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?




Signature must release their NRCPD cash cow: part 1

  Although interpreters pay to be regulated, any register does not belong to them, nor do they get a say in how the regulator they use is run. However, they do have a right to see where their money goes and that it indeed goes towards the actual public protection of people who use that regulator. I do not just mean Deaf people but the many people who place their trust in a register to provide them with information on who is qualified or in training, has insurance, is police checked and safe to book for their service/organisation to provide access to Deaf people as per statutory duties.

The holder of the NRCPD registers is Signature which is the trading name of CACDP. Another subsidiary of which is Signature Commercial Limited. A company which declared losses of £96k in the year ending 2013 and £160k for 2014. The accounts show website costs, two employees but barely any more information than that as they have “taken advantage of financial reporting standard 8 whereby subsidiary undertakings do not have to disclose inter-group transactions if 90% or more of their shares are controlled by the group”. Who knows what costs are being squirrelled away in the commercial arm.

This is one example of a lack of transparency. The next accounting practice will be more shocking to those that pay money to the register. Especially for those like myself who have called for independence of NRCPD from Signature and received the answer that it costs too much money to run the register and it could not survive without funding from Signature to keep it afloat.

In the accounting year ending July 2011, the register made a profit of £36k as follows:

Income  130,434    Expenditure  94,478     PROFIT  35,956

In July 2012:

Income  161,394    Expenditure  279,339   LOSS   -117945

In July 2013:

Income  180,810 Expenditure    285,450   LOSS   -104640

In July 2014:

Income  212,409   Expenditure  335,162   LOSS  -122,753

Why the spiralling costs of running a register? There are no separate accounts for NRCPD as CACDP/Signature does not have to provide them. The annual reports for NRCPD reveal nothing but a promise to improve transparency in their finances. A promise yet to be fulfilled.

The only clue is in the way that expenditure is apportioned to each activity in the CACDP/Signature accounts and what this percentage of overheads amounts to as a total of all expenditure. In July 2011 registration was deigned to have cost 6% of all of CACDP/Signature’s expenditure. A fairly reasonable cost which resulted in an overall profit of £36k that was made by CACDP/Signature.

Why the loss of £118k in 2012 despite an income of £161k? A whopping 18% of CACDP/Signature’s expenditure was attributed to the activity “registration” which amounted to £279k. This stayed at 18% for 2013 and has now increased to 21% for 2014.

So CACDP/Signature, with many different activites, apportions 21% of ALL of its costs to registration i.e. NRCPD supposedly costs CACDP/Signature £335k. Put in perspective a much smaller 16% is apportioned to development of examinations, training and materials.

Does it really cost £335,000 to run a register? Only if you apportion 21% of your overheads against registration. 21% of every single staff member at Signature is paid for by the register, despite the fact that not all staff members work for NRCPD.

It is time that the finances of CACDP/Signature were more transparent for registrants and Deaf people alike. It is time for the NRCPD registers to be truly independent at a time when we need them to be, more so now than ever in this political climate. Interpreters, other registrants and Deaf people need to call for independence so we finally make this happen. NRCPD’s so-called independent governance no longer cuts it, it is tied by these accounting procedures. An income of £212k is more than enough for a successful register to survive and furthermore, with not just the financial ties cut from CACDP/Signature, with employees working solely in its interests the register is much more likely to grow and succeed.