We have issued a great deal of material on ViSOR vetting over the past few months but these last two or three weeks have seen a much bigger than usual flow of incoming concerns from members.
The root cause of the problem is the insistence by the NPS that Offender Managers must have access to the system, but one that has created a number of problems for staff who have failed the vetting process along with those who are fearful of being in the same position.
Then there are staff who were employed by the then Probation service in the full knowledge of their own past offences, who are saying that they would rather leave the service rather than have their whole history dredged up and put through the stigmatisation of failing ViSOR vetting.
Add to this the difficult situations that have been reported to us occurring within relationships and in households about the disclosure of information, and you have a very uncomfortable scenario.
Frankly, I have been extremely disappointed at the response we have received so far from NPS senior leaders who seem to be in a much different place on this issue than the staff they are supposed to be looking after.
We are obviously not opposed in principle to the need to make systems work better that are designed to improve community safety, but sorry to say, this E3 driven initiative has not been thought through properly, and everything we said before it got underway has proved to be correct.
We have now referred a range of concerns to our legal advisers and will issue more news as soon as we can. Your leadership group also meet tomorrow to review the position and to explore the potential for escalation of this into a formal trade dispute.
For now, my message to the Senior Leadership in HMPPS is - take a pause, listen to your staff and listen to what we have been saying to you these past few months: It should be OK for a member of staff to fail vetting. These are the same staff who are trusted to retain confidential information, trusted by the judiciary and trusted to enter into the Courts and Prison estate with no empirical evidence that they are likely to be corrupted. The same staff whose careers may be blighted by the failure to get through a security vetting system owned by a third party and the stubborn intransigence of their employer.
It’s simply not good enough that people should be treated this way; someone needs to get a grip on this and take notice of the disaffection they have created.
Two feature articles here this week. The first from our own Dean Rogers who presents the first in a series of critiques following the Probation Reform proposals.
Paper one covers the key questions around the proposed contracts and the additional investment that will be needed to address pay and professional standards. This, along with the rest of the series (to follow over the coming 8-week consultation period) will be extremely useful when we formulate or evidence to the Probation consultation and our response to the Labour Party Probation round table exercise that has just been launched by its Chairman Lord David Ramsbotham.
As members might expect I made early contact with the TUC following the SoSfJ announcement, including raising the issues at the last meeting of the General Council and seeing the Assistant General Secretary Paul Novak to brief him on developments. You have already seen our motion to the TUC in a recent members mail out.
Whilst I am critical of the HMPPS when I need to be, I am also on record for expressing appreciation where it is due, and news of a day’s facilities time (upon application) for NPS members attending at the 2018 AGM on Friday 5th October is a sign of a real commitment to standards of practice. HMPPS has written to NPS Directors informing them of this and also asking them to look favourably on requests for annul leave/TOIL to travel to Southport on the 4th.
I have written to all CRC Chiefs, Cafcass and Probation Board Northern Ireland seeking a similar concession.