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.

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:

#ScrapTheFramework latest: 1000 sign the letter, framework is not fit for purpose

As reported on the Limping Chicken blog earlier in the week, over 1000 signatories signed the open letter to Francis Maude MP, asking him to #ScrapTheFramework.

The letter included Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union, leading campaign organisations and several MPs.

You can read the letter on NUBSLI’s campaign page.

This framework will change the way interpreting services are delivered to Deaf people in the UK, as well as covering all spoken language interpreting and other communication support such as lip speakers, deafblind interpreters, note takers and speech to text reporters. Privatisation of a whole sector in one go.

There is still work to be done in making representations to the Crown Commercial Service as there is a proposed two-hour minimum for interpreters and no travel expenses.

Aside from terms and conditions and fees the actual framework needs much more work. There are no stipulations about where Trainee Sign Language Interpreters (TSLIs) are able to work leaving agencies able to put Trainees into child protection and mental health. The NRCPD’s view. As long as registration is stipulated that is fine. It is not. Registered is RSLI: Registered Sign Language Interpreter. TSLI is on the register but not registered. Confused? So is everyone else. Trainees have yet to reach the National Occupational Standards and as such need to be protected and Deaf people safeguarded appropriately. NRCPD states on their website that Trainees should not work in legal settings and mental health. NRCPD, do what you say and tell the CCS no Trainees in mental health. Child protection should be explicitly stated too. As an unwritten rule the interpreting community has recognised this area as a no go for Trainees for years due to its legal as well as it’s moral nature.

On the spoken language interpreting side, there are low level qualifications stated for all areas, leaving the quality of provision dangerously low. Given that most agencies are motivated by profit the lowest possible common denominator gets the job not who is the most suitable. Private contracts are hardly safe when monitoring is left in the hands of private agencies who can make up their own figures (cf Ministry of Justice framework and ALS now Capita TI).

The way Deaf people are talked about is patronising and erroneous. “Non-spoken”, interpreters enable Deaf people “to access hearing” and if you are Deafblind you have access to video relay services. Hardly written from the basis of good knowledge and practice, or even common sense. No. This framework is a disaster waiting to happen.

NUBSLI launches its #ScrapTheFramework Campaign

scrap-frameworkNUBSLI has launched its #ScrapTheFramework campaign and is asking organisations and individuals to sign an open letter to Francis Maude MP, Minister of the Cabinet Office asking for the new national framework for language services to be scrapped.

The reasons are that the framework is not robust or fit for purpose, does not have appropriate minimum standards of qualifications, little monitoring is proposed and has many loopholes that will allow sub-standard levels of service.

Why? People with no interpreting qualifications can be used in mental health, child protection, health, employment and in every area of public life. There are other reasons but do you really need more than that?

This blog has reported throughout the disastrous MoJ framework which started in 2011. NUBSLI has seen nothing to suggest the government is trying to uphold standards and safeguard the Deaf community with this framework. We have seen what has happened with the MoJ contract. The national agreement was effectively ripped up, the national register was superfluous, legal personnel were wandering the streets and, in desperation, hounding workers in chinese takeaways trying to find anyone who could come to court to interpret or even used Google translate. The MoJ saga continues. Even after a scathing independent report by Matrix, the government still denies the scope of the problems.

Minor improvements have been promised with this new framework. There is still a lack of consultation with organisations and the Deaf community are still largely unaware of what is about to happen. And the framework in its current state looks like it will roll back the Deaf community’s progress by about 30 years.

See NUBSLI’s article here:

http://nubsli.com/nub-posts/national-framework-could-bring-lasting-harm-to-deaf-community.php

And make sure you sign the open letter and get everyone you know to sign too:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OiEJeJhY3O6X9S36DhhwhLpWwUROUA2XMwGOW1KUipQ/edit

Deadline Wednesday 25th February 5pm.