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Parliament: Departmental Translation Services

Recently there was a parliamentary question on the proportion of translation services contracted out to commercial providers:

Roger Gale (North Thanet, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of his Department's translation and interpreting work is outsourced through framework agreements with commercial providers; and if he will make a statement.

Anne McGuire (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions)

Under the Race Relations Amendment Act (2000) and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), the Department has a responsibility to make appropriate provision to communicate with customers who do not speak English or Welsh, or who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, or who provide the Department, at our request, legal or official documents written in a foreign language.

The Department for Work and Pensions provides a national range of translation and interpreting services across all of its agencies that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Use of multi-lingual staff, who are willing and able to interpret or to undertake an interview in a foreign language

  • Face-to-face individual interpreters and signers for local office customers

  • English to Welsh translation for documentation which is partly done by the small in-house Welsh Language Unit and the remainder by external providers

  • Ethnic Translation Services of a large number of written documents in a wide range of languages

  • Written English and Welsh to Braille translation and Braille to English and Welsh translation

  • Formatting of printed documents into easy-read format

  • Telephone interpreting service (multi-lingual)

In order to deliver these services on a national basis the Department for Work and Pensions has established a number of framework agreements via full open tender processes with a number of external providers.

All of the above services are outsourced except for a small number of multi-lingual staff who offer their services on an as required basis within their local office.

One has to ask two questions, how much is demand outstripping supply here and are translation services value for money? Is the government able to look at the bigger picture, and readdress an economics equilibrium?

As a general observation, shame the government can't heed its own legal advice and translated information into BSL or consulted directly on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Sometimes a lot of this policy is just talk, and no action!

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