The Language Assistance Services Project

Language assistance services - such as interpreting and translation services - are critical to bridge the communication gap and ensure people with limited English language proficiency can access public services and information to which they are entitled to.

Language assistance services are particularly important for former refugees and migrants, many of whom have insufficient English language skills on arrival to be able to operate independently, integrate quickly into New Zealand life and achieve self-sufficiency. 

Central Government agencies are working together under the leadership of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) on a multi-year work programme to:

  • improve the quality, consistency and coordination of language assistance services provided across the New Zealand public sector
  • provide equitable access to public services for those with limited English language proficiency
  • future-proof New Zealand’s public services to serve an increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse population.

The Language Assistance Services Project implements the recommendations of two reviews conducted by MBIE and DIA respectively.

Summary Report - Fair and Accessible Public Services PDF 112KB

The project will improve the quality, consistency and coordination of language assistance services provision across government.

Four key deliverables will be developed and implemented through the project:

  1. Language Assistance Services Policy and Guidelines to set out best practice in the planning, funding and delivery of public services for people with limited English language proficiency
  2. New procurement model to make purchasing language assistance services by central government agencies and their contracted providers simpler, more efficient, and more cost-effective
  3. Professional standards and associated certification framework for interpreters and translators working across government
  4. A Language Assistance Services Portal and other systems to support the new model will also provide simple access to a single depository of information about language assistance services in New Zealand

The project is in phase one, which encompasses the 2017 calendar year. It captures the project planning and set up, sign-off by decision-makers and service design. Three workstreams have been established to advance this project.

Project Information Sheet PDF 317KB

Project diagram PDF 241KB

Language assistance services policy and guidelines

A core group of central government agencies is currently being consulted on the draft Language Assistance Services Policy and Guidelines which will apply across government and government-funded services.

The draft guidelines were developed with the input of the project’s steering group - an inter-agency working group comprising MBIE, DIA, the Office of Ethnic Communities, the Ministries of Health, Justice, Social Development and Education, New Zealand Police, the Treasury, Housing New Zealand Corporation and State Services Commission. The group was established to provide cross-agency advice and input, and ensures whole-of-government commitment and participation.

Relevant agencies are being asked to provide feedback on the draft policy and guidelines directly to the workstream coordinator by 9 August 2017. If you are a central government agency and you would like to contribute to the consultation, or have any questions about this workstream, please contact the workstream coordinator:

New procurement model

MartinJenkins is developing a national market assessment of the language assistance services market in New Zealand and an associated business case to identify the preferred model to deliver language assistance services across Government. This involves gathering information and feedback from both those who provide the services - interpreters and translators - and from agencies which use the services. This information will be used to look at options for how services are offered and paid for in the future, so it is important that it is as complete and accurate as possible.

MartinJenkins is an independent company and will be conducting a survey, to keep it completely confidential.  All responses will be anonymous, and individual responses will not be passed on to any government agency. The survey will be released on 27 July 2017 and will be closed at 8am on Thursday 17 August 2017.

If you are an interpreter and/or translator you should be sent a link to the survey.  To make sure you receive a link please contact us, and we will add you to our database.

Contact us to take part in the survey

We want as many interpreters and translators as possible to complete the survey – if you know other people who work as an interpreter or translator, even if they are not paid for it, could you please forward the above link to them.

The survey will be quick and easy to answer – it will take about 10 minutes.  It will ask questions about:

  • what type of work you do and who for
  • how much work you do and the pay you receive
  • any issues or problems you have.

Note that another separate survey of interpreters and translators is being run at the same time. This second one covers standards and certification (described more fully below under Workstream Three).  Both surveys will provide important information to the project, so please take the time to respond to both.

Interviews and questionnaire for government departments and contracted agencies

Government departments and contracted agencies who use interpreters and translators will also be asked about what services they use, what is working well, and what needs to be improved.  Individual information collected through this process will be kept confidential unless you agree to its disclosure.

If you are a central government agency, or provide public services on behalf of a government agency, and you believe you should be involved in this stage of the process or have any questions about this workstream, please contact the workstream coordinator:

Professional standards and certification framework

Identifying options and recommendations for a common set of standards and an associated certification framework is the mission of Workstream Three. This Workstream has identified a set of potential standards and now needs to get these reviewed by as many interpreters and translators operating in the New Zealand Public Sector as possible.

Alongside this there is a need to gather information on the nature and extent of the interpreter and translator workforce in New Zealand and the locations, qualifications and age profiles of current practitioners so that a planned transition can happen between the current situation and where the profession needs to be.

To this end Workstream Three has developed a survey relating to the sets of competencies, comprising eight standards each and based on the new Australian National Accreditation Authority (NAATI) standards for interpreters and translators. These standards are integrated with a certification framework including levels of certification and descriptors of competence - and how this will be tested at each level. Survey respondents are asked to indicate a level of agreement with each of the standards/competencies described, and highlight any issues they may see with adopting them as the standards for New Zealand.

Australian National Accreditation Authority (NAATI)

We are distributing the survey through a number of channels including:

  • the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI) to its Members, Associates and Observers
  • provider agencies of interpreting and translation services (e.g. Interpreting New Zealand, Decipher, New Zealand Translation Centre, Language Line telephone interpreting service, the DHB’s interpreting/translation services, etc.)
  • interpreter/translation coordinators across public sector agencies and government-funded services (e.g. MBIE, DIA, District Health Boards, Courts and Tribunals, Police, etc.)

New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI)

It is important that as many current practitioners as possible have the opportunity to complete the survey and have their voices heard. We are asking anyone maintaining lists of practitioners to circulate the information and link to the survey, and encourage people who work through them to complete it.

The survey is confidential, and while aggregate results will be provided, it will not be possible to identify who the respondent is, who they work for - or who passed the survey on to them to complete. The survey will be released on 27 July 2017 and closes at 8am on Thursday 17 August 2017. The survey will generally take around half an hour to complete.

Survey instructions PDF 318KB

Take part in the Standards Survey

If you are an interpreter and/or translator and would like to know more about how you can input or have any questions, you can access the FAQs or contact the workstream coordinator.

Frequently Asked Questions PDF 332KB

Next steps

At the conclusion of the consultation rounds the workstream coordinators will carefully review and consider the feedback received.

By the end of 2017 the workstreams will be completed and the results drawn together for consideration by the Senior Officials Group for the New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Strategy and Migrant Settlement and Integration Strategy. Subsequently final recommendations will be provided for consideration by cabinet by early 2018.

We will keep stakeholders informed through this webpage as final decisions on the business case are made as part of a budget bid process in 2018. Subject to the outcome of these decisions the project may progress to phase two (implementation) in the 2018/19 financial year.

New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Strategy

Migrant Settlement and Integration Strategy