As part of a response to the very surreal and euphemism-laden “Options Appraisal Executive Summary” published by the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) in October 2013, I undertook a piddly little bit of research to look at the composition of Boards and Councils of other registers. I was interested to see how other professions strike a balance between professional representation (ie. having governors who are at least qualified to practice that profession and are likely experienced expert practitioners) and “service user” or “lay” representation. Can you guess which thing is not like the other things?
This list of professions is obviously not exhaustive – the data was collected via the incredibly scientific method of searching and searching and searching for registers and looking at their Boards until life no longer seemed to be worth living. It is also worth noting that register-holding organisations are structured in a wild variety of ways: some combine the function of a register with that of a professional membership organisation (eg. counsellors have BACP and psychotherapists have UKCP, which both perform both functions, as opposed to sign language interpreting’s split between the register-holding NRCPD and a gaggle of membership organisations eg. ASLI, VLP, ACSW). Some registration bodies make a distinction between their Board/Council and other non-executive director roles, with many permutations of voting rights; some have byzantine arrays of sub-committees. So in those cases where I felt the governance structure was not directly comparable to NRCPD’s arrangement, I simply removed the organisation. Some organisations give clear biographies of their trustees (NRCPD is one of these), others do not – in cases where the professional status of a Board/Council member was unclear and could not be located from extra searches, I assumed that they were a lay member.
We could say that the located Boards and Councils mostly fall into one of two groups – those that are fully composed of professionals, and those that are roughly half and half professionals and lay members (with a slight weighting towards organisations which have 44% professional representation, ie. four professionals, four lay members, and the Chair as a lay “tie-breaker”).
NRCPD is the outlier – the only organisation to be located with no professional representation whatsoever at voting, governance level. This might add context to some of their decisions to date. Or it might not.
It is also of minor interest that two of the 100%-professional organisations – BACP (counsellors) and APSP (foot health practitioners) – are accredited by the Public Standards Authority (PSA), an organisation which sets standards for the regulation of health and social care professions, appropriately enough in those cases. Those board compositions do seem to contradict an assertion by NRCPD’s Chair in a published letter dated 28 August 2013 that “any Register which claims to have public protection as its aim needs to have a majority of non-professionals on its governing council” – I suppose it is possible that counsellors and foot health practitioners don’t give a damn about public protection but it seems unlikely. I only mention this in the context of NRCPD’s selection of two out of three options modelled on PSA accreditation in their “next steps”, options which would seek to regulate all registered sign language interpreters as though they are “health and social care workers” regardless of the domains they prefer to work in (eg. education, community, legal) or are actually competent to work in: there is no stand-alone sign language interpreting qualification with medical interpreting as a mandatory unit of study – registration does not guarantee you are fit to interpret in any or all medical settings. I myself have never even been a hospital patient and know very little about medical terminology – I refuse medical assignments for that reason with the exception of sexual health, the one thing I do have good working knowledge of.
PSA status is nonetheless presented as offering better protection to the public (somehow), and cast as a desirable next step down the impossible rainbow road towards statutory protection of the title “interpreter”. The argument that accreditation as “health and social care workers” might pathologise our work in education, conference and community interpreting, pandering quite recklessly to the medical model of disability, is perhaps a matter for debate.
Anyway, I sent this Shameful Bar Chart of Shame to NRCPD, as well as getting a few other things off my chest, and it seems that other interpreters did something similar – as a result, NRCPD have published a slightly clarified version of the Summary and two iterations of lengthy FAQs to explain what the re-explanation means, but much more importantly, they have undertaken to recruit interpreters and other communication professionals onto the Board in early 2014. Let’s keep an eye on that.
All hail the power of lovely charts! Hopefully this goes to show that anyone can do some research which will go on have an effect on things they care about – it does not have to be a huge complicated exercise or terribly, terribly serious.