Posts tagged "Criminal Records Bureau"

Court interpreting criticised as ‘wholly inadequate’ in damning NAO report

Ministry of Justice criticised for ‘courtroom chaos’ as ALS was too small to meet £90m contract and boycotted by interpreters

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) privatisation of court interpreting services became “fully operational before it was ready” and was initially “wholly inadequate”, according to a highly critical report by the National Audit Office.

The monopoly granted to Applied Language Services (ALS), a subsidiary of the service provider Capita, for courtroom work throughout England and Wales is still being boycotted by large numbers of professional interpreters.

Although the previous system was described as unsatisfactory, the NAO study condemns the Ministry of Justice for underestimating the risks involved, ignoring the dissatisfaction of skilled interpreters and failing to check whether the firm had sufficient qualified staff.

The department’s due diligence checks on ALS’s bid were “not thorough enough” and the company’s initial performance led to many trials being disrupted, the report states.

ALS failed to comply with contractual obligations and more than 5,000 complaints about the service were made in the six months after it began in late January.

“ALS did not have enough staff to deal with bookings and complaints,” the NAO report finds, “and some [court staff] calls were routed to the company’s Indian call centre, against the terms of the contract. Some trials and legal procedures were disrupted.

“In the first quarter of 2012, 182 trials in magistrates courts were recorded as ineffective because of interpreter availability issues. Though small, this was almost double the number recorded for the same period last year,” the report said.”The ministry did not warn courts, judges, magistrates and other affected parties about the shortage of interpreters nor tell them to expect any other major problems.

“The contract requires all interpreters to have enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks. However, many interpreters gave ALS evidence only of standard clearance. ALS did not tell the ministry about this. And specifically regarding claims about experience, ALS did not check, even by sampling, the assertions individuals made about having prior public-sector interpreting experience.”

Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the public accounts committee, said: “It is appalling that the ministry awarded ALS a £90m contract to provide a service essential to ensuring the proper administration of justice that was clearly beyond this company’s ability to deliver.

“The ministry overlooked its own due diligence process, which showed ALS was simply too small to shoulder a contract of this value. The ministry also took no account of the resolve of many experienced interpreters not to work for this company. Against a target of 98%, ALS supplied an interpreter in only 58% of hearings in February 2012.

“This unacceptably poor performance led to courtroom chaos,” the report saidIt forced court staff to interrupt their core duties to find interpreters at short notice and triggered a steep rise in the number of abandoned trials … ALS could not even guarantee that interpreters had undergone mandatory criminal records checks.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The National Audit Office is clear that the Ministry of Justice had strong reasons for changing the old interpreter booking system, which was inadequate in several respects. We accept that there were problems at the start of the new contract in January but we have now seen a very significant improvement in performance and are confident that this trend is continuing.

“Figures in the NAO report show that 95% of bookings are now being filled, while complaints have fallen dramatically and we are continuing to push for further improvement. The contract is expected to save the Ministry of Justice £15m a year and we remain confident that these savings will be made.”

A spokesperson for Capita said: “What [this report] clearly demonstrates is that ALS has been able to draw upon the resources, skills and track record of Capita following its acquisition by Capita. This has helped ALS to enhance and strengthen the delivery of its service, with over 96% of booking requests now fulfilled, compared to 65% in the first month of the contract. This performance is continuing to improve.

“We acknowledge that, as with the old system, there have been challenges. We are determined to get the service running at full efficiency, providing transparency of opportunity for linguists and fully supporting the MoJ, police and court service.


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Posted by admin - September 12, 2012 at 19:25

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Ministers ‘discussed sacking’ striking staff

Culture secretary said questions had been raised about whether to fire workers threatening to strike on eve of London 2012

Ministers have discussed sacking UK Border Agency staff threatening to strike ahead of the Olympics, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The culture secretary insisted he did not want to “escalate” the row ahead of the planned walkout of immigration workers, but said questions about their employment had been raised.

Thousands of staff at the Home Office, including the UKBA workers, are to strike for 24 hours the day before the Olympic opening ceremony in a row over jobs, pay and other issues.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said its members would walk out on 26 July and would take other forms of industrial action, such as a refusal to do overtime, from 27 July to 20 August.

Hunt told Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek: “We have a contingency plan in place and I am absolutely confident that we will get everyone into the country. They’re not going to stop anyone getting in and this is not the time to be pursuing this kind of dispute.

“Sack them? That is the Ronald Reagan approach and I can tell you amongst ministers there have been people asking whether we should be doing that, but I don’t want to escalate things by talking about that right now, because I know amongst those 600 people there are lots of people who want to do the right thing and turn up for work.”

The union said it would announce further action if ministers continued to “refuse” to negotiate an agreement, warning that job and spending cuts were hitting services to the public.

The strike will involve staff across the Home Office, including the UK Border Agency, the Identity and Passport Service and Criminal Records Bureau.

Union officials said a work-to-rule and overtime ban could have a big impact on border controls and in passport offices because of the amount of overtime worked.

The PCS is in dispute with the Home Office on several issues, including plans to cut 8,500 jobs, the threat of compulsory redundancies in the passport office in Newport, south Wales, pay rises capped at 1% following a two-year wage freeze, privatisation of services, and alleged victimisation of union representatives.


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Posted by admin - July 22, 2012 at 19:18

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Online criminal records checks to save Surrey council £300,000

County council replaces paper-based Criminal Records Bureau checks with online system

Surrey county council has launched a new system to conduct Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks in an effort to cut costs and improve efficiency.

The local authority said that the new system, which is being provided by technology firm Atlantic Data, will save up to £300,000 over three years and speed up CRB processes.

Under the previous paper system, it could take up to six weeks for a check to be processed. The council said it aims to cut this down to a few days with the online system.

Surrey carries out up to 10,000 CRB checks a year. It plans to offer its online service to organisations and businesses across the county.

The online system will improve the security of personal information compared to the previous paper based process, according to a spokesman for the local authority. Logging on to the system requires passing through three levels of security and access is denied of they are not completed successfully, he told Guardian Government Computing.

The online checking process meets national standards approved by the Criminal Records Bureau and the Ministry of Justice, the spokesman added.

This article is published by Guardian Professional. For weekly updates on news, debate and best practice on public sector IT, join the Guardian Government Computing network here.


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Posted by admin - April 20, 2012 at 18:05

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Web criminal records checks to save Surrey council £300,000

County council replaces paper-based Criminal Records Bureau checks with online system

Surrey county council has launched a new system to conduct Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks in an effort to cut costs and improve efficiency.

The local authority said that the new system, which is being provided by technology firm Atlantic Data, will save up to £300,000 over three years and speed up CRB processes.

Under the previous paper system, it could take up to six weeks for a check to be processed. The council said it aims to cut this down to a few days with the online system.

Surrey carries out up to 10,000 CRB checks a year. It plans to offer its online service to organisations and businesses across the county.

The online system will improve the security of personal information compared to the previous paper based process, according to a spokesman for the local authority. Logging on to the system requires passing through three levels of security and access is denied of they are not completed successfully, he told Guardian Government Computing.

The online checking process meets national standards approved by the Criminal Records Bureau and the Ministry of Justice, the spokesman added.

This article is published by Guardian Professional. For weekly updates on news, debate and best practice on public sector IT, join the Guardian Government Computing network here.


guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Posted by admin - April 19, 2012 at 17:37

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