One Year on: The Ministry of Justice’s Failed Interpreting Contract
The latest on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) contract, which is approaching its one year anniversary, is that the contract holders, Capita are still hanging on. From 8th January the travel costs are being slashed to 20p per mile. Travel costs were the only benefit for people accepting a job as a ‘linguist’ (their term for an untrained interpreter and insulting to real linguists). There are already grumblings.
Any clued-up interpreter knew this was due to happen and it is why the boycott has been admirably sustained by all those that are professionals and know their worth. Here follows a summary of what has happened over the last year:
Key interpreter organisations object to a monopoly contract and point out what should be the minimum standards as already set up in the National Agreement.
ALS awarded contract by promising unsustainable savings despite protests.
ALS offers interpreters greatly reduced payments for working in courts.
Professional interpreters refuse to work under these conditions for ludicrously low payments.
The courts are thrown into chaos with many bookings unfilled and courts experiencing many adjournments and delays.
Bonuses are paid to entice anyone to accept work (£5 extra for accepting an online booking) and mileage and payments are increased to entice ‘linguists’ to court.
Untrained, unqualified speakers of other languages, sometimes those who do not even speak the languages they say they do, start to work for the contract.
Reports are numerous amongst interpreters and reach the UK media of linguists travelling miles to rack up travel payments.
Courts continue to experience severe delays.
Capita takes over ALS and pays £7.5 million and invests a further £5.4 million.
Several ALS and Capita personnel leave including ex-Chief Executive Gavin Wheeldon.
Parliamentary hearings confirm what everybody knew: the contract holders know nothing about interpreting or the standards that were put in place before the contract removed them.
From instructions set out by the Public Accounts Committee, Capita start to CRB check the ‘linguists’ registered on its database, check whether they actually have qualifications and start to tighten up checks. These were fairly non-existent until this point.
A year after the contract starts mileage rates slashed to 20p per mile and effort is made to find local personnel, the contract promised that interpreters would be sourced from within a 25 mile radius, but with the payments originally offered this did not happen.
The next chapter in this story will surely be that no-one will work for Capita at the proposed rates. £16 – £22 per hour for a court job, with many being classed at the £16 per hour level – if someone paid out more than they were allowed to claim and travelled far to attend a job, Capita’s so-called linguists would be working for less than the minimum wage. The MoJ surely could not expect professionals for those prices and professionals it does not get. The courts have seen a parade of second-jobbers standing in for professional interpreters including hotel staff walking out of courts before hearings are finished to get back to their real jobs, reports of mis-interpretations abound and ‘linguists’ who do not speak their stated languages.