'Devastated' workers 'owed thousands' by
collapsed Debonair Languages
Expert linguists have been
left “devastated” and “struggling to put food on the table” as they claim they
remain unpaid following the collapse of a Bolton business.
The interpreters and translators say they are owed
thousands of pounds in wages from Debonair Languages which confirmed it had
gone into administration as of August 5.
The Chorley Old Road-based firm employed thousands of
agents across the country, including in contracts for the Ministry of Justice
and thebigword — one of the UK’s largest specialist language agencies.
In the days following the announcement, dozens of former
Debonair agents have contacted the Bolton News about the situation.
One woman said she is owed payments of almost £1,000,
dating back to May, and said she feels like she is ‘going nowhere with getting
money back,’ and leaving her ‘frustrated and stressed out’.
She added: “We all have bills, mortgage, family and
children to look after. I currently have no work, no payment from all the previous work that I
have done. I have no more savings, no income. I now struggle to even put food
on the table.”
Another of Debonair’s former agents, who worked as a
Mandarin interpreter, says she is owed more than £5,000. The agent had worked
for thebigword but agreed to take on her first job for Debonair covering a
21-day trial at Birmingham Crown Court in June and July.
Speaking to the Bolton News she said she is “devastated”
and despite continuing to chase Debonair for the wages owed she has been unable
to get hold of anyone.
She added that the concern has put strain on her family
and that she desperately needs the money to support her children’s studies.
Another fellow Mandarin interpreter said she still has
outstanding payments from Debonair from the last three months totalling over
£3,000. She added that she will soon have credit card payments to make and
believes the agents’ treatment by Debonair is “very unfair”, especially as they
provide services for the UK justice system.
Court interpreters in limbo after
sub-contractor 'ceases operations'
The main company
contracted by the government to provide courtroom interpreting has pledged to
honour bookings made by a sub-contractor which appears to be no longer in
thebigword, which was awarded a Ministry of Justice contract in 2016, told the Gazette that Bolton-based
Debonair Languages 'ceased operations' on 5 August.
Thebigword has agreed
to honour bookings taking place on or after 5 August. For any bookings
fulfilled by Debonair Languages before 5 August, thebigword remains responsible
to pay Debonair for them. Debonair is responsible for paying its linguists.
A spokesperson for
thebigword said: 'Debonair Languages ceased operations on Monday 5th August.
Thebigword has put in measures to support linguists that had been working with
Debonair and, where possible, welcome them to the other roles in thebigword
The Gazette has tried to
contact Debonair Languages several times this week.
website states that it works with the Ministry of Justice 'and offer a wide
range of interpreters qualified to Standard level (community interpreting) all
the way up to complex written qualified'.
The website says: 'Our
interpreters are well versed in court proceedings and have extensive court
experience. Every day we place interpreters into Crown Court bookings all over
Portuguese interpreter and
translator Pedro Matias says he is owed £320.38 for legal interpreting work
carried out in June and July, and has filed a civil money claim against
Matias believes that the
ministry's decision to outsource interpreting and translation services through
agencies has 'ultimately caused this issue'.
He said: 'I must pay annual
fees to be a member of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and
Chartered Institute of Linguistics, where anyone who requires my services can
find me. Clients can reach out to linguists directly that way, without any
involvement of third parties. However, unfortunately, the Ministry of Justice
decided to stop doing that back in 2011.'
Before 2012, the Ministry
of Justice booked courtroom interpreters directly from the national register
through court staff. In 2012, a framework agreement under which courts and
justice agencies obtain interpreters and translators through a single agency
aroused fierce controversy.