A number of members have been in touch to ask about progress on the OMiC Review, expressing concerns about safety and the impact on work in the community. We have recently put together a comprehensive update following on from our analysis in March, and the full document can be seen here.
Napo has been in consultation with the OMiC project team for several months. Consultation, where the employer shares their plans and the trade unions have an opportunity to make comments, is not one of my favourite communication forums, largely because my experience of such exchanges shows that no matter what the issue is the unions often warn against the gaps in planning in advance of implementation. It’s also the case that some divisional management teams then present matters as having been “agreed with the trade unions”, thus compounding the confusion.
So far our consultation has primarily been with the National Design Team, which is responsible for issuing instructions to Divisional Implementation Boards (DIBs) which are comprised of both prison and NPS staff. All of the information we have up to now relates to public sector prisons and while we are aware that discussions are ongoing with contracted out prisons we have not received the detail on this.
There are still real concerns for members about safety following some well-publicised issues about prisons. The OMiC plans lack sufficient detail, leading members to the belief that this key issue it is not being considered by the employer. Assurances are being offered about the presence of alarm bells and radios but not a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of the individual work that is required with clients. In addition to the general considerations there are some members from BAME backgrounds who are currently not placed in certain offices due to concerns about their physical and emotional wellbeing. The employer must be able to demonstrate that they can meet their duty of care to staff when placing them in a custodial environment. This duty of care extends to emotional wellbeing and protection from abuse and discrimination as well as physical wellbeing.
If Ministers had any doubts about the so called Prison Reform Revolution they could well spend some time listening to prison officer practitioners who have told me of their worries, (despite the propaganda being issued by HMPPS high command fuelled by some over optimistic reporting by their Governors).
First up is the lack of “feet on the landings” as described to me in terms of insufficient numbers of staff. For despite the almost weekly claims by Ministers and their MoJ apparatchiks, meeting a prison officer recruitment target counts for diddly if the attrition rate remains high (be it from natural wastage, staff who simply cannot cope, or new trainees seeing the realities of the environment and deciding this is not going to be a very good idea).
Protecting themselves comes next, and as Steve Gillan, POA General Secretary, confirms, protecting their families as its becoming normal for prison officers to be the subject of intimidation by way of threats implied or actual against their loved ones. Throw in the elements of preventing self-harm of clients, keeping a keen eye on gang violence, the effects of radicalisation and the huge influx of Spice and other drugs or illicit material and it’s hard to see exactly how the initial rehabilitation process expected of them is actually going to work.
The paper from our officer practitioners sets out some serious issues beyond this summary and I highly commend it as source material for discussion in your workplace. Do let me have any views or questions, which I will ensure get to the right quarter without revealing identities.
I am just returning to London having visited Napo members from Approved Premises in Merseyside today along with Napo Vice-Chair Katie Lomas. We covered a range of issues including concerns about the impact of the shift rotas on individuals and how the recently outsourced DWNC outsourcing is working out, against the expectations of the National Project leads in NPS.
Yet again, and just like the recent visit that Katie and I made to Sheffield to share members concerns about VISOR, I was hugely impressed with our members depth knowledge and total commitment to their important work. It was also clear that the issues from members, that we went there to listen to, included appreciation by them of the pressures that their managers often find themselves in when trying to respond to the demands of the new E3 driven duty rotas, and the impact of this government’s decision to press on regardless with their ridiculous decision to outsource Double Waking Night Cover to Sodexo (and OCS) - who seem to be still struggling to deliver what we were told they would.
We have given advice about how members ( and that’s members everywhere by the way) should ensure that they comply with HSE Directives around shift work and how we want them to be involved in finding and disseminating best practice across the region. As always Napo stands ready to work with Divisional management towards a smooth transition to the new rota arrangements - but it takes two to tango.