Board of Directors Communication 06 October 2011
At the Board of Directors Meeting on 13 July 2011 the Board decided to seek meetings with several organisations in order to gather information on the Framework Agreement that the Ministry of Justice has awarded to Applied Language Solutions.
The Executive Manager, Sian Pritchard and the Chair Ted Sangster met with Applied Language Solutions and forwarded them many of the questions and concerns registered interpreters have raised with us. In response to these questions Applied Language Solutions have added an additional Frequently Asked Questions page to their web site which can be found at www.linguistlounge.com
Please note that these answers are Applied Language Solutions' responses to our questions, written by them and are in no way endorsed by the National Register. In fact we note that in their responses on their website Applied Language Solutions perhaps do not give the full picture on some issues (maybe because they do not see that it is their responsibility to do so) and therefore interpreters looking at the ALS site need to bear this in mind when considering the information it provides.
One example is that whilst it would appear clear that certain parts of the justice sector (courts in England and Wales, tribunals across the UK) will have no option but to comply with the MoJ requirements and use ALS for all their needs, other sectors, primarily the police, have a choice to either also adopt and use ALS or to fulfill their requirements from elsewhere.
Thus our understanding from other sources is that whilst the Greater Manchester Police and two other North-West police services will be part of the contract, the Metropolitan Police (see below), the Welsh police authorities and Cambridgeshire Police are not, and of course the Immigration Services have their own list of vetted and qualified interpreters. Many other police authorities have either not yet decided or have not yet announced their decisions.
Also whilst we recognise that ALS will be developing a new "register" in accordance with the MoJ's stipulations we do not see that this is in any way a replacement of the National Register. The National Register remains the only independent regulator of interpreters working in all aspects of the Public Services. We will continue in this role and continue to act as a guardian of standards. Our interpreters have undergone a strict selection process and undergone many years of training in order to gain qualifications to enable them to join the National Register. Public services throughout the UK appreciate the standard of service offered by NRPSI registered interpreters.
We have a meeting planned in the next couple of weeks with the Ministry of Justice to whom we will be reinforcing a number of these points as well as seeking their responses to the changes being made in the criminal justice sector. We are still actively seeking a meeting with the Association of Chief Police Officers.
We will of course report to you on these meetings and keep you informed of any developments.
We have also had a meeting with the Metropolitan Police (Language and Cultural Services) which was extremely positive and constructive. They emphasised that they see the Register as a key component in them delivering to their interpreting needs, indeed it is what they benchmark service provision against.
In this respect whilst they have had a very positive relationship with NRPSI over the years they were pleased to hear of our move to a completely independent body and the fact that we are not a membership or lobbying organisation and have no affiliation to any such group, but are rather and only a registrar. As a consequence they will continue to be heavy users of the National Register in fulfilling their interpreting requirements – they often go outside their own list and access the Register and this will continue, indeed probably increase.
They outlined to us some of their processes and told us that their Interpreter Deployment Team had made significant improvements over the past two years to the present position whereby 90% of all cases are allocated within 30 minutes, and that the system operates at a 95% satisfaction rate.
The Met emphasised the importance (as they see it) of an independent regulator for interpreters and stated that they saw our role as "vital". However they had stated prior to the meeting that they had concerns about our disciplinary procedures and they elaborated on this in describing the feedback they get on a regular basis on the interpreting services they use. The Met are currently investigating a number of complaints linked to "poor service and unprofessional behaviour".
We therefore outlined our processes and explained some of the changes we have introduced following board discussion. They seemed especially pleased with the fact that we were tightening up the procedures in order to speed up the processes and had strengthened our ability to give warnings coupled with advice as to further conduct and training. They also welcomed the idea of publishing information about Professional Conduct Committee and Disciplinary Committee cases.
We then moved onto the Ministry of Justice outsourcing. They emphasised the fact that police services are not part of the mandated sector which has to fall into line with these changes and stated that whilst they have no plans at present to join the framework agreement they would constantly monitor the situation.
They stated that they had invested £5.5 million in new technologies and facilities to modernise the provision of interpreting and deliver significant improvements to the service, having invested in telephone and video conferencing interpreting facilities and in various interpreters' centres (hubs) across London. They see this as a model that a number of other police forces may follow – especially in urban areas.
In the UK the overall spend is around £82m pa – the backdrop against which the MoJ, the Met and other services are looking to employ variety of means to reduce their costs.
The Met asked us to remind interpreters that if they have any queries regarding their fees they should contact the Interpreters Claims Team on at LCSclaimsquery@met.pnn.police.uk. The Met have resolved payment queries for Interpreters and paid out over £650,000 in this financial year on unpaid claims for Interpreters claims pre 1 April 2011.
The cut off date for any unpaid claims for the financial year pre 1 April 2011 will be 31 October 2011 (they will not be able to authorise payment for claims submitted after this date) and Interpreters are asked to contact ICT via e-mail with details of any claim. They will need to send a copy of the claim form and confirm they have checked their bank accounts that payment has not been made. The Met are unable to authorise claims where no receipts are attached and travel time is based on AA /TFL data.
Finally we agreed to keep in touch and share information on any further changes.
One of the points that has been obvious from these meetings and other discussions and correspondence is that there is widespread support for the NRPSI across the sector, but also a need for reassurance that NRPSI as it is now after the separation into an independent company last April and also amongst all the changes taking place with the MoJ's actions has a relevant and viable future. The board is firmly of the view that this is the case, and in recognising that we need to promote and explain ourselves as widely as possible we are actively looking into marketing, PR, updating our website etc. to make NRPSI presence felt better and hence increase the value of the Register to our Registrants.
Responding to requests from a number of our registrants and also users of the website we are pleased to announce that a Postcode proximity search is now available on the on-line register. We hope that this will make it easier for users to find local interpreters.
In an effort to broaden the appeal of the register we will be taking out advertisements with the on-line Waterlow Legal Directory and the Solicitors Journal magazine. We would be pleased to receive any feedback on the results of these adverts, and can report that we are also actively seeking other ways in which to promote the register and our registrants.