The Ministry of Justice today announced measures which it said would increase the take-home pay of interpreters in a bid to improve the quality of the service to courts and the justice sector.
In a written statement responding to the House of Commons Justice Committee’s critical report on the contract with Capita Translation and Interpreting (formerly Applied Language Solutions), Helen Grant (pictured), courts minister, announced contract changes that she said ‘will have a direct impact on the take-home pay for interpreters’.
She said the changes address concerns that interpreters have raised with the department and Capita.
They include paying interpreters at their qualified tier and in 15-minute blocks, extending the use of mileage payments and introducing cancellation fees where the hearing is cancelled or runs significantly shorter than expected through no fault of the interpreter, as well as the introduction of a fee to cover ‘incidental costs’ that the interpreter might incur.
The changes will come into effect next month.
The MoJ awarded the central contract to Applied in August 2011, weeks before the company was acquired by Capita, on the basis of price – its tender was the cheapest by £50m.
The Gazette first reported in February 2012 that the new arrangements were causing problems for courts, partly because interpreters were refusing to work for new terms.
The MoJ could not immediately say whether the bill for the additional payments would be footed by the contractor or the taxpayer.
However in her statement Grant said: ‘We are confident that these measures are affordable for the taxpayer, but will also have a direct effect on performance levels by attracting more interpreters to register to work, as well as encourage those already registered to undertake more bookings.’
Grant said there had been a ‘dramatic improvement’ in the interpreter contract since the initial problems at the start of last year. She added: ‘Following constructive meetings with interpreters and the contractor we are now putting in place changes to drive further improvement.’
In February the justice committee published a report that questioned whether the contract was ‘financially sustainable’.
Figures released by the MoJ earlier this month showed that the a since the contract started, Capita had failed to reach its performance target, and that the performance actually worsened in January after Capita cut fees paid to interpreters.