A report in The Sunday Times claimed that non-English speakers have cost the taxpayer almost £180m in interpreter services over the past three years. But are interpreter services simply a luxurious expense?

The answer is, quite simply, no. No matter how much interpreter services might have cost the taxpayer since 2008, it is not comparable with video games or satellite TV – in other words – something we can do without. Interpreter services are a core provision in the increasingly multicultural country that we live in, and without them, Britain will retreat further and further into Euro-sceptic obscurity.

How much do interpreter services really cost?

According to a freedom of information request, court interpreter services cost the UK taxpayer £180m over the last three years across the entire legal sector. When you think that the government has failed to find an owner of the Olympic Stadium in London, costing the taxpayer an extra £60m on top of the £500m it has already cost to construct, then the amount to fund interpreters seems more than justified.

Interpreters play a pivotal role in the justice system, and without them, non-English speaking citizens would not be granted their right to a fair trial. By cutting costs, the quality of interpreter services will decline because the more experienced interpreters will not work for a lower rate and quality assurance measures will be scaled back to plug the gap. If court cases fall through because of poor interpretation, the resulting costs could be cumulative.

Interpreter services – core provision

We would not criticise doctors or nurses for the cost of saving lives, so why should we criticise interpreters for saving the human rights of non-English speaking citizens? It seems we need to change the way we classify interpreter services and recognise their huge importance in our modern multicultural society.

Image credit: veni markovski