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National Chair Update DECEMBER 2021
Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of all POA members
I am delighted to be able to announce to you all that HMP Dartmoor will be remaining open beyond 2023. A 25-year lease has been agreed with 5-year reviews built into the agreement. The POA campaign to save HMP Dartmoor from closure has succeeded and I would like to thank all staff who supported our campaign and pressurised politicians into a rethink.
The Dartmoor POA committee deserve special thanks for their relentless approach in campaigning to keep Dartmoor open.
Well done all!
Self-certification sick leave
All POA members should take note of this temporary measure:
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Regulations have been temporarily changed to help release and maximise ‘General Practice’ to manage the vaccine booster programme. Employees will be allowed to self-certificate for up to 28 days starting from 10th December 2021 through to 26th January 2022.
To align with this, departments are asked to make a temporary change to the requirement for their own employees to provide fit notes for all types of sickness absence.
OSG Ballot Result
I would like to thank all OSGs who voted in the workplace ballot. You have resoundingly indicated that you wish to take industrial action up to and including strike action over your pay.
Please see POA Circular 109/2021 which confirms:
The OSG Consultative ballot concluded on the 13th December 2021 and the Scrutineer and Teller attended Cronin House on 14th December 2021 to conduct the count and verify the ballot. On the 15th December 2021 the NEC had its normal monthly meeting and were informed of the outcome of the ballot. It was an overwhelming endorsement of industrial action up to and including strike action with those voting indicating by 90 per cent that view
The NEC will do an analysis branch by branch of the turnout, but early indications are that a significant amount of branches would or could if it went to a formal statutory ballot reach the threshold for action.
The POA are a responsible trade union, and we recognise that the Omicron Variant in our communities and prisons are a major challenge and particularly within our prisons. We are committed on making our workplaces safe for all. That must be our priority whilst this variant is such a threat and HMPPS are fully aware of our continued commitment as a trade union to working in partnership to maintain safety and preserve life.
The NEC have determined that we will not therefore rush into a Statutory ballot, and it will be put on hold until discussions take place in the New Year with the Secretary of State for Justice and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and Prisons Minister Vicky Atkins MP who have both committed to meet the General Secretary and myself on such issues as recruitment and retention, pay and pensions and other matters affecting our members
Judicial Review Appeal in the High Court
On 15th December we attended the High Court to appeal the decision not to accept our Judicial Review in respect of the Government’s denial of the Pay Review Body recommendation 3 relating to the £3k pay award for Band 3 Fair and Sustainable staff.
We lost on two arguments but won on one. The NEC have decided that we will launch an appeal against the points we lost to the Court of Appeal.
Further details can be accessed via POA Circular 110/2021.
Testing of staff for Covid
HMPPS are considering mandating staff to take a Lateral Flow test for Covid as they report for duty and are currently working on a policy that reflects their position. They consider this to be an important aspect of protecting the health and safety of their employees during the Omicron Covid outbreak. This will only be a temporary emergency measure that will be reviewed every few weeks.
The NEC disagree with the mandatory testing of staff as we believe it should be an individual’s personal choice if they wish to take a test. We do, however, actively encourage all POA members to regularly test themselves for Covid so we may protect each other at work.
HMPPS can legally enforce mandatory testing of staff. Once a policy is produced and HMPPS confirm this is the stance they wish to take a circular will be promulgated to POA members. I would envisage that mandatory testing of staff will be introduced by 24th December.
Understanding Staff Vaccination Rates in Prisons
POA members should be aware of the following that has been issued by HMPPS:
The ever-changing picture presented by the pandemic has prompted an urgent review of the staff vaccination rates within prisons. In order to fully understand the coverage of vaccination rates across the estate, each prison will be required to undertake an exercise to ask each member of staff for their vaccination status and to record this on SOP (where they are directly employed). This information is still optional for staff to offer to disclose their vaccination status, however this should be strongly encouraged.
From 20/12/2021 Prisons should commence an exercise to gather this information at pace from all staff at the prison.
It is suggested that to achieve this quickly, the Governor stations an appropriate member of staff at the gate each morning and lunchtime to identify incoming staff and ask them to provide their vaccination status. Directly employed staff will also need to agree to this being entered on SOP on their behalf. This information should be collated securely and the information for the staff in each function passed to the relevant Custodial Managers who will be responsible for updating individuals’ SOP record. It is important that this information is handled securely. For the information collated for non-directly employed staff-this should be stored securely locally to inform reporting.
Additionally, to capture the vaccination status of directly employed staff, the People Hub Manager will be able to run a report to discover which staff have yet to input their vaccination status on SOP. This may help in approaching those staff directly to ask them to declare their vaccination status.
Gold Brief – Return to Stage 3 due to increasing Omicron Risk
All POA members should take note of the following directive that has been issued to all Governors.
Sadly, the risk of Omicron has further accelerated in the last week. In light of further UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advice and our assessment of the risk presented we have determined that we must quickly go further by moving our baseline expectation to Stage 3 nationally. Through the exceptions process outlined below and through an adjustment to the Stage 3 regime expectations we can remain proportionate and considerate of local risk factors also whilst making this change.
Our clear objective is to preserve life and to safely maintain prison services to protect the public. The movement of the baseline supports this. We must continue to protect the most vulnerable and to reduce the speed of transmission in prisons. Our aim by reducing to Stage 3 is to significantly reduce off wing regime activity that brings different cohorts/wings together improving our compartmentalisation.
The aim to reduce the speed of transmission is also to create more time to deploy as many booster vaccines as possible in prisons to protect against the most serious health risks of the virus.
We also wish to increase our focus on driving up the staff testing rates. The transition to more restricted regimes is to ensure that time can be provided in the regime to assist staff to take frequent tests. UKHSA advice still remains that the risk of incursion remains highest from our staff group and regular testing is the one central control to mitigate transmission. This remains a key priority.
Stage 3 Regime Expectations
Unless formally given exception by Gold or operating at a lower regime stage prisons must transition to the new baseline line as soon as practical and safe. The Stage 3 regime is described as:
Social distancing in place and other SOP controls (v8). Regime delivered under more restricted local operating procedure adhering to Exceptional Delivery Models (EDM). Predominantly essential work for prisoners only. Social visits with contact controls but no refreshments, creche or property exchange.
Stage 3 was previously informed by Exceptional Delivery Models (EDMs) and these still provide the base for Stage 3 regimes. However, with new COVID controls since EDMs were created such as increased testing and our further experience there are a range of outline expectations for what is permitted at Stage 3 now. For this reason, as we did at Stage 2 it may be most appropriate to reduce activity and layer in additional controls to your current Stage 2 RMP rather than regress to historic regime plans when previously at Stage 3. Stage 3 regimes may indeed be very similar to Stage 2 in some prisons but the key differences that must inform the regimes operated locally are
As previously communicated, we determined that regime mitigations would be introduced nationally if we had to move to Stage 3 or 4. Consequently we will now nationally reinitiate the free £5 weekly PIN credit for all prisoners up to the credit cap. Governors should introduce the other mitigations as appropriate.
Following the change in community rules for self-isolation, HMPPS has updated its policy to support staff in returning to their workplaces if they have been notified of close contact with a positive case of Covid-19, including Omicron cases.
The expectation remains that most people who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace will return to their workplaces if they cannot work from home.
Where staff choose to self-isolate rather than take part the tests that enable them to return to work (set out below), paid special leave is unlikely to be supported.
Each case will be considered individually, in line with the Attendance Management Policy. 6
Rules for people who are fully vaccinated
Risk Mitigation Testing (RMT) will no longer be offered and will be replaced by Daily Testing of Contacts of Covid (DTCC).
Individuals who are fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and are identified as contacts of a positive case (including Omicron cases) should take a PCR test. They do not have to wait for the PCR result before returning to work. They should then commence daily self-collect lateral flow tests at home (DTCC) for 7 consecutive days before attending work each day.
These rules apply regardless of whether the contact is within the same household as the positive case.
DTCC is voluntary but staff are unlikely to get special paid leave if they decide not to take part.
Rules for people who are not fully vaccinated Prison staff and probation staff working in prisons
Individuals who are not fully vaccinated and are identified as contacts of a positive case (including Omicron cases) should take a PCR test. They do not have to wait for the PCR result before returning to work. They should then take daily lateral flow tests at their prison’s Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS) for 7 days (Workplace DCT).
Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must be issued with an isolation exemption letter from the prison. Staff can continue to attend work and essential activities if the results are negative but must isolate at all other times.
Household contacts of a case confirmed through a positive PCR cannot take part in Workplace DCT and must isolate for 10 days. Where Workplace DCT is not available, such as in Approved Premises, individuals will be supported to self-isolate for 10 days.
The Welsh Government has not changed isolation rules and has not moved to the new DTCC scheme.
Fully vaccinated staff can continue to attend work and continue to able to access Risk Mitigation Testing.
DCT is not available in Wales. Staff who are not fully vaccinated continue to need to isolate for 10 days from the date of contact.
Market supplements for prison officers
HM Treasury have approved the request from HMPPS that market supplement payments continue for prison service staff at sites where they are currently in place.
Market supplement payments of either £3,000 or £5,000 are currently paid to band 3 (fair and sustainable) prison officers in 31 prisons to support recruitment and retention.
There are also market supplement payments currently in place for OSGs in 14 establishments.
A previous one-year extension for the payment of these market supplements was confirmed in March 2021, with a view to reviewing their use for the future.
Having completed this review, HMPPS now have the authority to continue to pay the existing Market Supplement payments beyond March 2022.
Market supplements will continue to be in place until at least March 2023.
Take part in consultation for the 2015 Remedy and Civil Service member contributions.
POA members are encouraged to participate in the following consultation exercises:
Cabinet Office has announced the launch of a pensions consultation for all active Civil Service scheme members. The consultation will focus on the prospective changes for the 2015 Remedy (known as McCloud) and member contribution rates.
The current pension scheme sets out provisions for member contributions payable up to 31st March 2022. The consultation sets out proposals for provisions to be made from 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023.
You can view details of the proposals set out in the consultation.
The consultation is open until 11pm on 17th January 2022.
If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Civil Service Compensation Scheme
The Scheme Manager (Cabinet Office) has launched a consultation exercise to gather views from interested parties on proposed amendments to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS). You can read the consultation document here.
The Scheme Manager is currently analysing feedback provided during the consultation so far and will continue to engage with member representatives.
When alpha was introduced on 1 April 2015, members were assessed by their age and service history as to whether they would be eligible to remain in the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (classic, classic plus, premium and nuvos). This is known as the Fully protected group.
Cabinet Office will shortly be writing directly to members in the Fully protected group to remind them that they will be moving into alpha on 1 April 2022. A couple of Live@Lunch webinars will be hosted in January and February 2022 giving members the opportunity to ask questions. Affected members can now book into one of the sessions.
Victims Bill Consultation
The Ministry of Justice has launched the Victims’ Bill consultation which is aimed at improving victims’ experiences of the justice system.
The consultation can be found at the following link and will run for eight weeks until the 3rd February 2022: Delivering justice for victims: A consultation on improving victims’ experiences of the justice system
We are keen to hear directly from victims, frontline practitioners, criminal justice system partners and other organisations who work with victims throughout the consultation period.
Operational Stability Panel Bonus Scheme
Local POA committees should be aware of the following that can be applied for if their workplace is experiencing staffing difficulties:
The introduction of this new payment replaces all previous enhanced/ bonus schemes attached to working additional hours for Payment Plus (PP). The scheme will be used to support prisons with both chronic medium-term staffing pressures and those who experience acute resourcing and/or operational pressures over shorter time frames. It will aim to enable local managers to target additional staff resources where the operational need is greatest.
Central to the OSP are the following key principles:
Details of how the Operational Stability Payment will work:
The following incentive payments will be payable to staff as part of the OSP:
Operational Stability Payment for 12 (14) weeks
Operational Stability Payment for 8 (10) weeks
Operational Stability Payment for 4 weeks
Operational Stability Payment for 2 weeks
The Operational Stability Payment for completing 5 additional hours over a 72- hour period is £60
The Operational Stability Payment for completing 9 additional hours over a 72- hour period is £100
POLICE, CRIME, SENTENCING AND COURTS BILL
Lord Atlee is trying to establish a new offence of “facilitation of potting.” To inform this important debate going forwards and to highlight how much of a problem potting is to Peers who may never have heard of it before, I would be grateful if members who have suffered this kind of vile attack could provide testimonials of their experiences. It would be especially useful if you could explain how such attacks have made you feel personally and whether you think the perpetrators (including those who may have helped prepare the attack) were suitably dealt with. These testimonials will then be distributed anonymously to our allies in the House of Lords for use in the debate. We have an opportunity here to change the law to better protect POA members, and I urge you all to take advantage of this if you have been affected by potting.
Please email email@example.com no later than 31st December 2021 with your testimonial. As you know Charley Allan is the POA Parliamentary Liaison and Advisor and I would like to thank him, Earl Attlee and all our parliamentary allies for their continued support in this matter.
Meeting with SOS
The General Secretary and I will be meeting with the new Secretary of State the Rt. Honourable Dominic Raab MP, in the New Year. A variety of topics will be raised including the retirement age of Prison Officers and related grades, recruitment and retention including pay scales and the safety of staff including the lack of prosecutions for perpetrators of staff assaults.
Crime in Prisons Taskforce
I am pleased to announce that a specialist Crime in Prisons Taskforce has been set up to deal with cases of staff assaults. We have been raising our concerns about the lack of prosecutions of staff assaulters compared to the significant amount of police referrals received. I would like to place on record my thanks to National Vice Chair Dave Todd for forcing this issue and working tirelessly to pressurise this multi-agency group into acting in the best interests of POA members.
Hi Gear Suits
Concerns were raised with the NEC about the lack of dynamic C&R training due to unfit for purpose equipment. We have now secured 70 Hi Gear suits that can be utilised for dynamic training scenarios including SPEAR. These suits will be delivered to regions so each site can access them.
APPEAL TO EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS (ECHR)
Thompson’s Solicitors lodged an application for permission to appeal with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), challenging a Divisional Court decision which held the POA in contempt of Court for breaching this law. The POA have been forced into this move since the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court both refused to consider an appeal. A decision on permission to appeal to the ECHR is expected in the new year. The POA is the only trade union in the Criminal Justice System lodging Court action on behalf of its members with a view to overturning this injustice.
As the year draws to an end, I would like to place on record my sincerest thanks to all POA members for their continued professional and dedicated work on the frontline in whatever workplaces you inhabit. In all areas of the country, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and The Isle of Man we continue to witness the true worth of our contribution to society.
You should all be extremely proud of the work you do, as I am so truly proud to lead you.
Thank you for your continued support. I will never stop fighting to improve your working life. Be cautious, support each other, but more importantly take some time out to enjoy Christmas and the New Year.
All the very best and Merry Christmas!
Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.