Thursday 23 February 2012 by John Hyde
Firm in interpreter storm offers better deal
The firm at the centre of the row over courtroom interpreters says it has taken on more staff and offered cash incentives to improve the service offered under its Ministry of Justice contract.
Gavin Wheeldon, chief executive of Applied Language Solutions (ALS), contacted staff members and self employed interpreters this week following the Gazette’s report of problems encountered by courts using the new hub service.
ALS was awarded a contract by the Ministry of Justice last year to act as the sole supplier of court interpreters, but critics have claimed some staff are not properly trained and court proceedings are being held up as a result. The Professional Interpreters’ Alliance says defendants are being forced to spend extra nights in custody because no one is available in court to translate for them.
In an email sent at the start of this week, Wheeldon said that 21 extra people were being recruited to ensure the service runs more smoothly. A £5 supplement was introduced from Monday for all interpreters who accept bookings through the new automated system, and mileage allowances doubled from 20p to 40p.
In the email, Wheeldon said: ‘I understand this has been frustrating and the system is not perfect yet but please bear with us a bit longer - we will get there I promise!
‘I have thought long and hard about the earnings issue and discussed this internally with management. What we have come up with, I hope, helps us both.’
A spokeswoman for ALS said the firm had no further comment.
On Monday, interpreters protested outside courts in Manchester and Bradford against the government’s decision to outsource the service. Further demonstrations are being planned for London and Birmingham.
Last week, the MoJ contacted courts and tribunals to allow them to hire interpreters from other sources where hearings have been cancelled. A spokesman for the department added that the contract will save at least £18m a year on the cost of interpretation and translation, while ensuring high quality interpreters are available.