POA Circulars

101 | 14.12.2015


NOMS has recently published abstracts from PSI 75/2011 following recent PPO Reports and Coroner’s Inquests who have highlighted several occasions where establishments have not followed the good practice procedures, in respect of “Residential Services” checking on the welfare of prisoners during roll checks, at unlock and lock up.

The NEC believe there are serious underlying issues which result in these failings which NOMS has consistently failed to address, placing staff and prisoners at risk.

NOMS bulletin highlights the principles of checking on prisoners’ welfare; and provides case studies of where the PSI has not been fully adhered to; and offers some prompts for improved practice.

PSI 75/2011 states that:

‘Reports from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman on deaths in custody have identified cases in which a prisoner has died overnight, apparently from natural causes, but staff unlocking them have not noticed that the prisoner had died. This is not acceptable.

The NEC question that if this was the case in 2011, why has NOMS failed to ensure that all Benchmark reports, staffing, regimes and safe systems of work not been amended to ensure this vital area of work is maintained. 

The specification requires there to be positive engagement between staff and prisoners and for prisoners to be supported and their daily needs met, and this clearly requires some form of interaction or conversation to take place at times during the day. The appropriate arrangements will depend on the local regime, but there need to be clearly understood systems in place for staff to assure themselves of the well-being of prisoners during or shortly after unlock.’

NOMS has provided these Central Learning Points


  • Establishments should ensure that when a cell door is unlocked, and when an Officer enters a cell, staff satisfy themselves of the safety and welfare of the prisoner and that there are no immediate issues that need attention.
  • Establishments should ensure that their staff are aware of the requirements around welfare checks at unlock and that their Local Security Strategy reflects these requirements.
  • Establishments should ensure that staff are adequately trained to undertake welfare checks at night, especially if they have previously had limited or no experience of prisoner supervision and welfare checks.

The NEC welcomes this information from NOMS, but believes that it is indicative of the real problems in prisons, due to chronic staff shortfalls, the lack of training, provision of regime and the drive from the centre to do more with less resource.

The NEC urges all branch committees to raise the points outlined by NOMS above to ensure that all local risk assessments, safe systems of work are reviewed. Individual training needs addressed immediately to ensure all staff are competent to carry out this work on a daily basis. It is clear that if this essential work is not or has not been completed satisfactorily then the core day and regimes need reviewing and amending to facilitate these checks.  

Please draw the contents of this circular to your members and raise the issues with management.

Thanking you in anticipation of your co-operation and support.

Yours sincerely

General Secretary