Court interpreting service misses 98% target

Scale of Justice Capita has the contract to supply interpreters whenever they are needed in courts

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The company running the privatised court interpreter service in England and Wales has missed targets in its first year, figures show.

Private contractor Capita aims to meet 98% of interpreter requests but has not achieved that figure since it took over the contract on 30 January 2012.

Its overall success rate in the first year was 90%, peaking at 95% in July.

But the government says there has been a "dramatic improvement" in the service since Capita's contract began.

The figures, released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) also show there have been 6,417 complaints and more than 600 court trials abandoned due to a lack of interpreters over the last 12 months.

Capita achieved a 66% success rate in its first month - February 2012 - and that climbed to a high in July before declining each month after that to reach 86% in January.

The news comes just weeks before the government starts a consultation exercise on out-sourcing criminal legal aid - a budget worth £2bn a year.

Taxpayer savings

In February of this year the Commons Justice Select Committee said the ministry's handling of the contract had been "shambolic".

In 2011, the MoJ outsourced interpretation work to private firm Applied Language Solutions (ALS) in a bid to save £18m a year.

ALS was sold to Capita, an outsourcing and recruitment company, before the contract began, and is now run as Capita Translation and Interpreting.

A Capita spokeswoman said: "Although there was a dip in booking fulfilment rates in January we expect that to be temporary and are working closely with the MoJ, with the Courts Service and with the interpreter community to return to rates of 95% or higher shortly."

Courts Minister Helen Grant said: "There has been a dramatic improvement in the interpreter contract since the initial problems at the start of last year, with the vast majority of bookings now being completed and a major reduction in complaints.

"Our changes have saved taxpayers £15m this year."

An MoJ spokesperson said: "We are aware performance dipped very slightly this January when changes were made to interpreters' travel allowances and we are taking steps with the contractor to address this and drive further improvement."

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