FOREIGN-speaking residents in Wigan have racked up a bill of more than £74,000 because they do not understand English and need the services of interpreters.
Figures released through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Greater Manchester Police, Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court and Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT and Wigan Council have spent £74,105 on hiring interpreters over the last year.
And the figure could be higher, because figures from Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust and the Department for Work and Pensions were unavailable.
The cost of hiring translators at Wigan Council has more than doubled between 2008 to 2011. For the period 2010 to 2011, 98 interpreters were booked for a total of 121 hours, amounting to £8,723, compared with 38 translators needed between 2008-09, using 39 hours and costing £2,569.60.
A total of 91 interpreters were used, taking 96 hours and costing £6,988.20 in 2009 to 2019. The interpreters were needed for a variety of reasons such as school induction, family meetings for social services, health centres for pupils with health issues and psychologist sessions.
Kurdish and Slovakian were the two most needed languages, followed closely by Farsi, which is the language of Iran.
The cost of each interpreter ranged from £50 to £21.20 for the period 2010 to 2011, £50 to £180.60 for 2009 to 2010 and £53.30 to £149 for 2008 to 2009, all dependent on language and length of time.
Most sessions are booked for one hour, but some can last up to two hours.
The Ministry of Justice spent £13,347 for 108 interpreters at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court from September 2010 to August 2011. The fees range from a minimum charge of £85 to £205 for almost seven hours.
Translators can also claim for travel expenses, which range from £14 to £220. VAT was also claimed for those who work for a VAT registered company.
From September 2009 to August 2010, 95 interpreters were used, costing £11,655, whilst between September 2008 and August 2009, 169 translators were paid a total of £22,933.
During that period, the highest fee was paid to a Ugandan translator, who charged £205 for seven hours, plus two minimal charges of £85 and claimed a total of £1,723 on travel expenses for three trips.
Similarly, from August 2010 to July 2011 Greater Manchester Police (GMP) spent £16,066 on hiring 144 interpreters for offenders, victims and witnesses, amounting to 414 hours and 30 minutes.
This includes 16 Romanian speakers, 14 who translate Russian, 13 who specialise in Mandarin and 12 Polish interpreters.
Four translators also aided people who used British Sign Language,
Chief Inspector Clara Williams, of GMP, said: “Greater Manchester Police is committed to providing a high quality service to every member of our diverse communities, regardless of the language they speak.
“The service is a necessity, not optional, as we deal on a daily basis with offenders, victims and communities whose first language is not English. If we could not effectively communicate with everyone in Greater Manchester, we would not be fulfilling our role of reducing crime and keeping members of the public safe.
“People in our communities also have a human right to understand and be understood.”
Meanwhile, foreign speakers using the health service cost taxpayers at least £36,000 last financial year.
Whilst figures from Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust could not be obtained, information from NHS Ashton, Leigh and Wigan reveals that it spent £35,969 on hiring translators.
The trust spent £27,061 on face to face services, and a further £8,907 on interpretation via the telephone.
A spokesman for NHS Ashton, Leigh and Wigan said: “Interpreting services for the PCT are used to support patients when they visit their GP if they have additional language needs. Frequency is dependent on individual patients’ needs, and the GP. Providing a translator for patients receiving or giving clinical information to their GP ensures that they get the appropriate clinical care.”