North Tyneside Council officers had to resort to Google Translate to communicate with Ukrainian refugees as they arrived.
The local authority saw a peak in April and May of Ukrainian refugees arriving, fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion. Councillors quizzed officers on how they found communication with the newly arrived Ukrainians and what challenges this had presented.
Ian Rice, the authority’s welfare and tenancy support manager, said: “We do throughout the authority have access to interpreters and translation services. What we very quickly found was that whilst we do have access to those facilities, the numbers, particularly in April and May time, were just not enough.
“So, we used Google Translate”.
Council staff also used a translating service on Microsoft Word to email and correspond with Ukrainian guests. It was acknowledged by officers this service “might not always be perfect”.
However, officers claimed no guests had yet complained and it has helped open up dialogues. The officers present did also stipulate that professional translation services were sought for more complex circumstances.
In addition, several refugees had also stepped forward to help officers as interpreters.
“We have had a couple of our Ukrainian guests help us out and volunteer to translate, and a number of our guests who are school teachers have helped. Sometimes, however, it is not appropriate to have a guest in to translate.
“We are using everything we possibly can to help and support them and quite a number of them speak quite good English. The Government and the Red Cross have also provided us with translated materials in both Russian and Ukrainian.”
There are 258 Ukrainians currently living in North Tyneside who are being housed by locals. North Tyneside has the third largest number of Ukrainian refugees living in the North East.
Another 37 Ukrainians are expected to arrive in the next couple of weeks.
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