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Bilingual services

If your first language isn’t English, you may sometimes need an interpreter or translator to help you understand what is being discussed. This is particularly important if you are having a carer’s assessment or receiving medical advice. There are several ways in which you can access interpretation services depending on when and where you need them.

Local authorities

Local authorities can provide face-to-face or over the phone interpreters to ensure you have full access to all council-related services. You can find details of your local authority social services contacts using our searchable directory (right) or by calling the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053 from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 4pm on weekends (closed bank holidays).

Adult family members or friends should only be used as translators if professional translators are unavailable or you do not wish to use them. 

Medical appointments and advice

If you need a translator for a hospital visit or a doctor’s appointment, you should inform the medical centre well in advance of your appointment so they can arrange this service.

The NHS 111 service also has a telephone interpreter service. You should say which language you would like to use when the call is answered. In the event of an emergency dial 999 and the operator will access an interpreter as soon as possible.

Interpreted advice

If you require an interpreter for advice on non-medical matters, your local Citizens Advice Bureau may have details of interpretation services near to you.

Family and friends can also be used to interpret for you but it is worth bearing in mind that they may be dealing with very personal and intimate information and situations. Many organisations discourage using children as interpreters.

The Carers Direct helpline is available in 170 different languages. If you want to arrange for a phone call from a Carers Direct adviser who speaks your language at a time that suits you complete the call back request form.

Language courses

If you need to use an interpreter on a regular basis, you may find it useful to enrol on an English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) course. You can find more information at GOV.UK.

Further support

Drop-in services for older people from ethnic minority backgrounds are available from many local Age UK branches. These can provide information and advice in appropriate languages.

You can find out more about health information in other languages on NHS Choices.


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Page last reviewed: 17/10/2012

Next review due: 17/10/2014

Call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053

Confidential information and advice for carers.

Lines are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 11am to 4pm at weekends. Request a free call back or an interpreted call back in one of more than 170 languages including ربي, বাংলা, 中文, Français, ગુજરાતી, Polski, Português, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Soomaali, Español, Türkçe and .اردو.

You can talk to an adviser live online or send a query by email.

Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.

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Carers Direct helpline

If you need caring advice in a hurry, you can call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053, or read more about the helpline