Privatisation chaos… contd.

Privatisation has hit the news once again. There was some news a year ago that Carillion, private provider of 450 public contracts providing school dinners, hospital cleaning and prison maintenance, had unashamedly collapsed.

By September, it was realised that the taxpayer bill would top £150m as Freedom of Information requests from Unite the Union showed redundancy payments alone would be £65m.

There were 5 profit warnings issued by Carillion in the lead up to the collapse and other companies are issuing their profit warnings and yet in January 2019…

The lifetime value of outsourcing contracts awarded in 2017-18 “rocketed” by 53% from £62bn to £95bn in the past year, according to the GMB union, which pointed to nearly £2bn in contracts awarded to Capita and Interserve despite both issuing profit warnings.

The Guardian, 15th Jan 2019 “Surge in outsourcing after Carillion collapse ‘staggering’, unions say”

So outsourcing by this government is escalating despite the inability (or unwillingness?) to monitor, regulate and properly oversee the spend of public money.

And in the world of interpreting and translation?

This month in the North East, ITL were found to be providing unqualified interpreters for police interviews with one Czech “interpreter” telling the suspects not to say too much and conducting his own type of interview. They hold £1.1m worth of police interpreting contracts.

Back in October 2018, Language Empire were caught trying to steal business from The Big Word by diverting traffic to a website they owned. Desperate times then at a cost of a £240k fine.

We already know Pearl Linguistics went bankrupt in 2017. The stock market value of Capita dropped by a whopping £1bn after those profit warnings and outside of interpreting Interserve shares dropped to an all time low and they’re trying to avoid a “Carillion-style” collapse. Labour MPs have asked that companies heading into a downfall spiral do not get awarded new contracts as, surprisingly, Carillion were.

We all know the appalling quality that we’ve seen since 2010 when privatisation of the sector became rife and this blog started and it continues unabated. All of these contracts have caveats in them. Can’t find a qualified interpreter? Use whatever you can find.

The HMCTS responses on Twitter were indicative of how these caveats work and the government ethos on the leeway it gives companies. When consulting with government, NUBSLI heard time and time again about how the government were monitoring and regulating to ensure quality and service whereas the reality is far from that. It is a government in defence of a broken privatisation policy that is widely recognised as failing workers and the people who need an interpreting service. Quality assurance is baloney. It is done by yet another company only interested in playing the privatisation and profits game. And the contracts stipulate lower standards to be reached with only random sampling of quality. Hit and miss at best. Dangerous at worst.

So of course the companies say they have fulfilled contracts, get better profit margins at using less qualified people, the government gets to say the companies are fairing well, this ethos works as we save money and all the time this lowering of standards is funded by your tax pounds.

Amongst a backdrop of increasing fares but failure of rail services, increasing costs of utility bills, and a largely complicit media, it looks like the only thing that will stop the ongoing omnishambles is a new government and a new paradigm in the provision of public services.

Supervision: Self-care for Interpreters


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

If you ask an interpreter if they get supervision, of the facilitated-by-a-qualified-supervisor type, their response usually fits into one of three broad categories:

  • Yes I absolutely love it
  • I’ve been meaning to organise it but haven’t got round to it. By the way, what do you think I should do about…
  • No I really don’t need it/see the point but you know I did something the other day and what do you think about…

I really do not mind listening to other interpreters but I have had days where I go home a bit drained from squeezing other people’s issues into my breaks and downtime. There is a proper time and place and I’d rather talk about kids, comedy, holidays or, ahem, politics.
We’re talking about clinical supervision here for professionals, not line management and targets. This is self-care at work and afterwards. There are a few different types of supervision, ASLI has a good guide. I’ve tried them all. The most suitable one for me by far is individual facilitated supervision.

Group supervision by an external supervisor has meant spending a lot of time explaining what interpreters actually do to a supervisor/facilitator who does not really get it. One group I attended which had been running for a long time was useful due to the knowledge of the facilitator and their outside perspective but I wanted something different. I know of some brilliant groups out there that really work for those attending.

Peer groups can be useful if chaired well, people commit to bringing something to the group and a true sharing of knowledge and experience can happen. There are too many though that have ended up turning into a chat, or worse: a moan-fest. Good groups may work well but I don’t think they can replace what quality clinical facilitated supervision can do. A good point, made by my Supervisor, is that within a peer group there is the tendency to just affirm rather than explore and challenge.

For around six years I’ve been doing a fair bit of regular work in mental health and domestic violence. I probably hit burn out three years ago but have found it hard to acknowledge. It snuck up and hit me over the head. I’m still in a funny place when it comes to interpreting, I’ve retrained too and I’m juggling different areas of work. I’m working through this and supervision is a saviour. It was also life/soul saving when I had three horrible events to deal with (another blogpost sometime). The moral of that story is you never know when something is going to happen. Book in supervision now BEFORE you think you need it.

My journey over the last year is nothing short of remarkable. It has been affirming, settling, a saviour in bad times, a period of growth and reflection and a realisation of a maturity of practice.

I’ve been referring to supervision in the form of a noun but due credit needs to go to my very excellent, wonderfully brilliant Supervisor. Their benevolent presence pops up on FaceTime every six weeks and all is well. There they are to talk through our complex work, the variety of people and personalities we come across and the horrible stuff we sometimes witness.

Last year was a terrible interpreting year for me with some heavy stuff I could not talk about with anybody else on top of coming out of a tough personal time. We already had trust embedded in our conversations and were working through my thoughts and feelings about the profession so undoubtedly I was better able to cope with the horrible stuff that was to come up a few months after starting. On top of dealing with life/me/interpreting/the Deaf community and how it all fits together, I never fail to come away with a nugget of wisdom about all of this and the situations we find ourselves in. Through our collaborative discussions and the supervisory process, there are PhDs worth of wisdom in these sessions that could be further explored. I would never get this space for reflection over a rushed coffee break and for that I am supremely grateful.

There are a number of Supervisors who’ve been through the 360 Supervision course set up by the brilliant combination of two clever people: Interpreter, Ali Hetherington and Psychotherapist, Cathy Davey. It sounds excellent and I can think of many quite brilliant interpreters who would make wonderful Supervisors too. If you haven’t yet managed to get on one of their CPD courses, I highly recommend it. I was quite emotional all the way through their Work-related stress, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout one due to a lot of the above but that is another story and do not let it put you off. You’ll likely come away with many take away messages and arm yourself much better to the vagaries of our profession.

A few take home messages here for those yet to jump into the warm waters of supervision:

At the start of a supervisory journey there is sometimes a lack of certainty about the process but bear with and results will follow.
Supervision matters at whatever stage of your career – just qualified, in your comfort zone, ten years plus at risk of burn out or if you’ve been around much longer.

And lastly an opinion: I think you can tell the difference between those who have supervision and those that do not. It is confidence Vs uncertainty, reflective Vs not, humble Vs arrogant, and contained Vs uncontained. So much better to be the former in our current profession.

360 Supervision start a new Diploma in Supervision in September 2019 and you can apply now. CPD courses and Supervision taster days available.
Labyrinth Supervision has a list of Supervisors. You can also find Supervisors via ASLI.
Institute of Group Analysis is an interesting form of analysis if you prefer groups.