Saturday, 2 September 2017

Poor Interpretation

Seen on Facebook:-

In London the CRC staff have been told not to use face to face interpreters any more, only telephone interpreters are allowed. That is all there is money for we're told. In the past I have had a number of DV cases with no BBR on their order because of language issues where the expectation was that I do 1-1 work with them. I would never used a telephone interpreting service for such complex emotional work. I would need an interpreter present in the room, preferably the same one for all the sessions and this is how I have managed so far with those cases. If I were to be allocated a language case now with no access to a proper interpreting service I am quite sure I would not be able to work with the case. What have others' experience been of such situations? Any opinions on the subject?

This is where we are, If anybody had told me in 1992 that we would get here l would not have believed it. What we do is try and find a way.

It gets worse each and every day. On a side note our office was closed we were told those in financial hardship would get bus tokens to facilitate travel. That was a lie. The CRC has saved a fortune in office closures yet no additional bus tokens.

As for the issue you raise I think it is a disgrace. I remember when LPT brought in language line I tired it once. 20 minutes wasted as I was given the wrong pin and information no pre brief with the person on the phone and no debrief after as you have to escort the offender out. Interpretors (I'd usually book the same person each time) builds a rapport with both client and offender and now this is lost but hey phone supervision is now a thing. Why not bring in automated probation services press 1 for next appointment press 2 for...

I wonder what they do with all that extra money they got from the MoJ recently. We should ask them.

It's daft enough when you're in the same room with them cos you have no idea what they're saying ..however at least you have body language etc trouble is you have so many now that it encroaches on funding yes..pass go and collect 200pounds's all part of the game now.

This is dreadful. And quite discriminatory.

This puts more victims at further risk, some communities are very close and small and we cannot oversee what's happening via telephone.

I'm in a rural area - offenders in outlying villages can have to travel 6/7 miles to the nearest town then 17 miles to the office. If they work they cannot do programmes as they cannot get home!! Bus services being quite limited. They pay first £3.50 then get tokens!

Ok so everyone is responsible for their own actions and have to accept the consequences for those decisions that's life as we know it. That's why we had law and order. But profiteering from human misery, wasn't that called slavery a couple hundred years ago.

But if you book a telephone service, and explain to the interpreter what it is for and that you need them on a weekly basis for so many weeks they may be able to accommodate that with the single interpreter. You don't know until you try. Also CRC London are not alone in this, NPS are being encouraged to use Telephone Interpreting rather than face to face - much to my officers dismay as they would prefer to have someone with them too.

CRC staff are being told we're not allowed face to face interpreters. "Discouragement " is something milder I think, something that can be changed by negotiation. My big beef with this is that much important communication is lost when we are not face to face with the people we are speaking to. And this is being insisted on in a situation when good communication is already hampered by language and possibly cultural differences. English is not my first language. I have experienced for myself the myriad possibilities for misunderstanding and miscommunication and have felt their impact. Let us at least do our utmost to overcome this by insisting on the very best tools for the job rather than do the job badly and fail our service users and their victims.

I know, but I am hamstrung from saying what I really think.....

It is a shame that it should feel so risky to raise reasoned debate over essential practice issues. Surely it should be in everyone's interest to get these things right. Even the MoJ ought to be cool with investments which reduce risk of reoffending and thereby the cost of imprisonment. And if they're not then it becomes a moral choice for us to speak up.

Your PSR authors need to be making it clear to the Courts that this is happening. It's likely to lead to more people going to prison because the intervention in the community will no longer be of sufficient quality to mitigate risk.

Neither is prison of sufficient quality.

Indeed but the calculus will be that if nothing effective can be done in either case then prison, though more expensive, will at least take the DV perps off the street and mitigate the risk of absconsion, further offending etc. Mad world - so glad I left early, must be very disheartening for those like yourself who have put a lifetime of dedication into doing excellent work.

We were told that we needed to use telephone interpreters a couple of years ago (I'm NPS). I found a lot depended on the interpreter you got and, on at least one occasion, the interpreter rang off in the middle of the interview, once it became apparent what was being discussed. I didn't have the opportunity to talk to her about it beforehand with the service we were using as we were just put straight through to the interpreter. We're now using face to face interpreters again although this can also be hit and miss. I agree it's discriminatory and doesn't provide the service the Courts have the right to expect of probation in any way, shape or form.

We have used telephone interpreters quite a lot in our office, we have use of a room and conference calling facilities. I have built up a good rapport with some interpreters and between the three of us, we get good communication going, a mix of English and the clients language all mixed in. Because of the use of the telephone you tend to watch non verbal body language more which is interesting. Despite this positive experience, we know that the work we do in this way is limited as much gets lost in translation, but you can only do the best you can I guess. x

Verbal exchange is just 30% of human interaction. You can't do your job.


  1. The MoJ signed a hundred and twenty million pound contract with Thebigword for interpretation services just last year when it got rid of Capita. So Where's the problem with face to face interpretation? CRCs or another cocktail up by the MoJ?

    1. Leeds-based thebigword, the global language services company, has won both the biggest interpreting contract in the UK – a £120m, four-year contract to provide face-to-face and telephone interpreting to the Ministry of Justice – and the contract to provide translation and transcription services. The contracts can be extended for a further three one-year periods.

      Under the deal, the firm will provide expert linguists to courts, tribunals, prisons, the probation service and other organisations in the justice sector, such as CPS and Police forces.

      The deal follows another £60m, four-year contract win earlier this month to provide similar services to central Government organisations including the DWP, Home Office, MoD, UK Border Force, NHS and HMRC.

      The linguists who currently work to support the justice system will see improved working conditions, access to thebigword’s acclaimed training programmes and opportunities to work with the company’s 7,500 other public and private sector clients.

      Additionally, the MoJ contract requires the development of a trainee scheme, in conjunction with the Independent Quality Assurance supplier, which will provide career opportunities for new and existing linguists.

      The contract was previously held by Capita TI and a number of their staff will also be transferred to thebigword as part of the deal.

      The new services commence from October 31 this year and all linguists and staff will be contacted in the coming weeks to be welcomed to thebigword.
      Chief executive Larry Gould says: “thebigword is the largest interpreting services provider in Europe. We have the infrastructure and we have the experience. We have been delivering large-scale public sector contracts for more than two decades.

      “The Ministry of Justice have recognised this and are confident our technology and proven systems will deliver an exceptional service and genuine value for money. We are extremely proud of our global family of 8,000 language experts and are looking forward to welcoming these new linguists to thebigword. We have worked with focus groups to develop a package of benefits and have comprehensive training programmes to ensure our linguists can cope with difficult conversations – such as interpreting rape, torture and other distressing crimes – and deliver the highest possible standards.”

  2. Very interesting. Looks like no mention of the CRCs being included in this contract. I will be asking my own CRC ( in writing and in English) if they are included in that contract.

  3. Looks like thebigword knew something was in the pipeline as it made massive organisational changes early 2016:

    "In addition to the C-level reshuffle, thebigword also made changes to its company structure. On February 4, 2016, it re-registered as a private limited company (Ltd) from a public limited company (Plc). One key difference between the two legal identities is that an Ltd comes with less stringent disclosure requirements.

    The company is majority owned by CEO Larry Gould, with Michele Gould and settlement trustees of Larry Gould as minority shareholders.

    According to regulatory filings, thebigword reported revenues of GBP 47.5m, up 6% from the previous year (2014: GBP 44.9m), for the year ended May 31, 2015."

    1. Law Gazette:

      "The chief executive of the new company contracted to provide courtroom interpreting says he is confident of meeting his 98% performance target – despite the problems experienced by its predecessor.

      Larry Gould told the Gazette that thebigword, which has recruited 4,300 linguists to help provide language services to the Ministry of Justice, will invest heavily in technology to achieve 100%. From January, linguists will be able to access bookings and manage invoices through a phone app. Videoconferencing will also be developed.

      Gould said he wants to work with the Law Society to help get solicitors’ ‘buy in’. ‘Lawyers are under huge pressure but [with] some simple training and outreach to the legal profession, we can achieve not just work fulfilment but a better, successful experience. Working with interpreters should be part of the curriculum.’

      Thebigword took over from Capita Translation and Interpreting on 31 October to provide face-to-face interpretation and translation (including telephone and video), and translation and transcription. Capita TI managed to hit the 98% performance target of completed service requests only once in four years in a contract marred by late attendance and interpreter protests over fee levels.

      Gould said the biggest difference with the new contract is that thebigword will be ‘strongly monitored’. The Language Shop, a business set up by the London Borough of Newham, is responsible for independent quality assurance under the new regime.

      Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), an umbrella group representing more than 2,000 interpreters from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and 370 British Sign Language interpreters, welcomed the supplier change and said it was encouraged by the ‘greater emphasis’ placed on quality assurance.

      ‘However, if the new supplier is going to remedy the decline in the quality of interpreting available to the courts and tribunals, it will have to persuade qualified and experienced practitioners to return to the market,’ PI4J said in a statement to the Gazette.

      PI4J said a framework agreement rolled out in 2012 replaced a nationally agreed scale of fees with ‘wholly unrealistic fees which in many instances did not justify the interpreter leaving home’."

    2. Business Insider:

      "Larry adds: “Profit is obviously our main aim, but the amount of money we are reinvesting in the business is why we’ve continued to grow. Real organic growth like this gives us a solid base for the future.”

      Looking to the future, the Goulds say there are a swathe of opportunities ahead and they have the cash for a number of planned strategic acquisitions.

      Joshua says they are looking at a variety of opportunities and drawing on the expertise of their team to identify the most lucrative, adding: “There are a number of different layers of opportunities, but we can’t go for all of them. We need to decide what to invest in and what to keep an eye on for the future... You have to pick the right opportunity at the right time, and there is a science to that..."

      For Larry, the future is all about growth. He says: “We have a three-year plan and beyond that it’s about accelerating growth through acquisitions. The plan is simple– to keep growing."

  4. In The Guardian today.

  5. Good article and very accurate. Not sure which CRC it is but it could easily have been working links. It sounds very similar to working links so I can only assume other CRC's are just as bad. Please publish the article in full. Seriously, why has the MOJ allowed this? Open booths! Interviewing outside! Come on, this has to stop.

  6. Anyone interested in real facts about interpreting must talk with them first if they want to know the truth. The problem is, however, that no one cares about those without whom the communication with Less Limited English Speakers would not be possible in the first place.