MOJ statistics: manipulation & omission
These recently published MOJ statistics on the use of language services in courts and tribunals have been manipulated in a shocking manner to provide headline figures for the press that are a less bad than the reality. Let us examine one such statistic - the overall "success rate" of 81%...
ALS's (part of Capita) fulfilment rate is shown as 72%, so how do they turn that into 81%? Well you add 0.1% of requests when the ALS interpreter was present but the "Customer Did Not Attend" and then you take the 11% so-called "Customer Cancellations" out of the calculation. Well it's not ALS's fault if the customer cancelled, is it? So, it wouldn't be fair to include them in the total requests, would it?
Well… the clue is on page 10 of the report "Requests may also fail because… the supplier… does not attend (or arrives so late that the job is cancelled)." If the interpreter arrives so late that the court can no longer proceed, that is by any normal person's standards an ALS failure, hence those requests should be included in the total number of requests for interpreters when calculating the "success rate".
I suspect that a large number of ALS failures are hidden in these so-called "Customer cancellations" because the rate of cancellation seems very high at 11%. In my experience the only type of court that has a very high interpreter cancellation rate is an Employment Tribunal as the parties often settle prior to a hearing. However Employment Tribunal cancellations are only 3% of the total cancellations, so how does one explain the rest? Sometimes postponement of a hearing will lead to an interpreter cancellation in advance, but it's not that frequent. Certainly the cancellation rate of 17% or 863 Immigration & Asylum Tribunals appears extremely high. I have interpreted at quite a number of IAT cases and I can't recall a single booking being cancelled in 4 years.
Clearly the real "success rate" should be closer to 72% than the 81% headline i.e. 26 percentage points short of the 98% target!
So that is one example of the way in which these statistics have been manipulated, but a more fundamental issue is that the MOJ is only revealing the requests going through ALS's system. To get a true picture of "the use of language services in courts and tribunals" (the report's title) they would need to include all the interpreting jobs which were not even passed to ALS. I know there were a significant number of Tribunals jobs pre-booked in January and the low level of requests for February shown in these statistics bears that out. We also know that after a fortnight of operation of this Framework Agreement the MOJ decreed that all next day Magistrates' Court cases and urgent Immigration & Asylum cases were to be booked via the previous arrangements. If this were taken into account, how low would ALS's % fulfilment fall?
Finally, the most important thing about this report is all the statistics that are missing.
There is not a single figure giving information about the tiers of interpreters used. Perhaps it is now convenient to forget about quality in relation to the Framework Agreement?
The Key Performance Indicators are all missing… Could that be because not a single one has been achieved?
The reality is that the whole policy behind the Framework Agreement is an abject failure and a proper evaluation would reveal very poor stewardship of both the public interest and the public purse.