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Friday, 23 December 2011

ALS sold to Capita

23rd December 2011

Gavin Wheeldon has sold his translation firm Applied Language Solutions (ALS) to Capita in a deal worth up to £67.5m.
Mr Wheeldon will receive an initial £7.5m for the business, but could receive up to £60m more if the business hits performance targets over the next four years. He set up ALS in 2003 from his bedroom in Huddersfield and has grown sales to £10.6m in the year to May 2011, on which it declared an operating loss of £300,000.
[...] In August, it was awarded a major framework contract with the Ministry of Justice to carry out translation services for it, for Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service and the Crown Prosecution Service.
ALS will become a standalone business within Capita and will continue to be run by Wheeldon.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

PQ - 20th December 2011


20 Dec 2011
Translation Services

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) what the (a) average and (b) maximum delay was in the provision of interpreters and translators in (i) courts and (ii) tribunals in November (A) 2010 and (B) 2011;
(2) how much his Department spent on the provision of language services in the 12 months before those services were outsourced;
(3) how many interpreters and translators were used by HM Courts and Tribunals Service in each month since October 2010;
(4) what representations he has received from professional bodies representing interpreters and translators on the transfer to Accredited Language Services of his Department's interpretation services;
(5) how many organisations tendered for his Department's interpretation service contract that was awarded to Accredited Language Services.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The information is as follows.
(1) Information on delay in the provision of language services is not collected. Under our new contract for language services we will in future be able to monitor whether assignments are delivered on time.
(2) The latest figure available is for the 2010-11 financial year, when costs were estimated to be in the region of £25.8 million.
(3) Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service does not record the number of interpreters and translators used in each month.
(4) The Ministry sought and received a range of views, both from individual interpreters and their various representative groups. We have also conducted meetings with a range of those groups, and invited stakeholders to submit their views directly to the project through a dedicated email address. My officials sought views on the specific proposals as they had emerged from the competitive dialogue process, which was undertaken between 30 March 2011 and 4 May 2011. We received a wide range of views in response. All of the responses received were carefully considered by the project team, and formed part of the advice submitted to me when making the decision whether to move to the Framework Agreement. The Ministry continues to receive, consider and respond to correspondence from interested parties and groups.
(5) 126 companies submitted an expression of interest. Of those, 67 submitted a completed pre-qualification questionnaire. 12 were invited to dialogue, six were invited to submit Outline Solutions, three were invited to submit detailed solutions and one (Applied Language Solutions) was invited to submit a final tender.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

“Interpreter outsourcing by the UK Ministry of Justice, the full story as published on Interpreting the World”

You might have heard about the recent developments on the public service interpreting market in the UK. There is also troubling news coming from other countries about deteriorating professional standards.

In Britain, there is a high demand for interpreting in hospitals, courts and police stations, immigration offices, local community and social welfare centres, widely known as “public service interpreting”. An important part of “public service interpreting” is interpreting in the justice sector.

In an attempt to cut costs, the UK’s Ministry of Justice decided in July 2011 to outsource all translation and interpretation services in the justice sector to one commercial supplier, an agency called Applied Language Solutions (ALS), with awarded value of GBP 300 million. The Framework Agreement signed with ALS in August 2011 can be found here: http://www.contractsfinder.businesslink.gov.uk/Common/View%20Notice.aspx?site=1000&lang=en&noticeid=264052&fs=true
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for courts, tribunals, prison and probation, an important part of the criminal justice system in the UK. Crime Prosecution Service, or CPS, responsible for booking interpreters for witnesses, has not made any decision regarding outsourcing yet. Solicitors can still book interpreters directly for their consultations under the Legal Aid scheme.

Before ALS, courts mostly booked interpreters directly using the national register of public service interpreters (and its sign language equivalent). The decision by MoJ to sign the contract with ALS, effectively dispenses with the requirement for the registration and has proved very controversial.

Many interpreters fear that quality, professional standards and terms & conditions will suffer as a result and many professional interpreters have had to consider alternative careers due to the cuts in rates for assignments.
Working conditions for public service interpreters in the UK were difficult enough before ALS (e.g. payment by the hour, one interpreter working in chuchotage and consecutive throughout a whole day on their own). But the new deal includes rates lower than before and almost no reimbursement of travel expenses. Here you can read more about what conditions ALS is offering to interpreters: www...

Public service interpreters started a list “Say No to ALS”: www.tinyurl.com/saynotoals. You can see some interesting statistics here: http://goo.gl/q9WHM, for example “refuseniks”, as they call themselves, broken down by region and language.

Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, backed the interpreting community protesting against the decision in a campaign entitled Speak Up, Speak Out. Here’s the link to Unite’s campaign website, with some more background information: http://www.unitetheunion.org/sectors/community_youth_workers/unite_and_your_organisation/national_union_of_professional/speak_up_speak_out_campaign.aspx

Concerns about quality have also been raised by criminal defence solicitors in Britain: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/defence-solicitors-warn-moj-over-interpreter-outsourcing

The issue was also raised last month in the House of Commons, and in particular the fact that ALS interpreters’ personal data (and other details that appear on interpreters’ claim forms) were being stored outside the UK and beyond the reach of EU data protection laws, see: http://services.parliament.uk/hansard/Commons/bydate/20111114/writtenanswers/part014.html

Where do the police fit into the justice sector outsourcing picture? Some police forces already made their own decisions to outsource language services back in 2009/2010. ALS provides interpreting services to six police forces in the North West - under a different framework agreement. So far three police forces in the UK have decided to sign a Service Level Agreement under the MoJ's Framework Agreement. But Police forces in the UK answer to the Home Office, and as such do not necessarily have to sign contracts with ALS. For example, the biggest police force in the UK - the Metropolitan Police - has its own unit dealing with language services.

Source: Interpreting in the world - AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/aiic.interpreters/posts/233263920079167

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

"Say NO to ALS" list

Many Registered Public Service Interpreters are refusing to work for ALS.

A summary of the current entries to the list can be seen at: http://goo.gl/q9WHM

You can add your name here: www.tinyurl.com/saynotoals

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

PQ - 7th December 2011


7 Dec 2011
Applied Language Solutions

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 14 November 2011, Official Report, columns 544-5W, on Applied Language Solutions,
(1) whether the statement in that answer that the assessment of creditors of Applied Language Solutions (ALS) falling due within one year is nil is reconcilable with ALS' 2009-10 accounts which show creditors with debts falling due within one year as £1.926 million;
(2) what the criteria were which his Department used in making its choice of provider; and for what reason Applied Language Solutions was chosen as the provider.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The answer provided previously was in response to a question which the Department considered to relate specifically to mezzanine funding which is a hybrid of debt and equity funding.
In more general terms, a financial assessment of Applied Language Solutions considered the company to be financially viable with a profitable position. At the time these issues were considered, it was known that the solution would be a one-stop shop facility that could be delivered by one or more companies. Small and Medium Enterprises, including Applied Language Solutions, with reasonable financial positions and scalable solutions were therefore considered suitable.
The criteria used to determine the choice of provider were: Service 30%, Innovation 10%, Quality 25%, Assurance of Supply 30% and Sustainability 5%. In financial terms, the Ministry of Justice had determined it would accept the lowest priced, affordable and compliant tender, i.e. there would be a minimum threshold of 80% for the non price criteria above which the lowest priced tender would be selected. Applied Language Solutions met the criteria and submitted the lowest priced tender.

Friday, 2 December 2011

“Interpreting justice?” - The Linguist

Interpreting justice?

Chair of Council Tony Bell assesses the impact and implications of the MoJ's new interpreting arrangements

On 5 July 2011 a parliamentary statement was made on the provision of interpretation and translation services across the justice sector, the declared intention being 'to cut the cost and make more efficient provision while safeguarding quality'. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) stated that a 'framework agreement' was to be set up with a single supplier, which would save about £18 million on an annual budget of £60 million. Applied Language Solutions (ALS) won the contract.
The arrangements are not quite as comprehensive as portrayed, however, since not all the justice services are obliged to sign up: individual police forces, and the Crown Prosecution Service, for example, may make - or continue with - separate arrangements. The Metropolitan Police has, indeed, announced its intention to remain outside the new system.
Nevertheless, the impact of the arrangements for the supply of professional linguists is huge.
There was an adjournment debate in Parliament on 10 October, at which John Leech MP (Manchester Withington) brought to the attention of Parliament the concerns of interpreters who work in these areas and the problems that are likely to be created.
Baroness Coussins, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages placed an Oral Question in the House of Lords on 1 November, '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'.
Readers will also be aware of articles and letters in the press, the representations made by a number of concerned organisations, and the actions taken by individual interpreters and groups of interpreters. The adjournment debate in October focused strongly on the remuneration and allowances announced, which represent a significant reduction in the terms and conditions for the freelance professionals working in the judicial sector. It is evident that the reduction from current levels (under the Terms and Conditions of the National Agreement) will be a major disincentive to the recruitment of qualified linguists and, it has to be feared, a major incentive for the provision of sub-standard or minimally qualified interpreters willing to work for the reduced rates.
While it is recognised that all professions share the burden of the current economic circumstances, the CIOL is concerned that the extraordinary reductions proposed by the new provider will put the supply of qualified interpreters and translators at risk and threaten seriously the sustainability and development of the profession. There are also considerable doubts about the viability of the 'triage' system, with interpreters allocated to different categories of jobs according to assessed levels of expertise. The proposed system, which is now in the early stages of implementation, does not appear to have been tested.
There are several aspects of the situation that are of great concern to the Institute, in addition to the serious impact it will have on individual practitioners. Throughout the period of review leading up to the MoJ's decision, the CIOL said at all opportunities that combining commercial provision and professional regulation in one body is wrong in principle. A clear separation between the regulation of a profession and the organisation of practitioners is fundamental, and is seen across the board in the delivery of professional services. Examples are the General Medical Council, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the Healthcare Professionals Council.
The provision of language services in the criminal justice system is just as critical to public well-being as these other professions. It is a retrograde step to reverse the progress of more than a decade by re-combining the regulatory function with commercial provision. This is particularly so given that the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) has recently re-organised itself - now as an independent body - to take fully the role of a regulatory body working to regulate the profession in the public interest.
It is not possible to see how re-combining the regulation of language service provision and commercial interest can be in the interests of justice or the public or, indeed, meet the requirements of the October 2010 EU Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings,
NRPSI has more than 2,300 registered interpreters. ALS claims that it has already registered large numbers of interpreters. The number quoted in the adjournment debate was 1,000. An immediate substantial shortfall is apparent the framework agreement insists, properly, on quality. It is not possible to imagine that the MoJ will allow such an essential criterion to be breached. So far, at least, it is not clear that this aspect of supply has been thought through.
The uncertainties around the qualification framework intended by the MoJ must be resolved. A system of unaccredited assessments is being introduced, which all legal service freelance interpreters must undertake in order to register with ALS. The Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) has been the basis of qualification for the profession up to now. It is stated that it will remain so. The DPSI is, and will remain, entirely independent, and is a nationally accredited and widely recognised qualification. A recognised qualification and independent regulation are essential elements of a profession.
The arrangements are intended to save money, reflecting current public sector financial difficulties. There is a real danger, however, that they will be detrimental to the sustainability and development of the profession, to the supply of qualified interpreters and translators, and, ultimately (even, perhaps, immediately), to the delivery of justice.

Pages 6 and 7, The Linguist, December 2011/January 2012, Vol/50 No/6 2011.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

ALS's 'misleading' signs

Your Letters - December 2011

ALS's 'misleading' signs
We read with interest Anne Wollenberg’s piece (“Signs of better access in court”, Disability Now, November 2011) about the recent outsourcing of interpreting and translation services to one supplier, ALS, by the Ministry of Justice.

In this piece, Ms Wollenberg quoted Anthony Walker of ALS on purported discrepancies in assess­ment standards between spoken language interpreters and BSL practitioners. While we support our deaf and deaf-blind interpreter colleagues, we feel we must respond to these.

Spoken language interpreters are most commonly assessed as fit to practise by the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ associated charity, IoL Educational Trust, through an examin­ation called the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI). The DPSI is a professional qualification that has been developed and tested since the Institute recognised the need for regulated public service interpreters in the UK in 1983.

The qualification is robust and rigorous and tests an interpreter’s ability to operate to the highest standards of professional practice. It is accredited by Ofqual and entered on the Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) at Level 6, the same level as the Signature Level 6 NVQ Diploma in Sign Language Interpreting, the qualification certifying fitness to practise for those who want to become a British Sign Language/ English Interpreter.

For Mr Walker to state that BSL practitioners have “faced and met far higher standards of assessment and scrutiny of their skills than those working with foreign languages” is therefore not only misleading but false.

Sarah Heaps, Marketing, Communic­ations and PR Manager Chartered Institute of Linguists