27 May 2016 by Monidipa Fouzder
MoJ awards courtroom interpreting contracts
The future of courtroom interpreting has become clearer after an international language services company formed in Leeds confirmed it has won two components of the Ministry of Justice’s new contract.
The new arrangements will replace the controversial contract held by Capital TI. That contract expires in October.
The ministry confirmed the awards but said it would be inappropriate to comment further before the new contracts have been signed.
But Thebigword confirmed in a press release that it has won contracts to provide face-to-face interpretation, and written translation and transcription services. The £120m four-year contract can be extended for a further three one-year periods, said the company, which was reported to have a turnover of £42m in 2014.
The contract for non-spoken language services has reportedly been offered to Cambridge firm Clarion Interpreting Limited. A spokesperson for Clarion told the Gazette the company is in a ‘standstill period’ until 7 June and unable to comment further.
The contract for independent quality assurance has reportedly been offered to The Language Shop, a business originally set up by the London Borough of Newham. The Language Shop told the Gazette it was unable to comment.
Capita TI currently provides full language services in courts and tribunals under a framework agreement which aroused fierce controversy when it came into effect in 2012.
As the Gazette reported, Capita TI bid to provide written translation and transcription. A spokesperson for Capita TI said: 'While we are disappointed with the decision, we are committed to delivering a high level of service under the current contract which ends 30 October.'
Thebigword, which employs 500 staff across 11 offices and has more than 8,000 linguists, says a number of Capita TI staff will be ‘transferred’ to the company as part of the deal.
Thebigword’s press release states that the linguists who currently work to support the justice system ‘will see improved working conditions’.
A spokesperson for Thebigword told the Gazette the company could not confirm details of the improved working conditions ‘as details are still being discussed and finalised. However, Thebigword is working with focus groups as they are determined to make sure conditions are improved’.
In today’s press release, the company's chief executive Larry Gould (pictured), states: ‘[We are] the largest interpreting services provider in Europe. We have the infrastructure and we have the experience. We have been delivering large-scale public sector contracts for more than two decades.’
Gould says the company has worked with focus groups ‘to develop a package of benefits and have comprehensive training programmes to ensure our linguists can cope with difficult conversations – such as interpreting rape, torture and other distressing crimes – and deliver the highest possible standards’.
The MoJ deal also requires Thebigword to develop a trainee scheme, in conjunction with the independent quality assurance supplier.
Earlier this month Thebigword won a £60m four-year contract to provide services to central government organisations including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office, UK Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs, and the NHS.