Sunday, 23 October 2011
People in Britain who cannot speak English have cost the taxpayer almost £180m in interpreters over the past three years. Some police interpreters are earning more than £100,000 a year.

According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, £70m was spent by the police communicating with criminals, suspects and witnesses.

Despite government cutbacks, some interpreters are using a scam called “stacking” to overcharge the police.

Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton who obtained the figures, said they reinforced the need for people coming to this country to make more effort to learn English.

“The enormous expense of translation in delivering public services highlights the hidden costs of uncontrolled immigration,” Raab said.

“It strengthens the case for the government’s language requirements, both to save taxpayers’ money but also to promote community cohesion.”

The “stacking” dodge involves interpreters understating the time it takes to get to a police station so they can book as many jobs as possible.

They receive a minimum payment of £60 for attending, about £20 an hour travelling to the job and travel expenses of up to 35.7p a mile. The fees mount up even faster if they can time jobs so they qualify for extra overtime and payments for unsociable hours.

One interpreter, who asked not to be identified, said: “Let’s say you are at a job at one police station but you get a phone call for another job.

“You can’t be there for at least 2½ hours but you say an hour and a half because that puts them on the spot.

“They can’t find someone else that quickly so you stack the jobs. If you do that at night you get paid time and a half. Some days it’s double time.”

West Midlands police are one of several forces trying to stop the practice and predicts it could almost halve the annual bill of £1.8m.

In an effort to cut the costs of interpreters used in courts, the Ministry of Justice has ended an agreement that paid them a minimum of £85 for the first three hours, regardless of how long they were needed, and £30 an hour after that. From the end of this month, courts will hire interpreters through a private contractor that pays £22 an hour. This is expected to save £18m.

Nick Rosenthal, chairman of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, said: “Effective and experienced professionals will no longer be able to afford to carry out this vital work in the public sector.”

The National Health Service has spent £39.7m on translation services in the past three years. Barts and the London NHS trust spent £2.2m on an in-house team of 25 “patient advocates” who speak Bengali, Somali, Turkish, Gujarati and Urdu.

The trust also works with imams to persuade elderly Muslims that they should take their medication during the fasting month of Ramadan.

It said: “We were tending to find that people who were on cancer treatment were holding back all of their medication until the evening and taking it all in one go, which actually makes them very ill.”

Spending on translation peaked in 2006 when annual costs reached £100m. A push by ministers to rein in spending led to that figure falling to £59m last year.
Source: Sunday Times (£)


Anonymous said...

It's not only in UK that interpreters cost. You fail to look at other professions and costs and tariffs. Interpreting is a job, like other jobs. Even a good speaker of English as a foreign language, needs interpreter in Court to avoid miscarriage of justice. How much do MPs, bankers, journalists cost the UK taxpayers? Interpreters do pay their taxes.

Anonymous said...

And how about the fact that immigrants pay tax, often at emergency rates which are highest ( when they don't have NIN). The taxpayer is not exclusively British, and interpreters pay tax as well. Very few languages would pay a salary of £100,000!

Alan said...

This really is an ill-informed piece of sloppy writing. As an interpreter & translator I know lots of others in the profession. I know none who earn anything like this. And £70 million equals about a pound per person per year. What price justice? And are we now blaming the language professionals for the financial mess the country is in? Or for all the crime? Oh yes, a foreign criminal is going to enrol for English classes before committing the crime, of course he/she is. But wait a minute, they can't, because this government has cut the funding available for teaching English to migrants. And what on earth has a health authority having the good sense to work with community leaders to ensure the maintenance of good health got to do with spending money on interpreters? Or are we going to blame the interpreters for the inability of the health service to find cures for serious diseases too?

anglichanin said...

"Interpreters using a scam"?
Oh, dear, we have found the culprit now, haven't we? It's that evil educated piece of scum who happens to speak more than one language (that is speaking more than one language beyond the vernacular) and has the audacity of selling that skill for the going rate.
Why don't the disgusted of whatever first have the courage to admit that their country has been sold - lock, stock and barrel - to an imbecilic, socialist, multicultural, touchy-feely-everyoneisisequal ideology, and try to address that evil root first?
Ah, to damn difficult.
We'd rather rant pointlessly at some issue which is not an issue, but a convenient scapegoat topic.

V said...

Maybe they dont earn a lot of money, but of course they lurking authorities in different countries in West. Even in Sweden the police is alert that they can tell the person who is arrested or detained things and instruct them because they have knowledge about the police-work after months and years as interpreters.

Interpreters also help criminals to lie for the police, and change stories to protect their "friends from home". Its a quite common problem in Sweden and not good for the rule of law.

So why not take opportunity to get a lot of money? They have low moral before!



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