The chief executive of the new company contracted to provide courtroom interpreting says he is confident of meeting his 98% performance target – despite the problems experienced by its predecessor.
Larry Gould (pictured) told the Gazette that thebigword, which has recruited 4,300 linguists to help provide language services to the Ministry of Justice, will invest heavily in technology to achieve 100%. From January, linguists will be able to access bookings and manage invoices through a phone app. Videoconferencing will also be developed.
Gould said he wants to work with the Law Society to help get solicitors’ ‘buy in’. ‘Lawyers are under huge pressure but [with] some simple training and outreach to the legal profession, we can achieve not just work fulfilment but a better, successful experience. Working with interpreters should be part of the curriculum.’
Thebigword took over from Capita Translation and Interpreting on 31 October to provide face-to-face interpretation and translation (including telephone and video), and translation and transcription. Capita TI managed to hit the 98% performance target of completed service requests only once in four years in a contract marred by late attendance and interpreter protests over fee levels.
Gould said the biggest difference with the new contract is that thebigword will be ‘strongly monitored’. The Language Shop, a business set up by the London Borough of Newham, is responsible for independent quality assurance under the new regime.
Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J), an umbrella group representing more than 2,000 interpreters from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and 370 British Sign Language interpreters, welcomed the supplier change and said it was encouraged by the ‘greater emphasis’ placed on quality assurance.
‘However, if the new supplier is going to remedy the decline in the quality of interpreting available to the courts and tribunals, it will have to persuade qualified and experienced practitioners to return to the market,’ PI4J said in a statement to the Gazette.
PI4J said a framework agreement rolled out in 2012 replaced a nationally agreed scale of fees with ‘wholly unrealistic fees which in many instances did not justify the interpreter leaving home’.
Thebigword says linguists will be paid based on the complexity of the assignment. An ‘attractive’ package includes extra payments for assignments at short notice, improved expenses policies, overnight supplements, a £7.50 ‘daily incidental payment’ and parking money.