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Thursday, 31 May 2012

'Self-serving' interpreter figures slammed

31 May 2012 by Catherine Baksi

'Self-serving' interpreter figures slammed
The shadow justice minister has criticised as ‘self-serving’ performance data released on the company contracted to provide court interpreters. The data, published by the Ministry of Justice last week, revealed that hundreds of cases were still being disrupted by a shortage of interpreters three months into the contract.
Applied Language Solutions (ALS) took over the provision of interpreters to courts in February under a contract which aims to cut costs by a third. Members of several groups representing professional interpreters are refusing to work with the Capita-owned company.
The performance data reveal that from 30 January to 30 April ALS provided an interpreter in 81% of the cases where courts requested one. Its performance target was 98%. There were 26,059 requests for interpreters at courts and tribunals in England and Wales, covering 142 languages in the period.
Overall ‘fulfilment’ rate for requests increased from 65% in February to 90% in April, with success rates varying between 58-95% for the 20 most requested languages.
The figures were given to the MoJ by ALS, and verified by ‘spot checks’ carried out by the courts service, the MoJ said.
Andy Slaughter said this week that the figures were ‘substantially self-serving’. Even so, he added, they indicate ‘meltdown’ from day one, and show that hundreds of hearings are still being disrupted. He said the figures failed to quantify knock-on costs of the failures to provide interpreters: ‘In some incidences, where people have been detained unnecessarily in custody overnight or where Crown court trials have been adjourned, those costs could run into thousands of pounds.’
An MoJ spokesman said: ‘We have seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance. We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis.’

No interpreter provided


Judge Zoe Smith did not ask Shafi to confirm his name and address because no interpreter was present.

Shafi, from Pakistan, was not asked to confirm his address or date of birth as an interpreter had not been provided.
The 28-year-old, who speaks limited English, was flanked by two security guards as he appeared in the dock for the brief hearing.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

ALS, alack!

ALS, alack!
It was a bad week for solicitor-general Edward Garnier, starting with a ticking-off from the speaker for his “eccentric” habit of turning his back on the House while he was trying to reassure MPs concerned about the state of the monopoly contract on foreign language interpreting in the courts (Eyes passim).
“The contract with Applied Language Solutions [ALS] is now running properly, he insisted. “The company has got a grip on it and we can expect nothing but progress from here on.”
Whoops! Not only did the roof of Garnier’s Stockwell townhouse collapsed later in the week, but official Ministry of Justice figures published on Thursday reveal the extent of ALS’s failures to supply an interpreter in thousands of cases. Between 30 January and 30 April, the Capita-owned firm failed to provide an interpreter 19 percent of the time, out of more than 23,000 instances where the court asked for one.
At one point during that period the “success rate” (ie cases where ALS actually sent someone) had dropped to 69 percent of tribunal cases and 58 percent of court cases. By the end of April it had crept up to 90 percent – still a poor showing against the 98 percent target in the contract and still far from “running properly”. Of the 2,232 complaints about ALS reported to the ministry, 44 percent were about no-shows.
Even when it does send along an interpreter, ALS continues to cause problems for courts. In Leeds recently, Judge Batty halted a sham marriage trial to ask why the ALS-supplied Slovak interpreter had stopped interpreting for the defendant and it discovered that it was because she couldn’t understand what defence counsel was saying.
The case was only able to continue because one of the qualified interpreters boycotting ALS was observing from the public gallery and volunteered to step in.

Private Eye, Issue 1315 (1 to 14 June 2012), page 31.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

UK judiciary express concern about court interpreting

http://www.eulita.eu/uk-judiciary-express-concern-about-court-interpreting

UK judiciary express concern about court interpreting
The Judiciary has begun to speak out against the private contract for court interpreting awarded by the Ministry of Justice to Applied Language Solutions, owned by Capita, which came into operation on 30th January 2012.
In the meantime the additional costs of trial adjournments due to shortages of interpreters in the first three months of the contract have prompted Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, to forward her concerns to the National Audit Office, asking them to look into the Framework Agreement (FWA) from a value for money perspective. The Justice Select Committee has also stated it is likely to review the matter.
David Radford, Resident Judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court (writing in the May issue of the London Advocate) says: “We have been badly affected by the change to one contractor”. He goes onto say of the contract: “It was introduced without the full board approval of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals service, including the judicial representatives. I believe the contract is now being monitored on a weekly basis.”
Concerns from other judges have been published elsewhere, including Yorkshire Evening Post. Judge Christopher Batty at Leeds Crown Court on 4th May announced he would make a formal complaint when he had to dismiss a Slovak interpreter, booked by ALS, because she could not understand what was going on in the case of a sham marriage gang.
Barrister Tariq Rehman from Birmingham Chambers was acting for one of the five defendants and witnessed the proceedings, which were saved from being abandoned when a volunteer interpreter, who is boycotting the new system, stepped in from the public gallery to help. He says:
“The bottom line, as far as I am concerned as a barrister, is that this is typical of the Minister of Justice not interested at all in the slightest as to whether the change of course is going to compromise the service and quality as long as they are going to save money. This was not an isolated incident; I have seen it elsewhere as well.”
A London Barrister, Kevin Metzger from Grays Inn Square, says: “It’s all about fairness and the principles of Common Law and natural justice – if you don’t understand what’s being said about you or you can’t explain yourself, the principal of fairness goes out the window. I really think that the authorities ought to look very carefully at the cost cutting because it will end up bringing our system of justice into disrepute.”
He added: “What is sad is that we have prided ourselves on a system of justice that the whole world has looked up to and we have now got ourselves into a situation where we could be accused of merely paying lip service to it.”


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Chaotic start for company that clinched multimillion pound deal to provide translators for courts and inquests

24 May 2012

Chaotic start for company that clinched multimillion pound deal to provide translators for courts and inquests
The company that clinched the multimillion pound deal to provide translators for courts and inquests is being monitored daily after a chaotic start to its contract, the Ministry of Justice said today.
Applied Language Solutions (ALS) has come under fire after repeated complaints about interpreters failing to turn up and money wasted through court delays and cancellations.
There have also been several farcical moments, including a judge ordering a retrial of a burglary prosecution after a Romanian interpreter confused the words “beaten” and “bitten”.
ALS was set a 98 per cent success rate by the MoJ, which was defined by a translator turning up to a job and completing it.
According to MoJ figures today, it had achieved 65 per cent in February, 82 per cent in March and 90 per cent in April.
ALS was founded in 2003 by Gavin Wheeldon, who launched the company out of his back bedroom. He appeared on BBC2’s Dragon’s Den, unsuccessfully attempting to persuade its entrepreneurs to invest in his firm. Despite that setback, it now has 130 full-time staff and an annual turnover of more than £10m.
When it won the contract, it argued that it would cut the £60m yearly cost of providing translators by one-third.
An MoJ spokesman said yesterday: “We continue to monitor performance on a daily basis.
“However, the contract is now delivering an effective service and we expect to see improvements in the coming months.”
He added: “There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled. Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced substantially.”
Over the three-month period ALS received 26,059 requests for translators covering 142 languages. Four languages accounted for more than a third of requests: Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian.

Court cases hampered by translation failures

24 May 2012

Court cases hampered by translation failures
Up to 50 court cases a day were delayed or postponed because of failures by a translation contractor to provide an adequate service
The Ministry of Justice is monitoring the performance of Applied Language Solutions (ALS) after it failed to meet targets.
Judges and court users have complained of delays and even failures by interpreters to turn up since ALS took on the £300 million five-year contract in February.
Figures yesterday showed that the company only fulfilled 81 per cent of the 23,234 requests for its services made between February and April this year.
Complaints have included failures to show, poor language skills by the interpreters or no one being available.
Interpreters said they had boycotted the firm in reaction to low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.
Between January 30 and April 30, there were 2,232 complaints about the translator service.
The figures showed that by April, the success rate for ALS in fulfilling requests had risen to 90 per cent, but that was still short of the 98 per cent target set by the Ministry of Justice.
An MoJ spokesman said: "We continue to monitor performance on a daily basis.
"However, the contract is now delivering an effective service and we expect to see improvements in the coming months."
The spokesman added: "We have now seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance.
"There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled.
"Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced substantially and close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract.
"We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis."
The MoJ report also revealed the scale of the impact immigration has had on the courts system.
A total of 26,059 requests for translation services, covering 142 different languages, were made by the courts during the three months of February to April.
That is the equivalent of 290 a day, with criminal courts accounting for 53 per cent of them.
Four languages made up more than a third of all requests: Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian.

Official statistics reveal ALS performance shortfall

24 May 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Official statistics reveal ALS performance shortfall
Three months into its contract to provide court interpreters Applied Language Solutions (ALS) was not meeting its performance targets, statistics published today reveal. Data provided to the Ministry of Justice by ALS, showed that from 30 January to 30 April 2012, ALS provided an interpreter in 81% of the cases where courts requested one. Its performance target was 98%.
In the first three months of the contract, there were 26,059 requests for interpreters at courts and tribunals in England and Wales, covering 142 languages. Of the initial requests, 2,825 (11%) were either cancelled by the court, or the person who made the request failed to attend. These figures are not included in the fulfillment numbers.
The figures show that the overall success rate for requests increased from 65% in February to 90% in April, with success rates varying between 58-95% for the 20 most requested languages at all courts, and between 69-94% at tribunals.
There were 2,232 complaints relating to the requests during the period. The complaints, categorised by ALS, show that 44% were due to interpreters not attending, 23% were due to ‘operational issues’ and 3% concerned the quality of the interpreter.
Four languages - Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian - accounted for over a third of all language requests.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: 'We have now seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance. There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled. Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced substantially and close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract. We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis.'
Earlier this week the solicitor general Edward Garnier QC told the House of Commons that the contract with ALS ‘is now running properly’. He said: ‘The company has got a grip on it and we can expect nothing but progress from here on.’

MOJ to monitor court interpreters after one in ten fail to turn up or get translation wrong

24 May 2012

MOJ to monitor court interpreters after one in ten fail to turn up or get translation wrong
The company tasked with providing translators to courts and tribunals will be monitored daily after failing to meet targets, the Ministry of Justice said today.
Applied Language Solutions (ALS) was 8 per cent off target from January to April this year after recently landing the contract.
ALS was set a 98 per cent success rate - measured on an interpreter turning up to the job and completing it.
MoJ figures released today showed the firm had increased its success rate from 65 per cent in February to 90 per cent in April.
An MoJ spokesman said: ''We continue to monitor performance on a daily basis.
''However, the contract is now delivering an effective service and we expect to see improvements in the coming months.''
The spokesman added: ''We have now seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance.
''There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled.
''Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced substantially and close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract.
''We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis.''
The MoJ said the definitions of whether interpreters completed or not were decided by the company itself.
The deal with ALS has come under fire after repeated complaints about interpreters failing to turn up, wasting taxpayers' money through court delays and cancellations.
The company had claimed its contract, which started formally on February 1, would save the Government £60 million over five years.
But many interpreters said they had boycotted the firm in reaction to low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.

guardian.co.uk - Statistics

24 May 2012

[…]
The MoJ also issued figures on interpreting services in court following the launch of a controversial private contract in January.
They show that Applied Language Solutions (ALS) was still failing to meet its contract targets three months after it took over responsibility for providing interpreters to all courts in England and Wales.
The firm's contract with the MoJ requires it to supply interpreters for 98% of all court and tribunal bookings.
In February, the firm had a success rate of only 65%, though that had risen to 90% by April. There were 2,232 complaints about language services over the first three months of the year.

Statistics on the use of language services in courts and tribunal

24 May 2012

Statistics on the use of language services in courts and tribunals

Initial bulletin, 30 January 2012 to 30 April 2012
The report is released by the Ministry of Justice and produced in accordance with arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Introduction
The data presented in this bulletin are for face-to-face language services provided to HM Courts and Tribunals Service made and completed between the start of the national language services framework on 30 January 2012 and 30 April 2012. Request made before 30 January were part of the pilot phase, and are not reported here. Requests are made in advance and may be subject to adjournment, delays or cancellation.

Main findings
Number of requests for language services
Between 30 January 2012 and 30 April 2012 there were 26,059 requests for language services covering 142 different languages.
The majority of these, 53% involved criminal cases, 39% were for tribunal cases, and the remaining 8% for civil or family cases.
The Courts and Tribunal Service cancelled or failed to attend 11% of requests.

Of the remaining 23,234 request, the contractor Applied Language Solutions were able to fulfil 18,719 or 81% of the assignments.
However, presenting a single quarterly figure hides a very marked trend over the three months of increasing success rates for requests for translators. In February, the success rate was 65%, increasing to 82% in March and 90% in April.

Four languages: Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian account for more than a third of all language requests received. However, the pattern different in courts (where Polish was the most frequently requested language with 3,152 requests) compared to tribunals (where Urdu was the most frequently requested language with1,080 requests).

For the 20 most requested languages, the success rates vary from 58% to 95%. The lowest success rates are for Latvian, Lithuanian and Vietnamese at courts and Tamil at tribunals.


PQ - 24 May 2012


24 May 2012
Courts: Translation Services
Justice

Jim Cunningham (Coventry South, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) what meetings he has had with representatives of court interpreters on changes to funding of interpretation services;
(2) what meetings he has had with representatives of (a) ethnic minorities and (b) the police on changes to funding for court interpreters.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The Secretary of State for Justice has not met with representative interpreter groups however the Ministry sought interpreters' views on the industry during a series of four road shows during late 2009; met various stakeholders in August and September 2010 and consulted key interested parties, including the police, on the proposed framework agreement as part of the procurement process and received a wide range of views in response. Now that the framework agreement has been implemented the Ministry continues to receive, consider and respond to correspondence from interested parties and groups.
In accordance with our obligations under the Equality Act 2010 the Department and Ministers had due regard to the public sector equality duty before making changes to interpretation services and published a full equality impact assessment. Following this, the Ministry has not received any requests for meetings with ethnic minority group.

Solicitor-General rejects call for inquiry into ALS

24 May 2012

Solicitor-General rejects call for inquiry into ALS
The Solicitor-General has rejected calls for an investigation into a Saddleworth company which provides interpreting and translating services for courts.
Last year Applied Language Solutions won a five-year Government contract to provide translation and interpreting services for the police and courts.
But the deal with the Ministry of Justice, which was expected to save £18 million a year, has been criticised in the Commons by Labour.
Analysis
During Commons questions to the Attorney General, Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter said: “Reports from the media, the courts and interpreters themselves show, contrary to his briefing, that problems with Applied Language Solutions are getting worse not better.
“The Ministry of Justice is intending to publish its analysis of their performance this week, based on data we understand collected by ALS themselves.
“So will the Law Officers conduct their own investigation of the collapse of interpreting and translating service in our courts, one that will put the interests of justice before the self-serving interests of the Ministry of Justice and its contractor.”
Solicitor General Edward Garnier refused to investigate Delph-based ALS and said the contract was working well.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Justice Committee - 23 May 2012


HoC Justice Committee
23 May 2012

Transcription

Karl Tuner (Kingston upon Hull East, Labour)
Are there any specifics where you think it’s gone wrong?
I am thinking of the Language Services Framework, for example, the Applied Language Solutions, in my own experience it’s been a disaster.

Kenneth Clarke (Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State, Justice; Rushcliffe, Conservative)
Yes, that is a bit of an industrial dispute. Well, it’s a bit of an industrial dispute. We are […] we thought it was completely out of control the expenditure on the interpretation service we therefore... that is why we went out to contract to try to systemise it and really get our costs under control and actually it’s people who interpret in particular languages who’ve got upset about the impact on their potential income... so I am not closely involved but at the moment I am looking at that and thinking this is largely an industrial relations dispute and pay and conditions dispute which I hope will soon be resolved and it is getting better.

(from 15:21:15 to 15:22:01)

See Hear - episode 8

See Hear

Episode 8 of 38, Series 32
See Hear takes an in-depth look at the current state of interpreter services in the UK. Has the ongoing economic crisis led to a fall in standards and, as an integral part of life for the deaf community, are people getting the quality of service and standards they require?


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

PQs - 22 May 2012


22 May 2012
Interpreters (Prosecutions)
Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General


Nicholas Dakin (Scunthorpe, Labour)
If he will assess the effect on the cost of prosecutions of delays caused by the absence of an interpreter.

Edward Garnier (Solicitor General; Harborough, Conservative)
The CPS has no central records on the cost of court delays caused by the absence of an interpreter, but common sense tells me that such delays resulting from the absence of a necessary interpreter waste time and money.

Nicholas Dakin (Scunthorpe, Labour)
Apparently, Jajo the rabbit is now a registered interpreter and translator. Does the Solicitor-General agree that that latest embarrassment illustrates the utter shambles that the contracting out of the interpreter and translator service has become?

Edward Garnier (Solicitor General; Harborough, Conservative)
It was a joke and, even if it was not a joke, he has been deregistered.

Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed, Liberal Democrat)
What discussions is the Solicitor-General having with his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to ensure that the contract provisions are carefully examined and, if necessary, penalties are imposed if the service is not up to the standard required?

Edward Garnier (Solicitor General; Harborough, Conservative)
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I discussed that matter only this morning with colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and am assured by the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Mr Blunt, that the contract with Applied Language Solutions is now running properly. The company has got a grip on it and we can expect nothing but progress from here on.

John Bercow (Speaker)
So that we get the full benefit of the Solicitor-General’s eloquence, perhaps he could—

Edward Garnier (Solicitor General; Harborough, Conservative)
Shall I repeat the answer?

John Bercow (Speaker)
I do not think that that will be necessary, but perhaps in future the hon. and learned Gentleman would face the House. We would all be greatly obliged.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
It is my pleasure to stand in for the shadow Attorney-General, my hon. Friend Emily Thornberry—I understand that she has informed the Attorney-General, if not the Solicitor-General. Reports from the media, the courts and interpreters themselves show that, contrary to the Solicitor-General’s briefing, problems with ALS are getting worse, not better. The MOJ intends to publish its analysis of ALS’s performance this week, based on data that I understand were collected by ALS itself. Will the Law Officers conduct their own investigation of the collapse of the interpreting and translating service in our courts, one that will put the interests of justice before the self-serving interests of the Ministry of Justice and its contractor?

Edward Garnier (Solicitor General; Harborough, Conservative)
No, I genuinely do not believe that to be necessary, and I think that the hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. The ALS contract is working well. If he knows of any particular instances where it is not, no doubt he will tell the Ministry of Justice about them, but I think I am prepared to believe my hon. Friends in the MOJ a little bit before I believe him.

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham, Conservative)
What mechanisms exist for the CPS to communicate concerns with regard to the quality of interpretation both to the Law Officers and, indeed, to the Ministry of Justice?

Edward Garnier (Solicitor General; Harborough, Conservative)
The CPS can tell us; my hon. and learned Friend can tell us; he can tell the Ministry of Justice; we can tell the Ministry of Justice—[ Interruption. ]

John Bercow (Speaker)
The demeanour of the Solicitor-General is eccentric. I cannot account for how he performs in Her Majesty’s courts, but in the Chamber it would be helpful if he looked in the direction of the generality of Members.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Plan to cut spending on court interpreters leads to farce

21 May 2012

Plan to cut spending on court interpreters leads to farce
Rethink prompted after solicitors resort to Google Translate to understand their clients
A defendant dubbed a "pervert" by mistake, a rabbit applying to be a Czech language specialist and solicitors using the Google Translate website to understand their clients: the debacle surrounding court interpreters has had its amusing moments.
Now the situation has apparently become so serious that both the Commons Justice Select Committee and the National Audit Office have confirmed that they may investigate the new private contract.
In February, the Ministry of Justice decided to replace the ad hoc system under which interpreters were hired as and when needed. They hoped a single private contract with Applied Language Solutions (ALS) would slash the £60m annual bill by a third.
The decision led to a boycott by many interpreters, outraged at what they described as "woefully inadequate" wages from ALS, which is owned by the support services company Capita. The result has been a host of adjourned trials and some that have collapsed. A retrial was ordered three days into a burglary case at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London when it emerged that the Romanian interpreter had muddled the words "beaten" and "bitten".
Judge David Radford, who presides at Snaresbrook, said recently that some cases had been "badly affected".
In April, the barrister Andrew Dallas said it might be quicker for him to learn Czech when an interpreter failed to turn up at Bradford Crown Court to translate for his client, who was accused of attempted murder.
In another case, a Vietnamese translator was told to make a 560-mile round-trip from Newcastle for an eight-minute hearing at South-East Suffolk Magistrates' Court. Solicitors at the court in Ipswich complained that they were sometimes forced to use the internet to translate.
Neil Saunders, who was defending a Vietnamese client accused of growing cannabis, said no translator turned up at four previous hearings. "Farcical is not the right word. It's actually a tragedy," he said.
In other examples, a man charged with perverting justice was told he was "a pervert", while a volunteer had to be pulled from the public gallery to translate for a Slovak defendant. To make a point, a Czech interpreter, Marie Adamova, applied to register her rabbit, Jajo, with ALS. He was promptly sent a dozen emails by the company.
Last week, the National Register of Public Service Interpreters told the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke: "The concerns we referred to in February have not gone away. Indeed, the position now appears to be worsening almost daily, to the detriment of both professional interpreters and, equally importantly in our view, to the efficient and fair administration of public service across most of the justice sector."
A spokesman for ALS said yesterday: "ALS is happy to co-operate fully with any review though has not, to date, been approached on that basis by any of the bodies mentioned."
The Ministry of Justice insisted: "We have now seen a sustained improvement in performance. There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled.
"Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced significantly. Close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract."

PQ - 21 May 2012


21 May 2012
Translation Services
Justice

Nick de Bois (Enfield North, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) how many (a) tier 1, (b) tier 2 and (c) tier 3 interpreters have been supplied by Applied Language Solutions for (i) Crown court and (ii) magistrates court hearings since the beginning of its contract with his Department; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what proportion of interpreters supplied by Applied Language Solutions are registered with the National Register of Public Service Interpreters; and if he will make a statement;
(3) how many wasted costs applications were (a) lodged and (b) granted due to interpretation failures in (i) 2009, (ii) 2010 and (iii) 2011; and if he will make a statement;
(4) how many wasted costs applications were (a) lodged and (b) granted against Applied Language Solutions due to interpretation failures since the beginning of its contract with his Department; and if he will make a statement.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
Under the contract for interpretation and translation services it is for Applied Language Solutions to provide interpreters at the appropriate tier to meet the requirements of each booking. The Ministry does not hold information on the tiering status of individual interpreters, their qualifications, or what organisations they are members of Those are matters for the contractor. The Ministry has announced that it intends to publish statistics on the use of interpreters on 24 May.
Decisions about whether to make wasted costs orders and third party costs orders are at the discretion of the court. Information about the number of cases where wasted costs have been considered is not collected centrally by the Ministry.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

PIA Meeting for Interpreters: Why you should Join the Boycott


PIA Meeting for Interpreters: Why you should Join the Boycott

“What we had today was a room full of passionate interpreters who care about standards and access. Who have earned very little money in the last three months. Who understand that to work for this contract is to put nails in the proverbial coffin of our profession.”


Thursday, 17 May 2012

ALS interpreters contract facing renewed scrutiny

17 May 2012 by Catherine Baksi

ALS interpreters contract facing renewed scrutiny
The deal between the Ministry of Justice and the private company contracted to provide court interpreters is to face scrutiny from parliamentary watchdogs, as cases continue to be disrupted by poor performance and non-attendance of interpreters.
Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office told the Gazette that it has received ‘a number of representations’ about the Applied Language Solutions contract from parties including members of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, and said it is ‘considering the matter’.
Meanwhile the Commons Justice Committee said it has received correspondence and is likely to ‘pursue the matter’, either as a standalone project or as part of a wider examination of the court service. In March, the committee questioned Peter Handcock, head of the court services, on the contract and what could happen if performance levels, which in its first week were quantified at just 40%, did not improve.
Committee chair Sir Alan Beith told the Gazette that it is ‘subjecting to scrutiny the performance of the contract’, taking up with Handcock criticisms of interpreters’ attendance and quality. ‘We’ve put questions in writing to [Handcock] to find out records of the number of adjournments etc, what feedback they have had about the contract, the qualifications required by the interpreters and the fulfilment of the contract,’ said Beith.
Meanwhile, the resident judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court, David Radford, alleged that the contractual arrangements had been ‘introduced without the full board approval of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, including the judicial representatives’.
In an interview with the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, he said the change to one contractor to provide interpreters, rather than courts individually booking interpreters from a national register, had ‘badly affected’ his own court. Radford said the MoJ did not ‘sufficiently have in mind the whole country’ when the new arrangements were rolled out nationally after a pilot on the northern circuit.
The contract, awarded to Oldham-based ALS, began on 1 February. It is intended to cut the MoJ’s £60m annual spend on interpreters by £18m. Weeks after the contract was awarded, ALS was acquired by support services company Capita.
Many interpreters who had provided their services directly to the courts under the old regime have refused to work for ALS, citing concerns over fees and quality of service.

Valerie Vaz questions Minister about the failings of outsourced court interpreters

May 17th, 2012

Valerie Vaz questions Minister about the failings of outsourced court interpreters

On Tuesday 15 May 2012, at Justice Oral Questions, Valerie Vaz, MP for Walsall South, asked the Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt MP, about the performance of the outsourced court interpreters, Applied Language Solutions (ALS).

Valerie Vaz MP said:

“Previously, courts were able to select interpreters from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI). However, since ALS were awarded the Government contract to provide all court interpreting services in January 2012, there have been numerous stories of long delays and instances where interpreters were late, underprepared, underqualified or failed to turn up at all. This has resulted in a number of hearings being adjourned and could lead to legal challenges and miscarriages of justice.

“I met with interpreters from the West Midlands at my surgery who gave me a dossier of evidence which raises concerns about the administration of justice as a result of the substandard nature of the service provided by ALS. I have today written to the Lord Chancellor and enclosed this dossier. I urge him to act on the findings.”

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

PQs - 15 May 2012


15 May 2012

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South, Labour)
Constituents of mine who are interpreters have given me a dossier about Applied Language Solutions and its failings. Court hearings have been adjourned and costs have been incurred. Will the Minister update the House on what action he is taking against ALS—for breach of contract?

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
On 24 May, we will publish a full statistical analysis of the performance of ALS up to 30 April. Since the contract went national after a successful regional pilot in the north-west on 30 January, there were significant problems with the exercise of that contract, both related to the administration by ALS and to the attitude of interpreters engaging with ALS. I am pleased to be able to report to the House that the performance of ALS and its owner Capita has considerably improved in this area. The position has improved further since 30 April, and it is achieving very nearly now the performance required under the contract.





15 May 2012

Translation Services
Justice

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what proportion of hearings or trials requiring interpreters have been delayed due to Applied Language Solutions not providing an interpreter in the last year.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
Full implementation of the contract with Applied Language Solutions commenced on 30 January 2012. There were an unacceptable number of problems in the first weeks of full implementation of the contract, however the Government took swift action to require improvements and performance has now improved significantly.
Information on the number of hearings or trials delayed due to problems with the new interpretation and translation contract is not available. The Chief Statistician for the Ministry of Justice has already announced plans to publish statistics on the use of interpreters in courts on 24 May 2012.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Southampton run into procurement conflict of interest issues

By Peter Smith on May 14, 2012

Southampton run into procurement conflict of interest issues
We’ve kept off the problems with the UK government contract for interpreters and translators up to now because it has been pretty well covered by the mainstream media. But we’ve got another angle on it now, so to recap; the Ministry of Justice let a contract last year to Applied Language Solutions (ALS), a relatively small firm, to provide interpreters to the English and Wales Courts Service.
But they appear to have won the contract by promising large savings that replied on them reducing the price paid to the actual people who provide the services – who work as independents in the main. Those staff have not surprisingly been less than happy on occasion to see their rates halved or worse, so ALS have struggled at times to meet the service levels required.
Then, to add a bit more spice, Capita acquired ALS, which excited publications such as the Guardian and Private Eye who it’s fair to say don’t have a great affection for that firm! So the whole episode raises some pertinent questions about good procurement practice, to which we’ll return on another day. But we’ve now learnt of another twist.
Capita provide a procurement service to Southampton City Council on an outsourced service basis. Now, Southampton are running a tender for translation services, and guess what – ALS, a Capita firm, are bidding for it!
It appears that Southampton suddenly realised that this might cause a few issues, so they communicated with the other bidders to assure them that all steps would be taken to make sure things would be done properly to ensure fairness. the Council told bidders that processes, barriers, disciplines and confidentiality undertakings would be put in place to ensure there was no conflict of interest or inappropriate  disclosure of information within Capita.
But then the Council went on to say to bidders:
By confirming your intention to respond to this PQQ you acknowledge the involvement of the above members of the Capita Group in this procurement and confirm your acceptance of the adequacy of the measures put in place by Southampton City Council”.
So if you’re not happy with the propriety of our process, you’re out of the tender. That seems perilously close to something not very appropriate at all, and we’re not sure that’s the best way to handle the issue.
Personally, I don’t think I’d let Capita anywhere near management of the procurement process if they’re also a bidder. If the Council doesn’t have the resource to do the procurement, get another independent firm/ consultant in to run that particular exercise. Or someone from Portsmouth council….But it just seems too incestuous otherwise.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Unpaid translators angry as owner of firm which went bust sets up new linguistic firm

http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/unpaid-translators-angry-owner-firm-3912361 
11 May 2012

Unpaid translators angry as owner of firm which went bust sets up new linguistic firm
Angry translators have hit out after being left out of pocket when a Birmingham business went bust - only to see the firm's director set up another translation firm.
They are furious that ALS (UK) director Hayder Al-Ani bought the company’s assets from the liquidators, setting up a new translation firm Convocco.
Translation and interpreting company ALS (UK), based in Edgbaston, issued a meeting of creditors notice in March after the Refugee Migrant Justice and the Immigration Advisory Service charities closed down after Government funding cuts, owing ALS £80,000.
According to ALS this was almost a quarter of its £350,000 annual turnover – leaving it unable to repay £98,000 of debts to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and a £20,000 personal loan to Barclays Bank owed by director Hayder Al-Ani.
After discussion with advisor Jason Langford-Brown of Lucid, ALS entered into a creditors’ voluntary liquidation and appointed joint liquidators Craig Povey and Kevin Murphy of Chantrey Vellacott DFK.
Mr Al-Ani, from Walmley, bought the assets of ALS from the liquidators, and set up Convocco, which had been incorporated in February.
Polish translator Marcin Piechota, said: “The first project I did for ALS was back in August 2011 – it was a proof-reading task for just €10.
“I never received this money but I was happy to work on translation jobs in August, September, October and December. I never got paid, but instead I received a number of promises and excuses.
“I finally received a message saying ‘I am emailing you to inform you that ALS (UK) has gone into administration and all interpreting/translation debts are being dealt with by the administrators, please contact them with any queries as Convocco are not legally liable for your fees’.
“I was astonished to find out that the ‘new’ company owns the same website, the same phone helpline and that the same people are working there.
"Having received a letter from their administrators and seeing all the debts they had, I do not hold out much hope to receive my money.
“But I have learnt my lesson.”
Mr Al-Ani has also been a director of Al-Ta’i Linguistic Support, the previous incarnation of ALS, which is in liquidation, and Alfayahaa Multimedia Production, which is dissolved.
On an internet forum at least six translators have complained about non-payment for hundreds of pounds of work done.
Following a Freedom of Information request by Czech translator Jakub Skrebsky, Birmingham City Council revealed there had been a “one-off contract” and “invoices were paid” for work done by Convocco in March this year and to ALS from November 2007 to February 2012 and Al-T’Ai Linguistic Support from October 2007 to February 2008.
A spokesman for the council said: “It is the job of a court to determine whether the owners of a company are unfit to run it, and can disqualify them from being a director.
“The city council enters into a number of small one-off purchases and contracts throughout its directorates, and when hard evidence is gained that contractual practices are not being adhered to it will thoroughly investigate.’’
Mr Al-Ani said: “We were forced to go into liquidation because we were owed money by two really big organisations. We could not pay all our debts and some translators were left unpaid. It is still a viable business. We have done nothing wrong. It is just the nature of business in this climate.”
Mr Povey said: “Hayder’s decision to acquire the assets of ALS from the liquidators represented the very best return for creditors whose interests we were appointed to represent.’’