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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

PQ - 29th February 2012

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2012-02-29a.96325.h

29 Feb 2012
Criminal Proceedings: Translation Services
Justice

John Leech (Manchester, Withington, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many interpreters on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters have worked for his Department under its framework agreement with Applied Language Solutions since August 2011.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The Ministry of Justice began using services under its contract with Applied Language Services in December 2011. The information requested is not held by the Ministry of Justice. Interpreters provided under this contract must have appropriate qualifications.

Lost in translation

Wednesday 29 February 2012 by John Hyde

Lost in translation
Perhaps Crispin Blunt MP spent the first two weeks of February on holiday on the moon.
Maybe the justice minister was too busy perfecting that unnerving stare that gives him the air of a Stalinist henchman who’s been giving the task of breaking bad news to Uncle Joe. Whatever it was, he wasn’t listening to interpreters. How else to explain his extraordinary statement, made in a written answer in the House of Commons this week, that ‘ministers were made aware of difficulties with the service provided by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) on 14 February 2012’.
For those unaware, ALS is a private company that was awarded exclusive rights to supply interpreters to our courts and tribunals, starting on 1 February. The Valentine’s Day news may have come as a shock to Blunt and his chums in government, but the rest of us were miles ahead of them. In fact, excuse us blowing our own trumpet, but a glance at the Law Society Gazette on 9 February might have given him an inkling of the problem.
Sure, we tucked it away on the front page and gave it the cryptic headline of ‘Interpreting hub a false economy’, but surely someone at the Ministry of Justice could have picked it up? And, whilst this may surprise some regular commenters, we didn’t just fabricate the story either. Interpreters were coming to us in their droves to tell us how rotten this new system was. If anything the howls of protest have grown louder since.
Critics claim that ALS interpreters have failed to attend hearings and were ill-prepared for work in courts and tribunals. Trials are delayed or held back, and worst of all some defendants are being held at least an extra night whilst someone is found to tell them what they are being charged with.
Interpreters are right to claim theirs is an under-estimated skill. They are not mere translators; they are required to comprehend complex legal terms and package them in a way that is easy to understand. It seems like a lifetime ago that the government was trumpeting this translation service as a salvation, a chance to dispense of those profligate freelancers and save a cool £18m a year.
Blunt’s colleague Nick Herbert predicted a more ‘efficient and effective’ system that ensured high-quality interpreters. Perhaps it’s starting to sink in how difficult a task that will be.
Since the launch, ALS has re-written its expenses rates, courts have been given permission to appoint their own interpreters and the department itself has labeled the performance ‘unacceptable’. Quite when the £18m savings kick in we’re not sure.
ALS has to get its house in order, but it’s difficult to see how. Established interpreters say they are more likely to quit the profession than work for an agency, leaving a diminishing pool of potential workers. The only option will be to jack up pay rates, but with shareholders to satisfy (don’t forget, ALS is owned by Capita) the margin for manoeuvre is limited.
We should keep in mind this is a contract in its infancy. The company and its governmental overlord have time to get this right and we should give them the benefit of the doubt for now. For all the criticism encircling it, ALS as a company has been open with us about the issues it faces and insists that performance has already improved significantly.
But the prospect of a smooth-running interpreting service is currently as much a triumph of hope as expectation. If there is no obvious turnaround by the summer, drastic action may be required. But for that we’re relying on a department that couldn’t even detect discontent on the issue for two weeks. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

PQs - 28th February 2012


28 Feb 2012
Translation Services
Justice

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 5 July 2011, Official Report, columns 86-7WS, on interpretation and translation services how the figure of £18 million was calculated;
(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of his Department's adoption of the Framework Agreement on translation services;
(3) what impact assessment was carried out before awarding a contract for outsourced translation support to Applied Language Solutions;
(4) what discussions he had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the contract for translation services for the Olympic Games with Applied Language Solutions (a) prior to and (b) after awarding the contract for court translation services to that company;
(5) how many and what proportion of criminal trials required the presence of a translator in the last year;
(6) pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Tooting of 13 October 2011, Official Report, columns 534-6W and the answer to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South of 20 December 2011, Official Report, column 1135W, which six organisations were invited to give outline solutions for the Commercial Framework Agreement to deliver language services in the criminal justice system; and which organisations were invited to submit detailed solutions.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The information is as follows:
(1) The estimated annual spend across the justice sector is in the region of £60 million. This was calculated using sample data provide by justice organisations. Savings were modelled using detailed sample data from the police, tribunals, courts and the Crown Prosecution Service comparing rates paid under previous arrangements against cost under the new arrangements. This provided a figure in the region of £18 million savings across the justice sector taking account those police forces which had initially expressed an interest in signing contracts under the framework agreement.
(2) The precise annual cost of the contract will depend on the number of interpreters required under the new system. Based on current patterns of demand we anticipate that once fully embedded the annual cost will be in the region of £18 million (based on the current cost of £30 million). The new contract will provide much greater transparency of the overall cost of interpretation and translation.
(3) The Ministry of Justice considered all the impacts of the new delivery mechanism including conducting an equality impact assessment.
(4) The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke, has not had any discussions with the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend Mr Hunt about the award of any contracts for language services for the Olympics. The Ministry of Justice contract for language services was awarded to Applied Language Solutions following a fair and open procurement process.
(5) This information is not available.
(6) The six organisations invited to submit an outline solutions were:
Applied Language Solutions;
Language Line Services;
The Big Word;
K International plc;
Computacentre UK Ltd; and
Merrill Legal Solutions.
The three organisations invited to submit a detailed solution were:
Applied Language Solutions;
Language Line Services; and
The Big Word.





28 Feb 2012
Olympic Games 2012: Interpreters
Culture Media and Sport

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the (a) effectiveness and (b) usability of his Department's contract with Applied Language Solutions for court translation services; and if he will make a statement.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
I have been asked to reply
on behalf of the Department for Justice.
There have been an unacceptable number of problems in the first few weeks of the contract and we have made clear to the contractor that this must be changed. The contractor is taking urgent steps to improve performance including providing additional staff to deal with bookings, further targeted recruitment of interpreters in key languages and improvements to the call handling and complaints process.





28 Feb 2012
Translation Services
Justice

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what discussions (a) Ministers and (b) civil servants have had with the European Commission on Directive 2010/64/EU; whether the United Kingdom has notified the European Commission of a wish to participate in the adoption and application of this Directive; when the UK plans to transpose the Directive fully; what assessment has been made of the compatibility of the Framework Agreement on translation services with the Directive; and whether Applied Language Solutions will be bound by the Directive in its implementation of its contract for outsourced translation services.

Jonathan Djanogly (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (HM Courts Service and Legal Aid), Justice; Huntingdon, Conservative)
Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings was negotiated in the usual way within the ordinary legislative procedure. This process involves a number of expert Working Groups where officials represent the UK to develop the text. It was also discussed by officials at COREPER before coming to Ministers in a JHA Council for agreement. There have been no specific meetings between officials or Ministers and the European Commission to discuss this directive outside this process.
The UK Government opted into the directive at the outset of negotiations and agreed to the final text at a JHA Council in October 2010. The directive has an implementation date of 27 October 2013, which is common to all member states bound by the directive. The UK will take steps to implement the measure fully by that time. Analysis of the options for implementation is under way and the Government will consider these in due course. The Framework Agreement with Applied Language Solutions makes clear that provision of service must be compliant with the requirements of any EU measures on interpretation or translation.

Language problem


Language problem
ANALYSIS. John Storer writes about the growing crisis enveloping a controversial new contract to run court interpreter services.

[…]
Flight risk
Anyway, there I was at Boston Magistrates’ Court on the second or third day of the new system. I was court duty solicitor, and was told there was a young Rumanian lad in custody. He’d been charged with (and admitted when interviewed by the police) a very large shop theft. He’d never been in court before. I was told an interpreter had been booked for 9.30am.
By 11.00am, and no interpreter had arrived, I started to make enquiries. The police confirmed they had booked one, but then rang me back to tell me they had been told by ALS that ‘no one had picked up the job’. I could not even explain to my client (who had not had the benefit of legal advice whilst at the police station – his own choosing) why there was a delay.
Several phone calls later, I was told an interpreter would be with me for 1.00pm. She arrived at 1.35pm, having driven many miles from another county. I was pleased to see she was nationally-registered. The National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) maintains a register of professional, qualified and accountable public service interpreters.
So I was sure she would know what she was doing. And she did. We dealt with the case very swiftly after her arrival. She then began to tell me some real horror stories about the quality of some of her ‘colleagues’ who had joined ALS and who held no qualifications at all.
For instance, she told me that she had heard a custody sergeant refuse a detainee bail because he was ‘a flight risk’. Anyone in the criminal justice system would know that this meant he might abscond and fail to surrender to his bail at court. However, this was translated by the ‘interpreter’ into ‘You must stay here to stop you catching a plane’
Still, I was hopeful. Here was an interpreter who knew her stuff. Perhaps there would be others like her? I have not yet found out; she is the only interpreter who has turned up for any of my cases. So far, I am personally aware of 16 cases where the interpreter has simply failed to attend. Many of these have been for defendants in custody. One was charged with murder.
ALS have confirmed that ‘some’ cases have been cancelled because the firm was unable to provide interpreters. ‘Unfortunately that has been true in some cases which is something that we are working extremely hard to resolve,’ an ALS spokesperson said. Actually, I reckon this has been true in the majority of cases in our area and it is clear that the same thing has happened in courts up and down the country.

A mess of their own making
The ALS has acknowledged that there have been circumstances where it had not been possible to fulfil a booking at short notice. It added: ‘Prior to rollout there was limited accurate management information available regarding the expected daily volumes of short notice interpreter requests.
This is a five year, £300m contract – are they seriously saying that they did not actually know what was expected to fulfil that contract?

Monday, 27 February 2012

PQs - 27th February 2012

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2012-02-27c.96157.h

27 Feb 2012
Translation Services
Justice

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) what arrangements have been put into place to make up for problems with the provision of translators by Applied Language Solutions;
(2) whether he has asked Applied Language Solutions to provide qualifications and background for each of its translators;
(3) how many people were remanded in custody at bail hearings as a result of an interpreter not being available, in the last period for which figures are available.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The information is as follows:
(1) We are committed to ensuring the rights and needs of those who require interpreters are safeguarded and we have asked the contractor to take urgent steps to improve performance. In addition, as a short term measure, courts and tribunals have reverted to the old booking system for short-notice assignments.
(2) I have not requested this information. The contractor is obliged to ensure that the interpreters they use have appropriate qualifications, skills, experience and are appropriately vetted. Should any concerns arise about the quality, qualifications or background of individual interpreters there is a robust complaints mechanism.
(3) This information is not collected.





27 Feb 2012
Translation Services
Justice

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many times (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) civil servants in his Department have met (i) Mr Anthony Dixon and (ii) other directors of Applied Language Solutions.

Kenneth Clarke (Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State, Justice; Rushcliffe, Conservative)
Neither I nor my ministerial team in the Ministry of Justice have held meetings with directors of Applied Language Solutions. Special advisers in the Department have also not attended meetings with directors of Applied Language Solutions.
Ministry of Justice officials have met directors of Applied Language Solutions on a number of occasions since 3 November 2010 and continue to attend meetings with them. Initially this was part of the competitive dialogue process and following that to discuss the development of the Ministry of Justice framework agreement and contract.





27 Feb 2012
Applied Language Solutions
Justice

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) when he was made aware of problems with the provision of translators to the courts service by Applied Language Solutions; and if he will make a statement;
(2) whether (a) he, (b) other Ministers in his Department and (c) officials in his Department had any involvement in the acquisition of Applied Language Solutions by Capita; and if he will make a statement;
(3) whether providers of interpretation and translation services to the courts are required to undertake Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on their employees; and whether Applied Language Solutions undertakes CRB checks on its interpreters;
(4) what long-term measures he plans to implement to ensure that Applied Language Solutions provides qualified interpreters to the courts service.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The information is as follows.
(1) Ministers were made aware of difficulties with the service provided by Applied Language Solutions on 14 February 2012. We are committed to ensuring that the rights and needs of those who require interpreters are safeguarded and we have asked the contractor to take urgent steps to improve performance. I am receiving regular reports on progress.
(2) Neither the Secretary of State for Justice, nor Justice Ministers or Ministry of Justice officials had any involvement in the acquisition of ALS by Capita.
(3) The contractor is required to ensure appropriate Criminal Records Bureau checks are undertaken.
(4) The Ministry have made clear to the contractor that the problems must be addressed immediately. The contractor is taking urgent steps to improve performance including providing additional staff to deal with bookings, further targeted recruitment of interpreters in key languages and improvements to the call handling and complaints process. The Ministry is monitoring performance on a daily basis.

Dismay at absence of interpreters

27 February 2012

Dismay at absence of interpreters
A Lithuanian man will face a charge of failing to provide a specimen of breath. The case of Andrejus Kiseliovas, of Derwent Road, Grantham, was adjourned until March 22 as an interpreter was unable to attend the magistrates’ court on Wednesday. Kiseliovas, 41, was arrested in Springfield Road on February 4.
A further three cases were forced to be adjourned when interpreters did not arrive at the court, to the frustration of advocates who called their absence “unacceptable”.