12 October 2011
Lost in translation
MP in Commons attack on Delph interpreter service
THE Government has come under pressure to reconsider a deal with an Saddleworth company providing interpreters for police and the courts.
Earlier this year Applied Language Solutions was awarded a government contract to provide translation services, face-to-face foreign language interpreting, professional interpreting, telephone interpreting, instant telephone interpreting and language services for the deaf and blind — including British Sign Language — for the police and courts.
The deal with the Ministry of Justice is expected to save £18 million a year and will allow justice organisations to make a booking request which will automatically allocate the nearest interpreter with the right language skills and experience, who is security checked and approved to work within the justice sector for the particular assignment.
But Manchester Withington MP John Leech said Delph-based ALS, set up and run by Gavin Wheeldon, a former “Dragons Den” contestant, was not suitable to offer the service and urged the Government to rethink its decision.
Speaking in a Commons debate, Mr Leech argued there was strong evidence to suggest outsourcing led to a lesser quality of interpreting.
He said: “These proposals have not been properly thought through. The MoJ has failed to look at the evidence from outsourcing, and failed to treat all interpreters equitably.
“I hope that it is not too late for the Government to take a step back and review this decision.
“If they cannot do that, I would at the very least strongly urge the Minister closely to monitor the performance of the service, paying close attention to the delays and additional costs that will undoubtedly occur when cases are delayed as a result of a lack of an available interpreter, or when mistakes are made when under-qualified interpreters are used.”
Mr Leech told MPs that despite there being 2,300 interpreters registered with the national register of public service interpreters, only 1,000 had signed up to ALS.
He said the reluctance of people to sign up highlighted the level of opposition to the proposals which was also inevitably linked to worse pay and conditions under the company than interpreters previously received.