ALS Webinar: what a tangled web we weave, when we are trying to… deceive?
Capita’s ALS (now redundant and transformed to Capita Translation and Interpreting) has received immense national coverage over the last 8 months for all the wrong reasons: they kept getting their facts wrong: failing to send interpreters to courts, sending them late, sending wrong language interpreters, failing to vet and assess them. Yet, they claimed everything was hunky dory.
But how truthful were they with their linguists, the people they work with and who this contract totally relies on? We have used some audio clips from the ALS webinar held earlier this year to match their claims with reality.
Clip 1. Gavin Wheeldon (the former CEO of ALS) says “we currently have 1,800 actively working interpreters” in Tier 1 and 2.
“3,900 people have signed up” but not all are qualified and experienced “so they wouldn’t be given any work anyway”.
Facts. There have been different claims by ALS/Capita about the number of interpreters working under the FWA, the figure fluctuated between 2,000, 1,800 and 3,000. We also know that fictitious characters and dead pets received real job offers.
Clip 2. Wheeldon says “since day one we’ve seen a demonstrable improvement in quality”, and the MoJ recognised “a marked improvement”.
Facts. In September the National Audit Office has revealed that the Senior Presiding Judge still receives a number of complaints from judges on a regular basis. The most pressing issues relate to quality and include the non-compliances.
Clip 3. Wheeldon talks about CPD and that they will organise CPD courses.
Facts. An article published on this site shows that the courses were more reminiscent of basic interpreting training than continuous professional development. And apart from those 3 “CPD” workshops which appear to have been set up in a rush in May, they haven’t organised anything else in 8 months.
Clip 4. Anna Simpkins (previously Marketing and PR Director at ALS) says the profile on the ALS Linguist Lounge needs to be up to date, with qualifications and experience details, without that they can’t offer jobs.
Facts. It’s unlikely that the dead dog had any qualifications, but it was still offered jobs, and so were other fictional registrants.
Clip 5. Simpkins talks about the assessment and says “it is not a qualification, it is not a test, it is really just a practical assessment to determine your strength as an interpreter”.
Facts. That says it all really. It’s not even a test, so if you are totally useless, you can’t even fail it. Besides, the National Audit Office has identified that many assessments had not even been marked and are not available in a number of languages. And the point of that assessment is..?
Clip 6. Simpkins talks about the tiers and says that the court, tribunal or police determine the tier.
Facts. How are the courts supposed to know what qualifications or lack of them an interpreter should have for a particular booking?
Clip 7. Wheeldon says that apart from two languages, they have “more than enough resources”.
Facts. So why is Capita still recruiting linguists on Internet job sites in September and October in almost every language under the sun?
Clip 8. Simpkins says that if you are booked for a full day or 8 hours but the job only lasts for 1 hour, you are only paid for 1 hour.
Facts. Yes, this is exactly what the Framework Agreement says. However, it seems contradictory to a basic legal concept of an agreement between a customer and a contractor when a booking for a certain number of hours is made.
Clip 9. Wheeldon talks about the “resistance from a certain group of people”, and says “this can’t last” and “those people will get bored, it cannot last”. “The contract is here to stay”.
Facts. Are we bored? The resistance is as strong as ever as this site shows, and only 13% of NRPSI interpreters actually signed up (or are listed on Capita’s database) to work under the MoJ’s Framework Agreement.
Clip 10. Wheeldon says that security clearance is “absolute essential”.
Facts. Both the BBC and the National Audit Office confirmed that a number of ALS linguists were working in the criminal justice sector without CRB checks.
Clip 11. Wheeldon says that interpreters complained that they “are not getting enough work” and then says that they want “to give more work to less people”.
Facts. Who determines who is getting all the work then? And they said the previous system was unfair. Besides, Capita don’t appear to have enough people to cover all jobs anyway. A certain percentage of court bookings still go to RPSIs direct and to other commercial agencies.
Clip 12. Simpkins says that some people have “accidentally” set up two profiles on ALS’s Linguist Lounge and that as ALS becomes aware of these profiles they will be deleted.
Facts. After all the publicity Masha the cat got over the past few months, her profile is still there, as many other fictitious ones.
Clip 13. Wheeldon says “there is no cancellation fee for jobs cancelled less than 24 hours”.
Facts. Yes, this is in the Framework Agreement. These conditions are bordering on slavery and are certainly in contradiction to standard commercial terms common of any profession.
Clip 14. Wheeldon says that the reason why courts are not paying 3 hour minimum fee anymore is because “every part of the public sector is feeling the pinch on costs, there is a massive drive to reduce the deficit that the country’s got”. And “the old system was overgenerous”.
Facts. The ALS bid was so low that it wouldn’t allow for minimum payments or cancellation fees. The fees under the previous arrangements were already somewhat lower than the market rates for language services in the commercial sector.
Clip 15. Wheeldon says Capita’s plan is “to go after the rest of the UK market for interpreting, both from the public and private sector”.
Facts. The service provided by Capita/ALS to the MoJ has received so much negative publicity, I doubt a serious commercial company would touch them. In fact, no commercial company would have tolerated such a lack of service and would have already terminated the contract, claiming damages. A number of police forces are refusing the sign up to the Framework Agreement too.