Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Call for end to court interpreting contract chaos

August 30, 2011

Call for end to court interpreting contract chaos
Freelance court interpreters in the East Midlands are calling on the Government to end what they describe as “chaos and confusion” over plans to hand a £60 million contract for language services in the courts, tribunals and some police services to a commercial agency.
In July, Justice Minister Crispin Blunt MP made an announcement to Parliament that the Ministry of Justice intended to place a huge “framework contract” to provide interpreting and translation services in the criminal justice system to an agency. A Manchester-based company, Applied Language Solutions then started to claim that it had won the contract, however, the Ministry of Justice has so far not confirmed this, or made any other announcement.
Now, the Interpreters are calling for the Ministry to come clean over exactly what is going on. Yelena McCafferty, a Lincolnshire-based National Register Interpreter said “this has become a farce. Applied Language Solutions is recruiting linguists for a contract that does not appear to exist. The Company is trying to hire linguists for the courts and some police services, offering appalling terms and conditions. On some assignments, the effective rate of pay would fall below the minimum wage”.

Applied Language Solutions appears to have changed the terms and conditions for the interpreters it is trying to sign up at least 3 times in the space of month. It also says that linguists who want to work in the criminal justice system need to be re-tested by Middlesex University, but has revealed few details of how this will be done, who the examiners are and exactly how much they will charge interpreters for the exam.
Many qualified interpreters in the East Midlands, who are on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters currently used by the Courts Service, are refusing to sign up with the agency.
Yelena McCafferty added “we have a situation where there does not appear to be a formal contract award, a vague plan to force interpreters to be retested and a company which changes its terms almost on a weekly basis. The Ministry of Justice should clarify what is going on with the National Framework Contract, to end what appears to us to be a confused mess”.

An open letter has now been sent to the Ministry of Justice calling for it to make a clear, public statement to end the unease and uncertainty over the future of interpreting services.

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