For Immediate Release: 1/26/2016 9:19 am
Worcester, MA (January 26, 2016) - City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. announced today that Worcester is implementing a new policy across city government aimed at providing improved services to Worcester residents who speak languages other than English.
A new partnership with Worcester-based Ascentria Care Alliance will provide language bank services for more than 90 different languages (list attached below) - significantly improving access to city services for people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The contract with Ascentria provides for interpreters to be available either on-site or by telephone for City employees interacting with the public - including at City Hall and on site during situations like code inspections and public safety situations.
"Worcester is a city of immigrants, and the City is taking steps to assure that all of our residents, no matter what languages they speak, can access important information and benefit from programs and services," said City Manager Augustus. "If we want to become an even more welcoming city, we must do everything we can to embrace and support people of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds."
This policy is part of a larger effort by the City Manager and numerous City departments to make municipal government more inclusive, diverse and reflective of the community it serves. Since April, when the strategy was first introduced, the City has hired a Chief Diversity Officer, reconstituted the Worcester Clergy Police Partnership, appointed seven of nine members to a newly-formed Diversity and Inclusion Commission and taken a number of steps to improve police relationships with diverse communities.
The language policy will ensure meaningful communication between LEP persons and the City by providing for interpretation and translation services at no cost to the LEP person being served. Communication services will also be provided for information contained in private documents, including applications, statements, ordinances and relevant forms. Written translation will also be provided for vital documents, including consent and complaint forms, applications for programs, activities or to receive city government benefits or services, etc.
"Worcester resettles the largest number of refugees in the State and has a large, diverse foreign born population," said Kaska Yawo, Executive Director & Co-founder of the African Community Education (ACE) Program. "As the Co-founder and Executive Director of the ACE Program which works with African immigrants refugees in Worcester, I have seen how determined and motivated refugees and immigrants are to make a better life for their families and contribute to this vibrant community. This policy is a significant step toward making that dream possible."
The policy for dealing with LEP residents was presented to the City Council on Friday. Employee training has already begun, and the new policy is expected to be fully implemented across all City departments by the spring.
"Language and cultural barriers are two of the main culprits that prevent many immigrants and refugees from quickly becoming self-sustaining," said Anh Sawyer, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Coalition of Massachusetts (SEAC). "The SEAC, with our mission to assist Asian immigrants, refugees and long-term residents to successfully integrate, thrive and become contributing citizens while preserving their cultural heritage, believes the City of Worcester's LEP Language Access Policies and Procedure will help to alleviate these barriers, narrow disparities and help English language learners to access many important resources necessary for them to thrive."covered-languages.pdf