ATC responds to government proposals to change public sector language service provision

The provision of essential interpreting and translation services could be at risk following the latest government proposals on the provision of language services in the public sector.

A consultation on a draft Frame Work Agreement, run by Crown Commercial Services (CCS), follows years of disruption to fair access within the justice system, after the Ministry of Justice originally awarded a contract for language services to a company that was ill equipped to deliver on it. The CCS has now concluded a lengthy consultation to develop a new Language Services agreement that will replace three existing agreements covering face-to-face interpreting, written translation, and transcription and telephone interpreting.

Commenting on the latest proposals, Geoffrey Bowden, General Secretary of the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) said:

“The consultation is welcomed by the ATC as an opportunity to improve how language services are delivered across the public sector. However, the current proposals fail to show an understanding of how the language industry is structured and, worryingly, demonstrate that lessons from previous failures may not have been learned.”

The ATC has provided detail feedback to CCS and has commented that the current proposals:

  • Will cut off the ability of many language service providers (LSP) to work in the public sector
  • Do not place any obligation on commissioning authorities to pay within 30 days leaving an expectation that LSPs will be expected to act as unofficial bankers to the public sector, while they may be left waiting for payment for anything up to 120 days
  • Lack understanding of the structure and the terms of freelancing within the sector. The proposed bureaucratic barriers in the framework will act as a deterrent for many SME providers, making up the bulk of the sector, from tendering. This will fly in the face of the Government’s stated objective to support SMEs
  • Neglects to accept a shared responsibility of duty of care for linguists when on assignment in places of risk, including prisons, courts, detention centres and hospitals

Geoffrey continues: “Millions of people living in the UK rely on an interpreter or translator when receiving medical treatment, as a victim of crime, or when engaging with local authorities. It is an essential service that the government must use wisely if it is to meet its own legislation and ensure fair access to public services. Yet many of the most vulnerable people in the country will be put at risk because the proposed framework for procuring language services focuses more on bureaucratic processes, rather than the quality of services supplied.”

“The CCS is attempting to apply the same level of bureaucracy it applies to largest players and ignores the fact that smaller enterprises dominate the sector. By proposing a framework that does not recognise this, CCS risks crippling its language providers and putting at risk the many people that rely on them for language support.

“The fact is many public sector procurers are more afraid of upsetting politicians concerned about a backlash on immigration, than they are about fair access to public services. We urge CCS to take on board the feedback provided by the ATC so that a new Frame Work Agreement is developed that it fit for purpose and ensures equal access to language services across the public sector.”

About The Association of Translation Companies

The Association of Translation Companies (ATC) was established in 1976 by a group of leading translation companies to ensure the quality assurance and accreditation of translation and interpreting companies in Britain. It is one of the world’s oldest organisations representing the interests of translation companies and currently has 170 members. For those seeking to source translations, the ATC acts as an impartial guide to assist in sourcing those members most suited to their requirements. ATC members must carry professional indemnity insurance cover and adhere to an agreed Code of Professional Conduct, which has now become the profession’s standard. The ATC is a founding member of the European Union of Association of Translation Companies – a pan European grouping of translation company associations.

About Comtec

An award-winning, full service translation agency, Comtec has over 30 years’ experience in providing fast, accurate and high quality translations in more than 200 languages . We’re the trusted language translation partner for many companies who call on our knowledge of international business and expert translation services to help them expand into new markets overseas. If you’re a UK-based SME considering expanding your business abroad and would like some advice on translating and localising your business materials, please get in touch on or call us on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681. We’re here ready and waiting to help.

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