"We are aware of the problems that have occurred with the new contract and are monitoring things very carefully. We have agreed a number of actions that need to be taken with the contractor but we have accepted that whilst this action will help improve performance we expect it to take some time to reach an acceptable level. As a result we have decided that HMCTS must take urgent action to mitigate the number of hearings that are failing as a result of the contractor’s difficulties with sourcing interpreters at short notice. With immediate effect HMCTS will revert to the previous arrangements for all bookings due within 24 hours at the magistrates’ courts. Magistrates’ courts bookings should be made direct with the interpreter under the terms of the national agreement. It has also been decided that we will revert to previous arrangements for urgent bookings required for bail applications, deports and fast track applications in the First Tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum and urgent bookings in the Asylum Support Tribunal. Discussion with the contractor indicates that reducing these urgent bookings should allow a significant increase in the contractors ability to meet other demand. We will be constantly reviewing performance over that period and these arrangements will remain in place until we are clear that the contractor is able to meet demand (and at least 24 February). It remains the firm HMCTS intention to move all business to the contract. Initial management information suggests that despite the problems we have experienced in some languages, the primary problem seem to be matching interpreters to jobs rather than insufficient supply (in essence if we can get the booking system to work better we should get a significantly improved service). We understand that some staff and judiciary have sympathy with existing interpreters. We must however do all we can to encourage sign up to the new arrangements – the new contract has the potential to bring significant benefits to both interpreters and the Justice System as a whole. Many of the interpreters signed up to the new arrangements are those that were previously serving the courts and tribunals, and more continue to move across.
Most people I have spoken to think that the contractor has bitten off more than it can chew.