Anna Ware, Director of social enterprise Clear Voice told us about how the business is an interpreting service like no-other, its work supporting vulnerable groups including Syrian refugees, how the pandemic saw a boom in demand and what needs to change to take on negative perceptions of asylum seekers.

What is Clear Voice all about?

Clear Voice Interpreting Services has been providing language services since 2006. We support a broad range of clients across multiple sectors to communicate effectively, and offer the latest technology through bespoke telephone systems and our new mobile app.

What sort of services do you provide?

We offer a range of language services and tailor bespoke solutions to meet our clients’ needs. Our telephone interpreting service covers 200+ languages 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year and only takes seconds to connect. Face to face bookings are available across the UK in over 95 languages with quick turnaround times. Written translation is also available, with quotes on request.

What makes Clear Voice a social enterprise?

Clear Voice is proud to be a Social Enterprise, and 100% of profits go towards supporting victims of displacement and exploitation through our parent charity Migrant Help.

Tell us a bit about the organisations you partner with and support through your interpreting services?

While we provide services across all industries, many of our clients are organisations that support particularly vulnerable people, including survivors of slavery, NHS patients, homelessness, domestic violence victims, asylum seekers and refugees. These charities do amazing work to aid and protect and we are here to enable them to communicate, ensuring they can provide the right support to these individuals.  At Clear Voice we believe everyone should be able to access the support they need and language should not be a barrier to that.

We also work closely with a number of partners to raise awareness of certain issues in the sector or for training for our interpreters. Ethics is at the core of what we do each day so it’s important to us that we do more than just deliver a service, and that we are contributing to reducing language barriers and giving vulnerable people a means to communicate.  

Our parent charity Migrant Help exists to protect people affected by displacement and exploitation, helping them thrive as individuals and recover from their trauma. They support those most in need and least likely to find support elsewhere, whilst aiming to bridge community gaps and bring services and support together.

You work with charity partners who work on the front-line to support refugees and asylum seekers, but you’ve also directly supported refugees yourselves. Could you tell us a bit about this aspect of your work?

Last year, we applied for a grant from CXK European Social Funds in order to support a group of Syrian refugees through the training required to join our pool of interpreters. The refugees came to the UK through the government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, a programme set up to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees who had been living in refugee camps.  Our 11 trainees took on the Level 3 Community Interpreting qualification, studying over 12 weeks and covering topics such as ethics and cultural awareness and covering some key industries such as healthcare, education and mental health.  We were there to support throughout – we assisted with administrative tasks, organised the necessarily technology required for studying and made weekly check-in calls of encouragement. After 12 weeks of studying they sat a comprehensive exam, and when they have passed, they start the induction to work for us. This project was so successful we have committed to continue it into 2021 and opening it up to even more refugees this year.

How were your services affected by the Covid-19 and how did you adapt to the pandemic?

As people coped with lockdowns, charities needed to provide more support to their service users and the demand for our services increased. Our on-demand telephone interpreting service became busier than ever and for us it was about how we coped with this rapid growth in a short space of time while ensuring our staff were safe and well.

With so many of our charities spending more on telephone interpreting at times when budgets were incredibly tight, we offered discounts through the pandemic so they could continue to provide more support to service users at this crucial time.  

We also worked with Doctors of the World to offer free translations of their COVID 19 guidance so more people were able to access this crucial information.

I was thrilled that the outstanding work of our interpreters and office team over the course of the pandemic was recognised on the Social Enterprise UK Roll of Honour!  

How do we change the often-negative narratives of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK?

Shared stories and experiences can be a really powerful way of spreading compassion and understanding. There are often so many myths or assumptions about people who have fled persecution, war and slavery before reaching our shores, so we need to give asylum seekers and refugees a voice through the noise. We believe the UK should be a place of sanctuary for those who have these long and difficult journeys.