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: Local Authorities NDPBs National Parks Authorities Educational Establishments in England and Wales, maintained by the Department for Children, Schools and Families including Schools, Universities and Colleges but not Independent Schools Police Forces in the United Kingdom Fire and Rescue Services in the United Kingdom NHS Bodies England Hospices in the UK services/ Registered Social Landlords (Housing Associations) Third Sector and Charities in the United Kingdom Citizens Advice in the United Kingdom 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 Scottish Parliament 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 Scottish Agencies, NDPBs Scottish NHS Bodies Scottish Further and Higher Education Bodies Scottish Police Scottish Housing Associations,com_membersdir/Itemid,149/view,membersdir/ The Scotland Office Registered Social Landlords (Housing Associations) – Scotland Scottish Schools Primary Schools schoolsearchstring=&addresssearchstring=&authority=&strTypes=isprimaryschool&bSubmit=1&Submit=Search Secondary Schools schoolsearchstring=&addresssearchstring=&authority=&strTypes=issecondaryschool&bSubmit=1&Submit=Sear Special Schools 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: NHS Wales Housing Associations – Registered Social Landlords Wales NI Public Bodies Northern Ireland Government Departments Northern Ireland Public Sector Bodies and Local Authorities Schools in Northern Ireland cms&sm=0&mt=1&ha=nidirect-cms&cat=Banner&qt=SCHOOLS Universities in Northern Ireland Health and Social care in Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Housing Associations Police Service of Northern Ireland




NUBSLI Statement on the Release of the National Framework Contract Notice

Reposted from The Nub:

NUBSLI Statement on the Release of the National Framework Contract Notice for Language Services from the Crown Commercial Service

The tender documents for the national framework agreement for interpreting and translation went out today. NUBSLI have been campaigning against this with our #ScrapTheFramework campaign since February 2015 and have successfully delayed the tendering process for over a year.

Today’s development is deeply disappointing and shows that the government are not interested in providing a robust service to ensure high quality access, but are merely aiming to cut cost. This will be to the detriment of the access rights of the Deaf community.

The Cabinet office were unable to provide any answers to the issues we have been raising since September 2014 regarding sustainability of the workforce, breached legislative requirements, or unmet need. The framework cannot meet the needs of the Deaf community and will undoubtedly lead to a deterioration of standards and reduced numbers of qualified BSL/English Interpreters/Translators in the UK.

NUBSLI will continue to fight for the right to fair terms & conditions and fees for its interpreters, and for high quality access for the Deaf community. Even after the launch of the National Framework, all hope is not lost. Coming together as a profession, standing firm with one powerful collective voice will make us impossible to ignore. If you are an interpreter or translator then we urge you to join us. For members of the Deaf community, it is your right to refuse services under this contract.

This government are placing BSL/English Interpreting services at significant risk in the UK.

RM1092 The National Framework: designed to wreck the Deaf and Interpreting community

After five years of contracting omnishambles and nearly one year of NUBSLI‘s campaigning against the biggest framework for interpreting services we’ve ever seen in the profession, we are still waiting for the biggest mess ever to occur.

This blog has recorded and commented on, over those last five years, the damage that large contracts taken by large agencies have done to the Deaf and interpreting communities.

The trend of ever larger contracts continues despite everything over the last five years pointing to this not benefiting the Deaf community. They are no longer Customers, it is now the government department or Contracting Authority i.e. NHS trust, MoJ, DWP and AtW. The interpreter is no longer the Supplier, it is now the Agency. Layers of administration come between Deaf people and interpreters with choice and control removed and interpreters are left fighting for a sustainable career which if they do not have leaves the Deaf community without an adequate supply of quality interpreters who can afford to work full time and be members of the community.

The national framework is being designed by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) to bring three existing frameworks together. The most important ones for BSL are RM738 face to face interpreting and the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) national framework. The companies that won places on the RM738 framework were: The Big Word, Prestige Network and Language Line. For the MoJ a monopoly was handed to ALS then taken over by Capita. Not a specialist BSL agency in sight. No, all they were left with were sub-contracts to these big guns who knew nothing about Deaf people. Interpreters were left fighting for their rates as the squeeze was on for everyone to get their cut.

Although standards were written into the MoJ the competitive mess sub-contracting brought about meant many experienced court interpreters left it to those who’d accept less. The excellent interpreters booked directly and well-respected by individual courts were pushed out unless they were willing to jump through administrative hoops and be booked by subcontracted agencies, one of whom knew little about legal work, the other dropping its own standards for the sake of saving its business.

Meanwhile with RM738, standards were not exactly high on the list of priorities. With nothing written into the actual framework and scant monitoring agencies were free to use whomever they chose and unqualified signers with GCSE level qualifications they used. And they cared little. One of three, the Big Word, proclaimed publicly in its evidence to the Justice Committee in 2012 that its, “extensive partnering with local suppliers, including SMEs and the voluntary and third sector (sic) ensures that contracts can be filled at a local level”. The reality is they’ve been one of the biggest blights on the sign language interpreting profession over these five years with Capita being another.

Five years on we have a national framework proposed which is based on the same principles as the others. The strategy seems to be increase administration and sub-contracting (which supposedly fills the government’s SME agenda), ignores the work of the registers (by dictating that agencies produce ID cards and provide CPD to interpreters) and fails to measure or understand the basic needs that interpreting services should be designed to fulfil.

On their procurement pipeline, the CCS states, “We do not set policy on how public sector organisations provide access to interpreting services nor do we determine the appropriate qualification levels for interpreters in particular circumstances. The offering is broad and it is for individual customers to establish their requirements in line with their policies when creating a contract under the framework agreement.” This is just one example of a clear lack of respect in setting standards or even understanding them in the first place.

With basic groundwork not done by government departments the national framework, RM1092, is a house of cards built on quicksand. Those who think that standards have been written in and therefore everything with this framework is now perfectly fine would do well to review the NUBSLI visual above and consider each of the points made. Standards written into a document is one thing, there are many other implications of what such a large, badly planned framework can have. Especially when it is designed to cover every type of interpreting, including Access to Work (AtW). Any choice and control in interpreting provision Deaf people had left is about to be removed and if sustainable fees are not paid to interpreters the knock on effect will likely to leave the profession, and the Deaf community, devastated for years to come.

What do you know about the new framework agreement?

This is some of what you really should know about the new framework for all interpreting and other services across the UK. You’ve probably seen that there was BSL levels 1-4 listed as interpreting qualifications and that these, due to public pressure, have been removed from the agreement. Well we haven’t seen confirmation of that yet.

The fact NUBSLI made representations about this and a number of other points, all of which have been passed over, points to a glaringly obvious fact. This framework has not being created in consultation with interpreters, the eventual suppliers of contracts which will be bought from the framework. Or Deaf people who the government hopes will have all public service interpreting via contracts from the framework.

Who has been consulted?
The Crown Commercial Service say they have consulted ‘extensively’. With who? Customers i.e government departments: NHS, DWP and … Organisations i.e. businesses, agencies and “Signature, the commercial arm of NRCPD”.

Who else have they consulted?
Suppliers. Well not the actual suppliers who are interpreters. The larger BSL agencies. Who? Clarion, Sign Solutions, Action on Hearing Loss and Newham Language Shop were the four BSL agencies present at a stakeholder day. The large spoken language interpreter agencies were present: Big Word, Pearl… amongst others.

Have they consulted NRCPD or NRPSI?
Frances Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and paymaster general, does not mention them in his reply to my letter via my MP Tessa Jowell. Tokenistic phone calls and emails seem to be the only thing that have occurred.

Who else haven’t they consulted?
Deaf people. No consultation, no equality impact assessment. In fact Deaf people have been told very little apart from “we object”. What good is that without action? Inaction is almost as good as saying “we support.”

What can we expect?
More sub-contracting – it is expected up to three agencies will be awarded places on the framework for each Lot. ‘Non-spoken interpreting’ is Lot 4. See above for the likely candidates. Although government has ‘commitments’ to support SMEs to win government contracts, the contracts get ever larger and so do the suppliers. Cross reference: UK-wide MoJ contract with one supplier: Capita, one of the big four.
How do the big suppliers fill local smaller contracts? Sub-contracting. Where does that leave the interpreter? Two businesses taking a fee and less being offered to the interpreter per job.
What does that leave the Deaf person? Usually with a signer because they are cheaper.

Two-hour minimums: interpreters have become an hourly-paid commodity with no value given to experience, training and commitment to the profession. Research shows the Deaf community want committed experienced interpreters who are involved in the Deaf community. More of us are now relying on other paid work to top up interpreting hours. Many have taken on interpreting as a second job to make up hours/pay from other part-time work. Nearly 50% are considering leaving the profession and of those most have over 10 years experience. The Deaf community are getting the opposite of what they want.

Reduced quality and standards:
In the framework if a supplier can not get a qualified interpreter they can just put in the next best thing. As we have seen with existing contracts, that will be anyone with a basic sign language qualification. The standards quoted are lip service, with next to no monitoring of government contracts (link) the agencies will run riot.

How wide-spread is this framework likely to be?
It will operate across the UK.
80 customers have been consulted: government departments, local authorities, the NHS, DWP i.e. AtW.
A clause in the draft language specification states that agencies with a place on the framework must encourage other statutory organisations to purchase contracts from the framework. The clear intent is that all interpreting UK wide, signed and spoken, will go through one very large framework with up to three suppliers on each lot.

What about monitoring and evaluation?
There is none. Well companies do their own which means the same thing. They are always going to come out looking great, despite what is happening on the ground.

And where are we currently? Months behind their deadline CCS are rushing through what will be the biggest disaster for both the interpreting profession and Deaf people. Contracts are supposedly with lawyers and there are no reassurances that when back they won’t just be put out for tender without consultation. Notices are supposed to go out by the end of January and the go live date is April. But then with a contracts this full of loopholes why would the government want to consult with anyone?

Join NUBSLI, we oppose the framework.

Justice Select Committee Call for Evidence

As reported on this blog on 7th July there was news of parliament deciding to investigate the Ministry of Justice’s National Framework Agreement for interpreting and translation services for courts and tribunals across England and Wales.

If you have any evidence to submit of failures with the contract please see the information below which calls for evidence. Further information about how to make a submission to the Committee can be found on the link provided below.

The provision of registered interpreters that lack legal experience or who are unsafe to practice in legal settings is not a breach of contract so this type of evidence has to be submitted in terms of an agency failing to have the correct experience to undertake the contract.

What can be submitted is evidence, similar to that reported in this blog, which could include the following: the wrong provision such as interpreters provided when it should have been lipspeakers, bookings not made by courts or released too late to source an interpreter, provision of unregistered interpreters, costly delays and adjournments from failures to source an interpreter, interpreters asked by judges or panel members to interpret on their own or for different parties when another interpreter can not be sourced.

If you are submitting evidence it will strengthen the case if you can add dates and the court or tribunal in question. This then makes evidence real rather than anecdotal. It is understandable that confidentiality is a concern. Please make this clear when submitting evidence.

Due to work done by PR company Involvis on behalf of the Professional Interpreters for Justice campaign the issues have remained public with another flurry of reports of failures in the news.

An interpreter who could not attend a murder trial sent along her husband instead as she was too busy. If you wish to read some of the latest news there is an excellent round up on the website.

Alongside the G4S Olympic games scandal with security, it can only be a matter of time before this contract is seen by all for what it is. Another expensive and dangerous outsourcing mistake by government.

New Inquiry: Interpretation and Translation services and the Applied Language Solutions contract

18 July 2012

The Justice Select Committee is launching a call for written evidence on the provision of interpretation and translation services since Applied Language Solutions (ALS) began operating as the Ministry of Justice’s sole contractor for language services in February 2012.

Specifically we will seek to explore six areas:

The rationale for changing arrangements for the provision of interpreter services
The nature and appropriateness of the procurement process
The experience of courts and prisons in receiving interpretation services that meet their needs
The nature and effectiveness of the complaints process
The steps that have been taken to rectify under-performance and the extent to which they have been effective
The appropriateness of arrangements for monitoring the management of the contract, including the quality and cost-effectiveness of the service delivered.
The deadline for submissions is Monday 3 September 2012.

Further information on how to submit evidence is on the website stated above.