Dear Editor, I write on behalf of members of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in response to your article (West Midlands Police to cut £750k from budget for translators, Post September 8).
We are concerned about the quality of service that will be provided under the new arrangements. By slashing rates of pay to interpreters, effective and experienced professionals will no longer be able to afford to carry out this vital work in the public sector, and will seek to earn a better living in other sectors.
Potentially less qualified and experienced language speakers will take on the role in sometimes highly charged and significant police matters. We fear that justice may no longer be done for victims of crime and that court cases may be thrown out due to ineffective translation and a lower quality service, at a high cost to both the taxpayer and our society.
Removing reasonable reimbursement for travel and parking expenses alongside the cuts in rates of pay and minimum period of engagement means it will not be viable for experienced translators and interpreters to continue offering their professional and trusted services, for which they currently earn on average £15,700 per year, according to our current salary survey.
Professional interpreters and translators are required to work anti-social hours and be on call at any time of day or night to attend crime scenes, hospitals, courts and police facilities. Police forces and courts have been able to rely on high calibre professionals who are listed by the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) which independently verifies their credentials and qualifications.
The Ministry of Justice is now setting aside this established approach in favour of using a single private sector provider with its own performance standards. We believe they have made this choice purely on the basis of cost, without fully considering the need for professionalism and a high skill level and the overall impact on judicial processes. We are concerned the West Midlands Police force is not prepared to pay dedicated professionals even the modest fees they have received up to now to safeguard an effective and proven service, when the stakes are so high for our society and for victims, witnesses and criminal suspects.
We note that the Metropolitan Police Force has already opted out of the new arrangement, recognising the quality of work and value for money delivered by the trusted network of NRPSI approved professionals it has always used and prioritising the needs and rights of victims of crime and the general public.
We hope that West Midlands Police will follow their lead.