State is failing to provide interpreters for migrants at Intreo offices, survey finds

Staff often suggest people bring their own interpreter to appointments

The great majority of migrants in Ireland are working, more so than that the local population, a new survey has found.

Of the migrant population 73.9 per cent are in employment compared to 59.5 per cent of the local population, according to figures published by Crosscare the social support agency of the Dublin Catholic archdiocese.

It is believed this may be due to a majority of migrants in Ireland being of working age. Non-EU nationals however were also found to have higher at-risk rates of poverty and consistent poverty (46 per cent and 12 per cent respectively) compared to 16 per cent and 7.9 per cent for Irish nationals respectively.

Ireland’s 2016 Census found that 13 per cent of the resident population speaks a language other than English or Irish at home, with more than 18.4 per cent of the population in the Dublin region reporting the same.


Of this latter group 83 per cent reported that they spoke English well or very well, while 14.2 per cent said they spoke English either not well or not at all.

The figures are included in a Crosscare ‘Do you speak English?’ report published today.

A survey by the agency found that social welfare offices in Ireland were “failing to make Interpreter Services available to people who are not English speakers and in urgent need of access to social welfare supports”.

Despite Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) policy, to provide interpreters on request “Intreo offices are not offering interpreter services where needed”, it said.

Crosscare found that overall, clients, advocates (other than Crosscare itself ) were not aware of the DEASP policy to provide interpreters for customers on request.

It found that none of the 80 respondents in the survey were offered an interpreter in their interactions with the Intreo offices and 80 per cent had asked someone else to interpret for them.

It also found that “staff often suggest to people to bring their own interpreter to appointments”.

Crosscare offers volunteer and contractor interpreters to address this gap in provision. It conducts an average of 1,220 interventions per year in its interpreter clinics for social welfare queries.

It found that 68 per cent of the people surveyed had confirmed that they need help with interpretation every time they are in contact with the DEASP and 27 per cent had asked previously for an interpreter but were not provided with one. All said they would have accepted an interpreter if one had been offered by the DEASP office.

A surprising 19 per cent paid for “a private, and generally untrained interpreter to accompany them for appointments at the local social welfare office”. The full report is available at

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times