Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Nicky EvansNicky Evans is a BSL/English interpreter and the co-founder of the Stop Changes to Access to Work campaign (www.stopchanges2atw.com). The campaign was established in November 2013 to oppose cuts being made to the government’s Access to Work (AtW) scheme which provides the support Deaf and disabled workers need to access employment. 

Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Before we get into it, I’d like to make one thing very clear: I do not condone fraud. It is wrong and the people involved must be held accountable for this and brought to justice.

But what of the DWP’s role in all this?

Here is a system that isn’t accessible (to an extent that the end customer (the Deaf Access to Work user) can’t always understand the forms and needs support completing these), relies heavily on the customer to do the bulk of the administration and where any contact with the DWP has become so stressful that they feel unable to ask for support or advice when needed.

Having been involved in Access to Work campaigning in various guises over the years, I have been continually frustrated by the DWP’s lack of response to our concerns over fraud. I have attended meetings over the past three years with various senior DWP staff/Ministers and have fed back the concerns of both the deaf community and interpreters. Information being provided by advisors is continually inconsistent and interpreters who work for three different clients could be paid using three different processes.

Three years on and several fraud cases later the claim system has seen little or no improvement. 

Interpreters have asked continually for improvements to be made to the DWP’s finance system: our remittance notice often doesn’t arrive (it is still usually sent by post) so we can’t check amounts received or know which clients these relate to; a remittance notice often doesn’t record our invoice numbers; and we can’t speak to AtW to sort any of these issues out (as we are told we have to go through the deaf person – adding to their stress and workload).

Only this year I have been overpaid by a large amount of money and have spent the past two months trying to return this – to no avail. I am not the only interpreter to be overpaid. Interpreters are regularly overpaid, underpaid, part paid, not paid at all, owed late payment fees (which despite being a statutory entitlement, the DWP don’t seem to think it applies to them)… I could go on….

All this raises the question: what role has the DWP had in recent fraud cases? 

There has been a failure to respond to concerns or develop tighter financial controls as a result of these. As I said at the beginning, I do not condone fraud, but I do feel that the DWP must accept some responsibility for this. Systems so open to abuse following several cases of fraud have remained wide open. For a government who continually tell us there is a need for austerity and to balance the books, they should perhaps start by examining their own internal processes.

NUBSLI public statement on CCS framework agreement

imageReblogged from NUBSLI’s website. This statement was published on 28th April 2016 shortly after the Crown Commercial Service send out the contract notice.

Since September 2014, NUBSLI has been in negotiation with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) in an attempt to improve the initial drafts of a national framework agreement for Language Services (interpreting and translation). We highlighted many concerns, most notably a lack of standards and safeguards for users of BSL/English interpreting services and the waste of public funds that would occur were this framework to go ahead.

We acknowledge that some improvements have been made. However, we maintain that a large national framework, whereby public authorities can purchase contracts, is not appropriate for our profession. It has the potential to cause many interpreters to leave their careers, as evidenced by our profession exit interview report and our 2015 survey of working conditions (pdf)

In February 2015, NUBSLI launched the #ScrapTheFramework campaign, due to ongoing concerns about this large-scale privatisation of our profession and the damage it would cause to interpreters and the Deaf community we serve.

The framework commenced on 22nd April for up to four years and the suppliers were announced this week on the Government’s website. BSL/English interpreting and other services for Deaf people comes under Lot 4, and is split into regions a-e, which cover Greater London including Overseas, Southern England, Midlands and East of England, North of England and, lastly, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Most suppliers will cover all regions. They include:

  • Clarion
  • London Borough of Newham (Language Shop)
  • Sign Solutions
  • Language Empire
  • thebigword
  • Prestige Network
  • DA Languages

From our privileged position as the service providers in this field, and with collective experience and expertise, our remaining concerns are:

  • A reduced amount of choice and control for Deaf people.
  • Poorer administration – where large agencies subcontract to smaller agencies, mistakes and wastage are more likely in the booking of professionals.
  • Poorer access – where Deaf people are provided with inappropriately qualified or experienced people, this has an impact on service delivery.
  • Poorer accountability – It is more difficult for Deaf people to complain about poor services.
  • Downward pressure on interpreters’ fees and terms and conditions to unsustainable levels.
  • Inefficient use of public funds on administration rather than access.
  • Large scale privatisation further puts at risk the ability for smaller agencies, with good local knowledge and relationships, to continue.
  • Despite a regional structure, none of the suppliers are local agencies.

NUBSLI wish to make it clear that BSL/English interpreters are not prepared to jeopardise the sustainability of their profession by accepting the diminished fees, and terms and conditions set out in the framework. These are not fitting for a workforce of extensively trained and qualified freelancers, and clearly go against market rates falling short of the industry standard. This was made clear to the CCS who have regrettably overlooked the counsel of the profession.

We have already seen the boycott of one NHS contract by interpreters in the South West. Interpreters are increasingly prepared to take a similar position with other contracts which do not meet our basic rates of pay and terms.

We will be continuing to campaign against the framework and will work with individual commissioners wherever possible.

If you are a BSL/English interpreter and are not yet a member of NUBSLI, we urge you to join. We are stronger together.

Interpreter Brain Drain? NUBSLI’s Exit Survey of British Sign Language/English Interpreters

imageNUBSLI has done another excellent piece of work following on from the annual working conditions report out early 2015. This report found that an alarming number of sign language interpreters were exiting the profession. Now they’ve collected data by adding an exit interview to the website to find out how many were leaving or diversifying their income and what their plans were.

An astonishing 79 interpreters filled out the survey in the first four weeks indicating this is an ongoing issue. To put this number into perspective that’s around 7 percent depending on what figures you use (in this case NRCPD, RBSLI and SASLI combined). When there is a proposed shortage of qualified interpreters, that’s a big loss, especially when most of those leaving are skilled and experienced.

Recent work on updating a database of registered interpreters has provisionally shown that it’s either those new to the profession dropping out or the more experienced that are leaving. So even though numbers of NRCPD Trainee interpreters remain stable at just over 200, as they become Registered the total numbers of interpreters should be increasing faster than they are at present. NRCPD has been asked previously if they collect data on those not re-registering and they have said they do not.

The NUBSLI report is comprehensive and well worth a read.

The original article and report can be found on The Nub – NUBSLI’s news page:

An Uncertain Future: Findings from a Profession Exit Survey of British Sign Language/English Interpreters.

Agencies behaving oddly? Contract negotiations are under way

emails on laptopInterpreters… How do you know a large new government contract is in the process of being tendered and awarded?

Answer: Those weird emails from agencies offering new services, asking you to fill out a survey or asking you to confirm you want to stay on their books i.e. bump up the numbers of their suppliers (you) even though it’s possible you never registered with them in the first place.

What examples have we seen recently?

Sign Solutions put out a survey of freelancers about their fees and terms and conditions. They’ll have been tendering for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) second generation contract and the National Framework by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS). Let’s hope they do not get either as a contender for worst ‘BSL specialist’ agency, who have tendered for contracts below which interpreters are willing to work. This has resulted in boycotts. Which have worked.

Pearl Linguistics and The Big Word have created some wonderful 10 minute online CPD courses on subjects such as safe guarding. Clearly a tick box exercise designed to fulfil some contract specification. If only government departments would listen to organisations like NUBSLI, NUPIT and PI4J when they’ve told them that CPD is individual to the interpreter and fees must be commensurate to enable the interpreter to source good quality CPD according to their individual needs. Makes a mockery of safe guarding procedures, doesn’t it?

Wales Council for the Deaf, (I can’t comment on their services as I do not know), suddenly emailed those in the South East and South West last year to see if interpreters would register with them. Why? Despite protests from NUBSLI, the Crown Commercial Service refused to change their regional contract structure into one that was more reflective of geographical areas and market conditions and lumped in Wales with the whole of the South of England. As a result Welsh providers were chasing interpreters in Kent.

Last year, Capita were fishing around via their various subsidiaries to see if interpreters would work for one hour for Access to Work users. Alledgely Action on Hearing Loss have been quoting for blocks of one hour. They already hold DWP contracts despite advising the DWP via UKCoD and other meetings. Separation of supply and advice? Not with these organisations. These queries will be coming from the DWP who is considering its options. National Framework or bust for Access to Work then.

All those requests for ID even though you are registered and have already provided these? The contract will state a requirement for a BPPS (Baseline Personnel Security Standard) check. Ever more bureaucratic hoops for interpreters to jump through.

So if you receive any strange requests, you can bet there’s an agency chasing some public sector business and seeing how much it can get away with before it sticks in a low tender and screws its suppliers: us.

Be careful how you reply, get behind your union, (NUBSLI or NUPIT), and get ready to stand strong.

The announcement of suppliers for the National Framework will be out later this month for an April start and is open to most public authorities in the UK. The MoJ contract notice is also due in March for start in October 2016 when the cuurent contract expires.

Further reading:

Letter from DWP on the privatisation of Access to Work

If you missed the news in the Mirror and the Stop Changes campaign letter… it’s worth catching up here and this is the response from DWP…

STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK

You may remember our letter which we sent to DWP in response to the article in the Mirror last week about the privitisation of Access to Work. See our post here: http://stopchanges2atw.com/2016/02/04/privatisation-of-atw-letter-to-mr-duncan-smith/

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your email of 4 February to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, concerning Access to Work.

I hope that you will understand that Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and are unable to reply personally on every occasion. I have therefore been asked to respond and I hope that the following is helpful.

On behalf of this Department, I would like to confirm that no decisions have been made on the future delivery model of Access to Work and there are no current plans to privatise the service.

The Autumn Spending Review settlement awarded Access to Work with a real-terms increase in resources and…

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Sign Safe run by Capita?


imageThis blog has long recorded the effects privatisation on the interpreting industry. We know that one of the so-called big four companies who run the infrastructure of the UK, Capita, has made inroads into the interpreting market after buying out a small company, ALS, and taking on the MoJ contract in 2011, a mere four months after the contract was awarded.

We saw last year a surprise leak about Capita’s shocking charges to the MoJ for interpreting services, only a fraction of which gets paid to its suppliers – the interpreters who fulfil the contract for them.

One of the known problems, that still reoccurs in government contracting, is a reluctance to recognise the already existing registers of interpreters. Both ALS and Capita, believed they could create their own register with little knowledge of the interpreting industry. Their version of a register was little more than a list of names of people who had self-declared they could interpret rather than having qualifications and experience.

Why is this relevant now? The subject needs to be raised of the independence of existing registers/regulators and statutory regulation. NRPSI (National Registers of Public Service Interpreters) went through a tricky time prior to its independence in 2011 from its then owners, the Chartered Institute of Linguists. ALS had paid to subscribe to the register and used these details to falsely inflate the number of interpreters on its books in order to win the MoJ contract. NRPSI is clearly independent now and operates in a different way. What about NRCPD (National Registers of Communication Profesisonals for Deaf and Deafblind People)? It is still tied to Signature A.K.A CACDP who have used all sorts of excuses not to be independent (litigation – insurance covers that and costs – see lack of transparency of accounting practices).

NRCPD, despite admitting they could not pass the standards put in place by the PSA who oversee voluntary registers, is now chasing statutory regulation. This goes against the government’s agenda. One fact sheet states:

“The Government’s view is that high standards for these occupational groups and others can be assured without imposing statutory regulation, with a key role to be played by employers. That is why, in the wider context of supporting providers, we are creating, through the Health and Social Care Act, a system of external quality assurance.” Support Worker Regulation Factsheet, April 2012

Let’s return to another subsidiary of Capita: Capita Gas Registration and Ancillary Services Limited who runs the Gas Safe Register. How has it come to run the register? In 1998, the government passed legislation regarding gas safety: Gas Safety Regulations. The Health and Safety Executive reports CORGI ran the register of accredited gas engineers until 2008 when Capita bid and won the second generation contract to run the register for ten years. Even Wiki states that standards fell when Capita took over and profits meant that candidates now just passed a qualification whereas with CORGI they also had to pass an interview held by an inspector.

This is an example of how you can push through statutory regulation for what people think is the greater good, for public protection, but then your industry lands up in the hands of a private company anyway.

It is an irony that in December 2012 NRCPD decided to name its campaign SignSafe. Or is it?

image

 

National Framework Agreement for Interpreting: what services does it cover?

imageThe contract notice for the Framework is out and it makes for a shocking read when you look at the services it covers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is easier to ask what service or government departments it doesn’t cover. The answer: none or certainly not many.

The contract notice lists organisations from pages 22 – 29. I paste below to illustrate this is a coordinated attack on the whole interpreting profession, spoken and sign languages in a bid to control and reduce prices to unsustainable levels.

Of course we won’t know the full extent of the damage until it becomes clear who has won places on the framework, what contracts they hold and what prices they fell to in order to win contracts. A possible 3 agencies per region of which there are 5. 15 possible suppliers and a bidding war by agencies to get their places followed by further competitions for contracts (known as call-offs from the framework). The future does not look bright. Thank goodness for NUBSLI.

Authorites eligible to buy contracts from the framework:

Central Government Departments, Local Government and Public Corporations that can be accessed at the Public Sector Classification Guide: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/na-classification/national-accounts-sector-classification/index.html Local Authorities http://openlylocal.com/councils/all http://www.ubico.co.uk NDPBs https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations National Parks Authorities http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/ Educational Establishments in England and Wales, maintained by the Department for Children, Schools and Families including Schools, Universities and Colleges but not Independent Schools http://www.education.gov.uk/edubase/home.xhtml Police Forces in the United Kingdom http://www.police.uk/?view=force_sites http://apccs.police.uk/about-the-apcc/ Fire and Rescue Services in the United Kingdom http://www.fireservice.co.uk/information/ukfrs http://www.nifrs.org/areas-districts/ http://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-area.aspx NHS Bodies England http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/AcuteTrustListing.aspx http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/MentalHealthTrustListing.aspx http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/CareTrustListing.aspx http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/AmbulanceTrustListing.aspx http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/SpecialHealthAuthorityListing.aspx http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/OtherListing.aspx Hospices in the UK http://www.helpthehospices.org.uk/about-hospice-care/find-a-hospice/uk-hospice-and-palliative-care- services/ Registered Social Landlords (Housing Associations) Third Sector and Charities in the United Kingdom http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/find-charities/ http://www.oscr.org.uk/search-charity-register/ https://www.charitycommissionni.org.uk/ShowCharity/RegisterOfCharities/RegisterHomePage.aspx Citizens Advice in the United Kingdom http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice.htm http://www.cas.org.uk http://www.citizensadvice.co.uk/ Scottish Public Bodies The Framework Agreement will be available for use by any Scottish Public Sector Body: the Authority; Scottish Non-Departmental Public Bodies; offices in the Scottish Administration which are not ministerial offices; cross-border public authorities within the meaning of section 88(5) of the Scotland Act 1998; the Scotland Office; the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body; councils constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 (except where they are acting in their capacity as educational authority); Scottish joint fire boards or joint fire and rescue boards; Scottish joint police boards or anysuccessor National Police or Fire Authority; Scottish National Park authorities, bodies registered as social landlords under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, Scottish health boards or special health boards, Student Loans Company Limited, Northern Lighthouse Board, further or higher education institutions being fundable bodies within the meaning of section 6 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005 any public body established by or under the Scotland Act 1998 or any Act of the Scottish Parliament, any association of or formed by one or more of the foregoing, bodies financed wholly or mainly by one or more of the foregoing, bodies subject to management supervision by one or more of the foregoing and bodies more than half of the board of directors or members of which, or, in the case of a group of individuals, more than half of those individuals, being appointed by one or more of the foregoing. Scottish Government http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Home Scottish Parliament http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/abouttheparliament/27110.aspx Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Scottish Information Commissioner Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland Scottish Commission for Human Rights Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland Standards Commission for Scotland Scottish Local Authorities http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Government/councils http://www.scotland-excel.org.uk/home/AboutUs/OurMembers/AssociateMembers.aspx Scottish Agencies, NDPBs http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/public-bodies/about/Bodies Scottish NHS Bodies http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Health/NHS-Workforce/NHS-Boards Scottish Further and Higher Education Bodies http://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/index.php?page=members http://www.sfc.ac.uk/aboutus/council_funded_institutions/WhoWeFundColleges.aspx Scottish Police http://www.scotland.police.uk/your-community/ Scottish Housing Associations http://www.sfha.co.uk/component/option,com_membersdir/Itemid,149/view,membersdir/ The Scotland Office http://www.scotlandoffice.gov.uk/scotlandoffice/33.30.html Registered Social Landlords (Housing Associations) – Scotland http://www.esystems.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk/register/reg_pub_dsp.search Scottish Schools Primary Schools http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishschoolsonline/index.asp? schoolsearchstring=&addresssearchstring=&authority=&strTypes=isprimaryschool&bSubmit=1&Submit=Search Secondary Schools http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishschoolsonline/index.asp? schoolsearchstring=&addresssearchstring=&authority=&strTypes=issecondaryschool&bSubmit=1&Submit=Sear Special Schools http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishschoolsonline/index.aspschoolsearchstring=&addresssearchstring=&authority=&strTypes=isspecial&bSubmit=1&Submit=Search Scottish Public Bodies National Records of Scotland Historic Scotland Disclosure Scotland Registers of Scotland Scottish Qualification Authority Scottish Courts Service Scottish Prison Service Transport Scotland The Scottish Government Core Directorates Highlands and Islands Enterprise Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service Scottish Police Authority National Museums of Scotland Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration Scottish Enterprise Scottish Environment Protection Agency Scottish Legal Aid Board Scottish Natural Heritage Skills Development Scotland Visit Scotland Aberdeen City Council Aberdeenshire Council Angus Council Argyll and Bute Council City of Edinburgh Council Clackmannanshire Council Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Dumfries and Galloway Council Dundee City Council East Ayrshire Council East Dunbartonshire Council East Lothian Council East Renfrewshire Council Falkirk Council Fife Council Glasgow City Council Highland Council Inverclyde Council Midlothian Council Moray Council, The North Ayrshire Council North Lanarkshire Council Orkney Islands Council Perth and Kinross Council Renfrewshire Council Scottish Borders Council Shetland Islands Council South Ayrshire Council South Lanarkshire Council Stirling Council West Dunbartonshire Council West Lothian Council Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service Fife Fire and Rescue Service Grampian Fire and Rescue Service Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service Tayside Fire and Rescue Service Golden Jubilee Hospital (National Waiting Times Centre Board) NHS 24 NHS Ayrshire and Arran NHS Borders NHS Dumfries and Galloway NHS Education for Scotland NHS Fife NHS Forth Valley NHS Grampian NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Health Scotland NHS Highland NHS Lanarkshire NHS Lothian NHS Orkney Healthcare Improvement Scotland NHS Shetland NHS Tayside NHS Western Isles Scottish Ambulance Service The Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service The State Hospital for Scotland Aberdeen College Adam Smith College Angus College Anniesland College Ayr College Banff and Buchan College Barony College Borders College Cardonald College Carnegie College Central College of Commerce Clydebank College Coatbridge College Cumbernauld College Dumfries and Galloway College Dundee College Edinburghs Telford College Elmwood College Forth Valley College Glasgow College of Nautical Studies Glasgow Metropolitan College Inverness College James Watt College Jewel and Esk College John Wheatley College Kilmarnock College Langside College Lews Castle College Moray College Motherwell College Newbattle Abbey College North Glasgow College North Highland College Oatridge College Orkney College Perth College Reid Kerr College Sabhal Mor Ostaig Shetland College South Lanarkshire College Stevenson College Stow College Queen Margaret University Robert Gordon University Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama Scottish Agricultural College UHI Millennium Institute University of Aberdeen University of Abertay Dundee University of Dundee University of Edinburgh University of Glasgow University of St Andrews University of Stirling University of Strathclyde University of the West of Scotland Cairngorms National Park Authority Office of Scottish Charity Regulator Forestry Commission Scotland Audit Scotland Welsh Public Bodies National Assembly for Wales, Welsh Assembly Government and Welsh Local Authorities, and all bodies covered by: http://www.assemblywales.org/abthome/abt-links.htm http://new.wales.gov.uk/about/civilservice/directorates/?lang=en NHS Wales http://www.wales.nhs.uk/ourservices/directory Housing Associations – Registered Social Landlords Wales NI Public Bodies Northern Ireland Government Departments http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/gov.htm Northern Ireland Public Sector Bodies and Local Authorities http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/az2.htm Schools in Northern Ireland http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/index/search.lsim?sr=0&nh=10&cs=iso-8859-1&sc=nidirect- cms&sm=0&mt=1&ha=nidirect-cms&cat=Banner&qt=SCHOOLS Universities in Northern Ireland http://www.deni.gov.uk/links.htm#colleges Health and Social care in Northern Ireland http://www.hscni.net/index.php?link=hospitals http://www.hscni.net/index.php?link=boards http://www.hscni.net/index.php?link=agencies http://www.hscni.net/index.php?link=councils Northern Ireland Housing Associations http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/index/contacts/contacts-az.htm/housing-associations-contact Police Service of Northern Ireland http://www.psni.police.uk/index.htm

ENDS