they may have themselves, for example disability access, water and so on
  • the importance of confidentiality should be discussed with the interpreter / communicator prior to them first meeting the adult / carer. They should be sourced from an agency who is already contracted with the local authority and where there is an existing confidentiality agreement. If this is not possible, they must sign a confidentiality agreement prior to undertaking any work;
  • the role of the interpreter / communicator is to act solely in relation to issues of communication, not as a mediator between the adult / carer and the local authority;
  • the interpreter / communicator should be briefed before the meeting. This may include preparing them for possible disclosure and discussion of sensitive or harrowing information. They should also be briefed if an advocate will also be present (see Independent Advocacy).

Decisions about the way in which the interpreter / communicator will be used will depend on their skills and training, the needs of the adult / carer and the purpose of the meeting.

Staff working with interpreters / communicators should not use them to obtain information about racial, cultural, religious or language issues. This is not a proper use of an interpreter; also their mores and life experiences may not necessarily reflect those of the adult / carer.