Napo takes members' concerns directly to Minister and senior Probation leaders
Napo and our sister unions have been engaged for the best part of the day in a series of high level discussions involving Justice Minister Lucy Frazer, NPS Chief Executive Sonia Flynn and the Director General for Probation Amy Rees. Whilst much of the meeting with the Minister focussed on the C19 crisis, we took the opportunity to register Napo members' anger at the delay in paying out the expected pay progression arrangements for NPS staff. In response, the Minister said that this matter would be considered at the earliest opportunity notwithstanding the current operational pressures.
In these meetings we made it very clear that we expect the employer to ensure that every possible step is being taken to reduce face to face contact between staff and service users within the Exceptional Delivery Model (EDM) that has been issued across all HMPPS/NPS business streams and adopted by CRC owners. Subsequent to this (and as we have consistently reported to members in previous bulletins) all employers have now sought authority from the HMPPS Gold Command structure as to how they intend to maintain Probation as an essential service. Our National Officials are also in regular contact with CRC Reps and senior managers to press these points and the advice below should apply equally to staff employed in a CRC within the EDM measures drawn up by employers.
Further advice following these exchanges
Obviously, all of this presents a huge challenge for the Unions as we seek to escalate the information that is reaching us from hard pressed members, and the understandable concerns that exist around the protections that should be afforded to staff who are (exceptionally) required to conduct face to face interviews where there is no alternative. Typically, these include contact with individual service users released from prison, or those referred from court on first appointment, as well as homeless people and of course residents in Approved Premises.
In the workplace
Of equal importance is the need to ensure that where a workplace remains open it is fully compliant with the Government’s Social Distancing policy of 2 meter zones between those staff working in the office and between staff and service users (all non-negotiable) and that a joint risk assessment has been carried out in terms of this requirement. There must also be basic hygiene standards within the workplace such as the provision of soap, paper towels and hand sanitiser.
Napo has provided a list of workplaces that we believe are non-compliant with these basic necessities, and HMPPS are in the process of conducting an emergency estates audit as a result of this. In yesterday’s bulletin we advised members to press for the closure of offices where these standards cannot be delivered. We also hope that managers at all levels will recognise these requirements and support this campaign.
We have also asked for gloves for ALL staff working in buildings that have client contact (field offices and prisons) where there are multiple locked doors/gates to gain access to the workspace to enable staff to navigate the building and lessen the transference risk (because staff are at risk from each other as well as from clients). We await further news of progress in this regard but also see the important commentary below.
Interviews with service users
Any appointments happening face to face must be undertaken in line with social distancing otherwise they should not take place, but we have today demanded that the additional equipment as above, be made available for these appointments in any case; so that where someone has to be seen, in an office that must have the above social distancing protocols in place, the worker still has gloves and a mask provided in case the client is not fully compliant and as an extra layer of protection. Bear in mind however that such equipment does not guarantee total protection from C19 or any other virus if the Social Distancing and personal hygiene protocols are not met. Please also see the advice from the TUC in this regard: ‘Gloves do not prevent infection as people will touch their skin with the gloves and then touch another surface or person’
Where such equipment is provided it must also be accompanied by clear instructions from the employer as to its proper use and limitations.
Outside of the workplace
We have also said that this equipment should be in place for those staff involved in the doorstep visit/visual identification process in case of client non-compliance with social distancing (eg: if a client comes closer than you’ve told them to. Finally, we have asked for more guidance on the use of cars (including use of private cars, pool cars and hire cars and all of the implications of each of these) by staff involved in this supervision process following a number of enquiries today, and more news on this and other issues will follow as soon as possible.
Katie Lomas Ian Lawrence
National Chair General Secretary