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?

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Round up…

I’ve barely blogged since the election. The challenges the sign language interpreting profession are facing in the UK are huge. What does this mean if this is happening to a small niche profession such as ours? 

  • The very existence of our profession is under threat.
  • So to other professions who serve the Deaf community e.g lipspeakers.
  • Deaf people are being affected too in every area of life.
  • The challenges we all face fit into the sweeping blanket changes happening to the disabled community whose equality, independence and dignity are being dug away in droves.

What happened? We got a Tory right wing government with no coalition partners to temper them. Forget the 12 MP majority in the House. That didn’t stop them when they put out an Equality Impact Assessment notice announcing Access to Work cuts hours after the election result was announced in May. See the excellent Stop Changes campaign blog for your round up on all things Access to Work related. And make sure you watch the TedX talk by Jenny Sealey for a moving summary of exactly how Deaf and disabled people are being affected by the cuts.

What else? The independent living fund has been scrapped for severely disabled people  despite the high court declaring this illegal. Supposedly funds have been transferred to local councils though a series of freedom of information requests show that many don’t know about it. Two weeks ago we saw DPAC protestors storm the House of Commons which gained great media coverage. Anyone who isn’t sure of exactly what these cuts are going to mean should watch Liz Carr’s speech at the People’s Assembly demo. The government won’t want you to be thinking about incontinence pads and people sitting in their own wee waiting for someone to show up when more budgets cuts are announced on Wednesday 8th July.

NUBSLI has been working hard making representations to various government departments and framework providers who want to see us paid the least amount possible yet still provide a ‘quality service’. This a government who does not believe in professions, independent regulation or quality. Just cost. If it did then the weighting for awarding contracts to private companies would be 100 quality/0 cost or something closer to that than the 40/60 for the first MoJ framework which brought us the disastrous Applied Language Solutions. This allowed a route in for Capita to try and take over a market it has little understanding of and certainly no duty of care to the people receiving the end service. A fact made more obvious since Capita declared at one government stakeholder meeting last year that they could control the interpreting market if given the chance. Not something the Deaf community would ever choose. Or interpreters.

Many frameworks are now being discussed and frighteningly the people that draw them up have no clue. You need professional interpreters in mental health? What do you mean someone with level 3 and no interpreter training will not suffice? We really haven’t moved on.

And on the perpetuation of the myth that CSWs are somehow ok and we’ve all forgotten the work done in the 1990s by the then, more ethical, CACDP… CSW and interpreter apprenticeships are still being discussed, the threat of a CSW register is still around, NDCS (a charity that is supposed to campaign for the best for Deaf children) is part of the ‘BSL coalition’ (along with BDA, Signature and others). Awful misnomer. NDCS advertises funding for BSL language qualifications for CSWs. Maybe a slight admittance there that CSWs are not good enough for Deaf children?  The Deaf children that should be seen as the important future of the Deaf community rather than being let down. The Adept UK machine still rumbles on and no one seems interested in reframing the debate. Why is no one talking about the ideal for Deaf children’s access to education, about what options could be possible then trying to find solutions that are a better than the two tier interpreter/CSW mess we have now. Where are the academics, experts and organisations to come up with something better? This blog aloNe can not address this. It needs a much larger public debate intiated by the very organisations who seem to perpetuate the myth itself.

Of course the existence of this two tier system presents risks in an environment where a new government sees qualified professional interpreters as expensive, unnecessary and replaceable. Since the high profile People’s Assembly demo where NUBSLI interpreters featured all over the media and Deaf people and interpreters stood side by side in protest we have gained strength as a grass roots movement who want the same thing. There are pockets of good work being done by the organisations who serve the Deaf community but they seem mostly absent, too busy  fighting for their own survival amongst the cuts. This is now a grass roots fight for what is right. Deaf people and interpreters: get on board quick. We’ve got work to do and we are all on the Tories’ radar.