UK Interpreting industry and recent changes, including an unofficial strike by UK Court interpreters
Up until January 2012, HM courts and Tribunal service (HMCTS), under the Ministry of Justice contacted and used interpreters who had passed exams and were members of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI).
From January 2012, the MoJ rather than have court admin staff contact freelance interpreters and in their eyes, deal with freelancers sometimes being unreliable with regards to availability and the hassle of finding and ringing round for interpreters for certain cases. The MoJ decided to award the provision of Court interpreters in a contract to a single interpreting company/provider. They took the view that this would reduce the burden on court admin staff and more importantly save money (through reducing interpreter rates/wages) to the tune of .
The contract to a single company (seen as a monopoly by freelance interpreters) was given to Applied Language Solutions, soon bought by Capita for £7.5m in Dec. 20011, a month before the contract was to go live.
Since the start of the contract (Jan. 2012) going live, interpreters who used to work for the courts on a freelance basis have decided 'en masse' to go on unofficial strike and boycott ALS/Capita TI and the MoJ. See Linguist Lounge for the latest articles/protest from court interpreters. Interpreters had decided to not sign up to ALS/Capita as wages were drastically slashed by an initial 20%. To counter this percieved lack of interpreters (MoJ didn't think there would be that much opposition from interpreters), within the contract they devised a tiered system, where unqualified interpreters could now work, when they couldn't previously under the old arrangement.
Even with the tiered system of using unqualified interpreters, from Jan. 2012 there was a serious lack of Court interpreters, with only % being supplied, resulting in court adjournments. It also resulted in interpreters with few language skills and no legal/court background being used. ALS/Capita as a result were in panic mode to fill interpreting assignments in the courts, and therefore cut corners when it came to vetting interpreters applying to them. Interpreters were also being hired and put in assignments with no or before CRB (criminal record check) checks being carried out.
It is estimated to cost around £100 an hour for a court in session, so any court adjournments result in costs to the MoJ and a lack of perceived/planned savings. Nobody is sure of the cost to the MoJ, although savings are being made as Capita (under the rules of the contract) have been obliged to increase their investment and basically prop up the contract and the MoJ's £15m savings. Only time will tell if Capita can turn this around to provide (on theiir side), a profit, fill the requirements of the contract-qualified interpreters; covering all the court assignments. On the side of the MoJ, whether they do actually make the £15m savings (Capita is supposedly covering this) and continue to do so and find a willing contractor is anybody's guess. So far they both (Capita and MoJ) have weathered an almighty storm surrounding the whole debacle and one can only guess that they both see a future in it. With regards to interpreters, a lot seem to have continued their boycott into finding work in different areas (commercial interpreting, government interpreting and written translations) as the pay cut was too much in their eyes and the lack of any consultation prior to the contract and during seems to have made a lot bitter with ALS/Capita and the MoJ.
Companies and Freelancers
Here, you will find useful contact details of Interpreting companies and freelancers.
- EITI, a UK based telephone interpretation and language translation services provider working with a variety of different languages.
- Interpretation Services Canada - We are a translation company providing translation, transcription and interpreting services in a broad range of fields and languages.
- Professional Interpretation Services - Global provider of interpretation solutions. Professional Legal, Medical, Conference and Phone interpreting.