Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from Zornitsa Stoyanova

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

My name is Zornitsa Stoyanova and as an interpreter for the Bulgarian language I would like to share my personal experience with Applied Language Solutions (ALS). What I will try to do in this submission is to show the flaws (in my view) of the arrangement for the provision of interpreting services and the how it is operating.

I have been interpreting for few years; I do not hold any interpreting qualifications apart from taking couple of induction courses on public service interpreting. At the moment I await results on my DPSI exam which I sat in June this year.

After I registered with ALS I was invited for an assessment but refused to pay to be assessed by them. The introduction of assessment of linguist by ALS was not welcomed by many linguists—at the end of the day we all know that if you want to be a professional legal interpreter there is only one proven qualification and this is the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) provided by the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the National Register of Public Service Interpreters is a great source of qualified interpreters in many languages.

I did not attend an assessment, I registered on ALS’s website http://www.linguistlounge.com and detailed my modest induction qualifications, experience and also stated that I do hold an enhanced CRB check dated August 2008.

To date I have not uploaded a copy of my CRB check, copies of qualifications of references—as far as ALS were concerned at this point they did not have a clue if I could speak English, let alone interpreting for the legal sector.

Since registering I have been “marked” as a Tier 1 interpreter which is the highest qualified Tier for holders of qualifications as per the Framework Agreement. I stayed as a Tier 1 for at least two months. I was then “demoted” to Tier 3 interpreter and at this present moment I am with Tier status as N/A for reasons unclear to me.

Since registering with ALS in December 2011 up until the present date I have been offered work by ALS. The work offered to me by ALS varies between Magistrate Courts, Crown Courts, Employment Tribunal. I am not qualified to carry out any of those assignments. The work was offered to me via telephone calls, text messages and e-mails. I have been contacted probably hundreds of times by ALS offering me work. I do have a phone call logs from my mobile as well as text messages and e-mails to prove it.

Apart from that there was one other thing worth mentioning with regards to how they operate—at least five times the assignments offered to me were for the same day, sometimes I would receive a text message at 10:00 am for a court hearing that starts on the same day at 10:00?!

On 8 March 2012 I accepted an assignment from ALS for Plea and Case Management Hearing at Guildford Crown Court for 23 March 2012, reference 45EL0378410STOYANOV Dimitar T. The assignment was confirmed as mine by ALS one hour after my acceptance. On the morning of the assignment I had a reality check and sent an email letter to ALS stating that I am not going to go because although I would really like to do court work I am not qualified I shouldn’t be there. Below is the content of my e-mail:

Dear colleagues,

I am writing regarding the above job that was assigned to me some time ago. Although I was pleasantly surprised to be receiving offers for court work I have to say that after a reality check this morning I realised that I am neither qualified nor experienced to carry out such interpreting task which bears a high level of responsibility.

I do not have:

Qualification in legal interpreting

Experience in court

If I don’t do this job properly this can easily lead to miscarriage of justice and this is not a responsibility that I am prepared to take. I do not have a professional qualification to “fall” back on.

I sincerely hope you understand.

Zornitsa Stoyanova

Minutes later I received a standard cancelation email from ALS stating that I am no longer required to attend the booking. There was no follow up call, no discussion, nothing. After that ALS kept offering me court jobs. To me this is outrageous professional behaviour which is purely unacceptable. ALS made it absolutely clear to me that they are not concerned about the quality of the service provided and are prepared to “send” just anybody to interpret in court.

1.From my personal experience and view ALS did offer me plenty of work within the criminal justice system without seeing a copy of my CRB (which is three years old), without checking any of the information I have provided to them, without asking me for references, and most importantly without making sure I am qualified for these jobs. At no point I have provided any of my references, CRB check or qualifications to ALS.

2.ALS qualified me as Tier 1, Tier 3 and Tier: n/a without any grounds or proof and most importantly they kept offering me Tier 1 work throughout. Clearly breaching the Framework Agreement.

3.All of the above happened because of the general flaw in ALS’s concept for providing interpreting services in the legal sector. Here is the view that many of my colleagues and me share on the rationale for changing arrangements for the provision of interpreter services The attempt to introduce a three-tier system of interpreter “competence”. There is simply no sound basis for this model in the field or indeed in applied linguistics research into interpreting activities. It is analogous to saying you need a fully trained surgeon to perform open heart surgery, but you can manage with a untrained nurse for having your appendix out, or something else considered to be “less serious”. In short, it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the processes involved. 

4.The attempt unilaterally to slash professional rates of pay and conditions. The rates payable before were after all designed and agreed by the MoJ Civil Servants themselves in 2002, so they did not just get inflated to that level by time or some other irrational process. It does not require great insight into economics to see that, in a market place, if you unilaterally reduce the amount you will pay for a product, providers of that product will stop supplying you. And this is not an area where you can simply replace the original product by a cheaper one of a lower standard (see 3 above). 

As you can see my first two points cover my personal experience with ALS and the Framework Agreement showing fundamental breaches of the latter.

Points 3 and 4 cover two very obvious flaws in the arrangement for the provision of interpreting services which I hope the Committee will take into account if making any recommendations.

I do have factual information and proof to all statements I have made in this submission. These can be provided if so requested.

August 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013