Justice Minister, FOI and the Framework Fantasies
9 August 2012
Enquiries into the Ministry of Justice’s Framework Agreement for public service interpreting, which has been causing ongoing problems, have revealed that only 301 of the interpreters working in courts for private contractor Applied Language Solutions (owned by Capita) are also on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) which lists interpreters who are professionally qualified and security vetted.
A Freedom of Information request meanwhile to Warwickshire Police, which carries out vetting of all linguists working under the Framework Agreement nationally for ALS, revealed just 720 applications had been received by its vetting unit from ALS since January 2012 of which 574 had passed the vetting process.
Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman, Association of Police and Court Interpreters, who has spearheaded the campaign Interpreters for Justice in association with the Society for Public Service Interpreters (SPSI), says: “How on earth can this Framework Agreement work and justice be delivered with such a small number of professionally qualified and experienced interpreters willing to work under the new system? And so few vetted? No wonder there are problems in courts up and down the country.”
The 301 interpreters accepting assignments from Applied Language Solutions (ALS) in July this year represents just 13% of the 2,230 professionally qualified interpreters on the NRPSI, the system previously used before the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement came into operation on 1st February this year. It means that 87% of professionally qualified interpreters are refusing outright to work for ALS.
The 301 figure was in a written response from Minister of Justice, Crispin Blunt, to John Leech MP following a meeting held on 21 June between the two which was attended by officials from the Ministry of Justice. John Leech MP discussed his grave concerns about the contract on behalf of a number of his interpreter constituents who have refused to work for ALS. Crispin Blunt's written response of 13 July following the meeting has now been published.
Kasia Beresford, a Polish interpreter in John Leech MP’s constituency of Manchester Withington, who has refused to work for ALS, says: “The politicians and officials at the MOJ have persisted in attempting to impose the Framework on interpreters and are under the delusion that they can force highly-qualified, intelligent, freelance professionals to work for them under clearly unacceptable arrangements.”
She adds: “We can see that there is no future at all in public service interpreting while this farcical FWA persists.”
Guillermo Makin, Chairman, SPSI, says: “When we respond to the Justice Select Committee enquiry, which is now underway, we will provide evidence of how the interpreters’ membership organisations have made hefty cost savings for Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Welsh Constabularies and the Metropolitan police without the need for a Framework Agreement or private contractor like ALS. The MoJ have so far chosen to ignore these facts.”
The interpreter bodies have previously warned the Ministry of Justice that professionally qualified interpreters would not work under the new system and in March gave the Minister the findings from an independent survey they commissioned. 90% of the 1,206 professional interpreters who completed the online survey (representing over half of those on the NRPSI) said they would not register with ALS.
Follow Interpreters for Justice, the campaign instigated by APCI and SPSI, on Twitter @United4Justice and also see www.linguistlounge.org for many examples of ALS failings.
The Justice Select Committee announced an enquiry in July and the deadline for submissions is 3rd September 2012.
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