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New proposals will wreck translation services in public sector – ATC

Government proposals to overhaul the provision of language and translation services across the public sector could put these essential services at risk, the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) warned.

Crown Commercial Services (CCS) has just finished consulting on a draft framework set to change current agreements covering face-to-face translation, written translation and transcription, and telephone interpretation for public sector customers.

This follows “years of disruption” to fair access across the justice system after the Ministry of Justice awarded a contract for language services to “a company that was ill-equipped to deliver it” in 2011.

The company awarded with a four-year framework agreement, Applied Language Solutions (now Capita Translation and Interpreting), was said to face “immediate operational difficulties” and was unable to recruit sufficient qualified interpreters. Because of the troublesome contract, courts and tribunals were left with poor and scarce interpreting services and several hearings were severely delayed.

However the ATC said the new proposals will stop some language service providers being to work in the public sector at all. The proposals do not tackle late payment, and the association also claimed that the proposals show a lack of understanding of the structure and terms of freelancing within the sector.

ATC general secretary, Geoffrey Bowden, said: “The CCS is attempting to apply the same level of bureaucracy it applies to largest players and ignores the fact that smaller enterprises dominate the sector.

“By proposing a framework that does not recognise this, CCS risks crippling its language providers and putting at risk the many people that rely on them for language support.”

Their feedback said this move would “fly in the face” of the government’s objective to support SMEs.

It also said proposals failed to accept shared responsibility of caring for linguists working in places of risk such as prisons, courts, detention centres and hospitals.

Bowden added: “Millions of people living in the UK rely on an interpreter or translator when receiving medical treatment, as a victim of crime, or when engaging with local authorities. It is an essential service that the government must use wisely if it is to meet its own legislation and ensure fair access to public services.

“Yet many of the most vulnerable people in the country will be put at risk because the proposed framework for procuring language services focuses more on bureaucratic processes, rather than the quality of services supplied.”

However he said the ATC welcomed the consultation as “an opportunity to improve how language services are delivered across the public sector”, yet it failed to show it understands “how the language industry is structured”.

CCS said in its proposal overview that the new agreements would “provide greater service capacity, offering contracting authorities maximum choice and flexibility and increase opportunities for linguistic providers”.

The ATC had already provided lengthy feedback to the new framework with a series of recommendations to make the proposals “fit for purpose”.

Consultation to the framework ended on 24 July. CCS will now provide a summary of feedback and their responses but will not have “individual dialogues” with these organisations.

Top image c. Ashley Smith, PA Wire library image


John Stockton   03/08/2015 at 12:44

Why should we pay for interpretation of languages? When in Germany I stated that I did not speak German and I was informed, then you must learn German. This was the correct reply.

Gillian   04/08/2015 at 10:33

I agree with John Stockton, why should we pay for interpreters. If someone comes to this country to live and work, then they should have to have at least basic English before they come. It is an additional expense which will be even higher, the more migrants we have coming to this country, particularly from Africa (either legally or illegally). We see cuts here there and everywhere in the Public sector and yet we must waste millions simply because don't want or can't learn English.

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