Chief Superintendent at West Midlands Police on ALS
The letter below was received by Gisela Stuart MP from Steve Anderson, Chief Superintendent at West Midlands Police. It addresses the concerns raised in relation to the performance by Applied Language Solutions since the police force outsourced the interpreting service in November 2011.
Any service users/interpreters are welcome to leave their comments below.
Community Justice and Custody
PO Box 52
Colmore Circus Queensway
Switchboard: 0845 113 5000
Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111
Our Reference: SA/CLM
Date: 2 April 2012
Gisela Stuart MP
Dear Ms Stuart,
Thank you for your recent ‘e’ mail correspondence regarding interpreter services.
West Midlands Police has previously not had any contractual arrangement for the supply of language services to the force. On the many occasions when language services were required an officer referred to the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) list of approved interpreters and ‘rang around’ until an interpreter was found who met the officers’ requirements.
This system had four key flaws: Officers often spent considerable time ‘ringing round’ the interpreters Where the standard of the interpretation was poor – there was only a very limited complaints procedure in place There was no continuous professional development in place for interpreters on the NRPSI register The fees payable to the interpreters had resulted in a very high cost to the force.
In 2011, in light of the comprehensive spending review settlement for the force, West Midlands Police took the decision to obtain its future interpreter and translation services from the newly agreed Ministry of Justice framework. The framework specifies Applied Language Solutions (ALS) as the supplier under the framework agreement.
In advance of the start of the new arrangement, the force contacted all of the interpreters who had previously provided services to the force to give them advance notice of the change. This is the correspondence referred to from the business area lead – Stuart Knipe. What quickly became apparent is that many existing NRPSI registered interpreters had a strong dislike of the ALS arrangements, not least because it reduced their pay rates, and required them to be re-assessed.
In late November 2011, the force started to book interpreters through ALS. We soon established that ALS did not have sufficient coverage of interpreters to meet all the diverse needs of the force. In order to ensure that non-English speaking victims were provided for, and that non-English speaking offenders did not evade justice, the force continued to meet any shortfall in the ALS contract from the existing NRPSI register. The contractual arrangement with ALS has been designed to ensure that where the force has to use an interpreter from the NRPSI register, the financial liability is offset.
It was acutely obvious that in a small number of languages the existing interpreters had decide ‘on block’ not to work for ALS. Additionally many of these interpreters choose to decline to provide services to West Midlands Police through the NRPSI register route, due to their strong feelings against ALS and the forces engagement with them.
The position the force is now in is that the vast majority of interpretation is now being provided through the ALS contract. On those occasions where ALS is unable to provide an interpreter, or provide one within the required timescale, the force will continue to seek alternatives from the existing NRPSI register. When that happens, the interpreter will be paid at the previous ‘NRPSI rates’.
For the existing NRPSI interpreters if they are offered a booking by the force they are entitled to take it and be reimbursed at the old rates, or to decline the booking.
I hope this addresses your questions, if you require further information please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Head of Department Community Justice and Custody
West Midlands Police
(Emphasis added by the author of the article)