The Goverment’s decision to award a single Framework Agreement contract for court interpreting to the Oldham-based company Applied Language Solutions (ALS) has come under criticism.
The 5 year deal which came into effect on February 1 has led to a demonstration outside the House of Commons by the campaign group Interpreters for Justice, who seek to have the Agreement scrapped. They commissioned an online survey of 1,206 interpreters, 90% of whom apparently stated that they would not register with the new system.
There have been reports of delays in courts due to the lack of interpreters which in turn have led to adjournments. In mid-March the Justice minister Crispin Blunt, MP told Radio 4 audiences that ALS, now owned by profession services firm Capita, had been “the best” company to apply for the contract.
He admitted, “There have been problems with the start of the new contract but we are replacing a system that was administratively decrepit frankly, and very expensive and very open to abuse, and so I’m satisfied that we are now rapidly improving the delivery of the new arrangements and we will get over this bedding-in period”.
The chairman of the Lincolnshire branch of the Magistrates’ Association told the same programme that he had heard words like “disaster” and “chaos” ‘used and I don’t think they are too strong at the moment’. The scheme is intended to save £18 million from a budget of £60 million.