Monday, 21 November 2011

PQ - 21st November 2011

Asylum Seekers
House of Lords written question – answered on 21st November 2011.

Lord Hylton Crossbench
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the new system for providing interpreters and translators yet applies to the UK Border Agency (a) in respect of initial and substantive interviews for asylum seekers with inadequate command of English, and (b) for oral hearings before asylum and immigration courts or tribunals; if not, when they expect it to do so; and whether they will keep the quality of interpretation under review.

Lord Henley The Minister of State, Home Department
Although the Home Office has awarded the contract for face-to-face interpreting services to thebigword, the UK Border Agency is not using the contract for the provision of interpreter services for asylum interviews. The UK Border Agency will review this position in the next financial year and will continue to monitor the quality of the interpretation service that it provides to asylum seekers.
Interpreters for asylum and immigration tribunals are booked by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). New arrangements for the provision of interpreters and translators services to HMCTS are to be introduced soon under a Ministry of Justice framework agreement.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

EU agrees on Bill to ensure defendants’ right to information

November 17, 2011

EU Member States agreed on a draft law ensuring the right to information in criminal proceedings
EU Member State representatives reached an agreement on a draft law that will ensure defendants’ right to information in criminal proceedings wherever they are in the EU. Under the new law, suspects of a criminal offence will have to be informed of their rights in a language they understand. The proposed Directive will now pass to the European Parliament for adoption in the coming weeks, before final adoption by ministers meeting in the Council.
EU governments agreed on a draft law that will ensure defendants’ right to information in criminal proceedings wherever they are in the EU. The measure was proposed by the European Commission proposed in July 2010 as part of its efforts to ensure people have a right to a fair trial throughout the EU. It is the second step in a series of measures to set common EU standards in criminal cases. The European Parliament and Council approved the first proposal, which gave suspects the right to translation and interpretation, in October 2010. The proposed Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings will now pass to the European Parliament for adoption in the coming weeks, before final adoption by ministers meeting in the Council.
The Directive will ensure that police and prosecutors provide suspects with information about their rights. Authorities will give this information in writing – in a Letter of Rights – drafted in simple, everyday language following an arrest. It will be provided to suspects upon arrest in all cases, whether they ask for it or not, and translated if necessary. The right to information in criminal proceedings is part of a series of fair trial measures that aims to boost confidence in the EU's single area of justice. 
The Letter of Rights will help to avoid miscarriages of justice and reduce the number of appeals. The Commission has provided Member States with a model letter, which will be translated in all 23 EU languages.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Petition: Do not outsource interpreting and translation in the justice sector

This petition is now closed. Thank you to everyone who signed it.

Do not outsource interpreting and translation in the justice sector
We, the undersigned, petition the Ministry of Justice not to outsource the provision of interpreters and translators in the justice sector to a single commercial agency. In particular, we request that:
1. The National Agreement be preserved and made mandatory.
2. All interpreters working in the justice sector must be registered on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters.
3. The Ministry of Justice engages in a meaningful consultation with the interpreting profession to enable efficiency savings to take place.
4. The Ministry of Justice considers the adverse impact the contract with the preferred supplier is likely to have on ethnic minorities and on foreign-language speakers.

Monday, 14 November 2011

PQs - 14th November 2011

14 Nov 2011
Applied Language Solutions

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) what assessment his Department has made of the compliance of Applied Language Solutions with Principle 8 of Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998 in respect of storage of translators' personal details and communication of information relating to the investigation of criminal offences; and if he will make a statement;
(2) whether Applied Language Solutions has a (a) data centre and (b) call centre in India;
(3) if he will place in the Library a copy of his Department's contract with Applied Language Solutions;
(4) what assessment his Department has made of the (a) use of mezzanine funding, (b) creditors amounts falling due within one year and (c) general financial viability of Applied Language Solutions prior to awarding it a contract for translation services; and if he will make a statement.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
Applied Learning Solutions (ALS) were assessed to ensure compliance with data protection regulations during the pre-qualification stage of the competition. All ALS offices, wherever their location, meet the requirements of data protection. Schedule 4 of the DPA is explicit that the Principle 8 does not apply when “The data subject has given his consent to the transfer”. The terms and conditions of registration as a linguist with Applied Language Solutions (ALS) provide for positive consent to personal data being shared across ALS's offices, irrespective of location and this is explicitly stated. Any linguist that agrees to these terms and conditions has given permission for their details to be shared outside of the EEA.
Applied Language Solutions does have a data centre and call centre in India.
A redacted copy of the framework agreement is available in the public domain on the Business Link Contracts Finder website at the following address:
The Ministry of Justice assesses the use of mezzanine funding dependent upon circumstances. In the case of ALS it was considered that their funding and financial position was and remains consistent with a striving, young company which, with appropriate financial aid provided by the mezzanine funding mechanism, is able to provide innovative and technical solutions. The assessment of creditors falling due within one year is nil. The general financial assessment of the company was considered during the pre-qualification stage of the tender process. This involved looking at available financial and other information and was entirely in keeping with usual practice.

14 Nov 2011
Criminal Proceedings: Translation Services

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) what criteria will be used to decide in which tier interpreter and translation will be placed under the new system for delivery of interpreters and translators services in the criminal justice system;
(2) what estimate he has made of the (a) hourly, (b) daily rate of pay for interpreter and translators within (i) tier 1, (ii) tier 2 and (iii) tier 3 of the new system for delivery of interpreters and translators services in the criminal justice system;
(3) whether he expects the number of interpreters and translators on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters to increase following changes to the system for delivery of interpreters and translators services in the criminal justice system;
(4) when he expects to withdraw from the national agreement on arrangements for the use of interpreters, translators and language service professionals in investigations and proceedings within the criminal justice system.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
Under the new system, assignment into tiers for foreign language interpreters is dependent on a range of criteria including the qualifications and experience possessed by the individual and their assessment centre performance. I understand that Middlesex university will carry out those assessments independent of the Ministry of Justice and the supplier, using marking criteria which assesses an interpreter's coherence, accuracy, fluency and ability to convey the speakers intended effect. There is no tiering for translators.
Rates of pay are a matter between the supplier and individual linguist. However I understand the hourly rate of pay for foreign language interpreters to be £22 for Tier 1, £20 for Tier 2 and £16 for Tier 3. Travel allowances may be payable with the agreement of the supplier. Translators will continue to be paid by the word, as they are at present.
It is a matter for individual interpreters and translators as to whether they wish to register with the National Register of Public Service Interpreters. This register is entirely independent of Government. However, ensuring interpretation and translation is of the appropriate quality and widening the available pool of interpreters are fundamental elements of this reform, and have always been so. Under the Framework Agreement the supplier will be required to increase the numbers of appropriately qualified interpreters available for use by the justice sector generally, but particularly in relation to those languages and areas of the country where coverage is currently insufficient to meet operational needs. They will also be required to plan, for future language demand. This will ensure that we have interpreters in the languages we need, in the areas we need them. There are no current concerns about the number of available translators.
A move to the Framework Agreement will probably render the National Agreement redundant and we expect to withdraw it in due course, but a date has not been fixed. In the short-term parts of the National Agreement will be disapplied to organisations with contracts under the MOJ Framework Agreement.

14 Nov 2011
Administration of Justice: Translation Services

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he plans to take to maintain quality standards under the new system for the delivery of interpreter and translation services across the criminal justice system.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The Framework Agreement we have signed is clear about the quality standards that are expected, including qualifications, experience and vetting. It requires the collection of detailed and meaningful management information, uses comprehensive key performance indicators, and will be properly managed.
There is an additional requirement for all face-to-face foreign language interpreters to undertake an assessment of ability. All interpreters will be required to undertake continuous professional development and abide by a comprehensive code of conduct which further emphasises that they should only undertake assignments which they are competent to undertake.
This, and the other requirements under the framework, will ensure that the justice sector continues to have access to interpreters of the appropriate quality.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Polish interpreters speak out against potential pay cut
11 November 2011

Polish interpreters speak out against potential pay cut
TWO Polish interpreters who provide a vital service for courts, hospitals and councils say they face a bleak future after the Government changed the way they work.
Bartosz Orlik, 37, of West Hill, and Magdalena Zalesiak 29, from St Leonards, have been working across the south east for several years translating Polish into English.
But the way in which they receive their assignments has changed and they claim they face losing up to half their income.
Earlier this year Applied Language Solutions won the contract to provide interpreting services for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
The Oldham-based firm has agreed a five-year deal with the Ministry which has responsibilities for courts, prisons, the probation service, the Legal Aid system and employment tribunals.
It means organisations including police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service and probation trusts will be able to sign contracts under a framework agreement to deliver interpretation and translation services.
Before the contract was awarded, interpreters would be contacted by court managers or police officers asking them for their services. But from December they will have to go through ALS to find an appropriate interpreter.
Before the contract Bartosz and Magdalena were earning up to £30 per hour but under the new system the most they will earn is £22 per hour.
ALS says it will save the MoJ £60 million and cut administration and time costs for frontline workers across the justice sector.
Bartosz, who has been interpreting in the UK for three years, said: “The Ministry is saving money but at what cost?
“We would get less pay and I would be unable to survive and I feel the quality of the interpreter may also drop.
“I have a mortgage and bills to pay and I just can’t afford to lose this amount of money. I may have to return to Poland and a lot of interpreters are in the same situation.”
Magdalena, who has a degree in English Language said: “Under the new rules, I will not be earning enough to support myself and my concern is that after I have spent considerable time and up to £10,000 in course, exam and professional membership fees to become an interpreter, I may now have to retrain and look for any work available to make a living.
“My fees for a one-hour assignment may be equal to the cost of me travelling to the venue and therefore I will not be making any profit.”
The Society for Public Services Interpreters said none of its members had joined ALS and it intended to make a legal challenge to the framework of the MoJ agreement.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ireland: Judge hits out at interpreters’ service

9 November 2011

Judge hits out at interpreters’ service
During a district court sitting in Longford recently, Judge Seamus Hughes directed that a manager at Lionbridge – the company which provides the courts with interpretation services - attend one of his courts “as soon as possible” to enable him to address what he believes is “a serious decline” in the service being provided by the company.
The judge’s order was made after a case involving a foreign man who was being assisted by a female interpreter from the company.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Oral questions - House of Lords

House of Lords
Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Legal System: Translation and Interpreting Services

Asked By Baroness Coussins

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the provision of translation and interpreting services for the legal system in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Coussins: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and I declare interests as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages and honorary fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, the Ministry of Justice has been looking at this matter for some time and has identified a number of issues that call for change. They include the limited number of linguists available for use, an inefficient and costly booking process, and concerns over the quality of service and complaint investigation. The ministry has therefore announced that it will be moving to a framework agreement with a single supplier. We anticipate that this will resolve current problems while saving the taxpayer at least £18 million a year on current spending.

Baroness Coussins: I thank the Minister for his reply, but would he be prepared to review the framework contract in the light of an independent study commissioned by the Association of Police and Court Interpreters, which predicts that the new arrangement is unsustainable and, far from saving £18 million a year, could end up costing £200 million a year? Secondly, is the Minister aware that more than half the existing number of qualified interpreters have refused to sign up with the new single supplier and take very substantial pay cuts, and that this situation could well result in the employment of less competent interpreters, to the detriment of witnesses, defendants and victims?

Lord McNally: No, we will not review the framework or the agreement that we have made. We have looked at the report-which, in any lobbying exercise, is quite legitimate-and examined the figures in it, but we do not believe that they stand up. We have always been clear that translation and interpretation services of the appropriate quality should be available, where they are required, for all those who come into contact with the justice system, while obtaining value for money for the public. Let us see how it settles. There are many threats and ideas that people are not going to sign up or that it will not work out. Obviously the noble Baroness is far more expert than me on this issue, but there is no doubt that the present system was not working, which is why the previous Administration initiated the inquiry, which has now culminated in this decision, as far back as 2009.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, in designing the new system, why was it decided to ignore existing professional qualifications and to sideline the National Register of Public Service Interpreters, with its established system of registration that requires not only an appropriate degree-level qualification but 400 hours of proven public service interpreting? Does my noble friend think that it is fair to make experienced and qualified interpreters and translators go through the hoops and pay for a new accreditation procedure that assumes that they have just come out of the sixth form?

Lord McNally: My Lords, we are not doing this for fun. We are doing it because the present accreditation system was not working and there was a lot wrong with it. That is why we set up a new register. There were faults in the old register in the quality of assessment and we believe that, starting as we are with a new system, a new register is the most effective way of guaranteeing quality.

Lord Kinnock: My Lords, no one is arguing for simple maintenance of the status quo. When over half of the qualified people in this profession have made it clear that they are unwilling to register with a new body under the new framework because it implies cuts of up to 70 per cent of their incomes, does the Minister not think that the Government are taking a huge risk by pursuing this course without further review and that it will result in loss of quality, compromise justice-which is worst of all-and could end up ultimately, as the professionals warn, costing much more and not reducing costs?

Finding a voice

01 November 2011

Finding a voice
Asylum seekers' prospects and even their lives are put at risk by a lack of translation support, argues Arnaud Vervoitte, Senior Operations Manager of the Refugee Council
Language can be a significant barrier for asylum seekers and refugees who have recently arrived in the UK as they attempt to navigate a complex asylum system. But a crisis in interpreting and translation services is making it even harder for them to settle into their new environment.
Many asylum seekers and refugees will have fled their countries at short notice, and will have little prior knowledge of the English language. The countries from which the largest numbers come include Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Eritrea – none of which count English as a first language. At the Refugee Council, we have long recognised the need to provide for the many languages our clients speak in order to give them the support they need – with our Own Language Telephone Advice Service, multilingual website and publications, and team of interpreters, we are able to offer advice in languages including Farsi, Pashto, Arabic, Kurdish and Mandarin.
Outside of the Refugee Council, for legal and asylum matters to date, the Ministry of Justice has been responsible for providing translation and interpretation services, and requires qualified interpreters to sign up with the Register of Public Service Interpreters (RPSI). But the Ministry of Justice is proposing to outsource these services to a private company, which will render the RPSI defunct – potentially lowering the quality of language services provided.
This could potentially have very serious consequences for asylum seekers. The Home Office is making life or death decisions on asylum cases – if asylum seekers are not supported properly to explain why they need protection here using high-quality interpreters, they could face being returned to countries where their lives are at risk.
There is also clearly already a shortage of interpreters to meet the demand, and cutting the service further will cause people to have to wait for their cases to be heard. We know from working with asylum seekers every day that courts often postpone hearings for weeks in order for people who speak the same language to attend on the same day. More shockingly, we also know of appellants being pressurised into accepting the proceedings to be conducted in English in the absence of an interpreter, which can, of course, detrimentally affect the outcome of the proceedings. This is due to both the shortage of people specialised in this area and to save on interpreter costs. This will no doubt worsen as the justice system is forced to squeeze budgets further.
As well as asylum and legal matters, asylum seekers and refugees rely on interpretation in order to access public services to meet their basic needs and to aid their integration into society: from GPs and housing providers to children's services.
Mental health services are a particular issue.
Evidence suggests refugees and asylum seekers experience a higher incidence of mental distress than the wider population, due to the traumatic experiences they have faced. Last year, the charity Mind published a report that identified language as a key obstacle for this group in accessing mental health services. Dispersal areas, such as Norfolk, which are not traditionally diverse, find it particularly difficult to source interpreters. Asylum seekers are often still relying on family – in some instances, their own children – and community members to interpret for them, which compromises their confidentiality and can put service users and the people interpreting for them in very uncomfortable or inappropriate situations. It is clear that the situation is already critical. In a year when David Cameron has called for immigrants, including refugees, to make more of an effort to integrate into society, the government is making it extremely difficult for people to access the services they need in order to do that. There must be more investment into translation and interpreting services to ensure that those seeking safety in the UK can not only get the protection and help they need, but also play their part in our society.