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Telephone: 020 8803 0255
Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of all branch members.
The 2021 Prison Service Pay Review Body England and Wales report was submitted to the Government on 22nd July. We now await a decision and a publication date from the Government. The Government have indicated that they will not consider this report until after the summer recess in September.
A previous announcement by the Government confirmed that only staff who are in receipt of a base salary of £24k per annum would be entitled to a £250 per year pay rise, whilst those earning above that threshold would have their pay frozen. This means that the majority of POA members, including those on Fair and Sustainable terms and conditions would be subject to a pay freeze.
Staff should also note that any increments they are expecting are subject to the pay review body recommending they should be paid and the Government agreeing to pay them. Increments do not form part of a contractual right in F&S terms and conditions and can therefore be removed or denied at any point.
Market Supplements are subject to the same criteria.
Temporary Cover Payment Error
POA members should take note of the following correspondence we have received from HMPPS:
It is with regret that we have recently confirmed with SSCL that an error has been made in the calculation of temporary cover payments to staff covering roles that qualify for unsocial hours / RHA. We have recently become aware that since the introduction of new temporary cover policies effective April 2017, the unsocial / RHA element payable to staff covering eligible roles has been double counted (and therefore overpaid).
SSCL have only just been instructed to take corrective action and so we will follow up with details of the number of affected - which, unfortunately, is expected to be quite large – and approximate amounts in question.
It is expected that corrective action will be taken in time for August payroll (although this is yet to be confirmed), at which stage affected staff will see a reduction in their total pay. We will therefore be writing to those staff as a matter of urgency.
Exceptional Contact Isolation Reasonable Excuse for critical workers
This has now been approved to include all operational staff in HMPPS Prisons. I must reiterate that staff must volunteer to attend work if they have been told to self-isolate due to track and trace. No member of staff can be forced to attend work if they have been informed to self-isolate via the NHS track and trace app.
Ahead of the 16th August changes when all fully vaccinated contacts will no longer have to self-isolate (and this exemption is likely to be superseded) in limited and very specific circumstances where there is a serious risk to public welfare and critical infrastructure as a result of individuals being unable to work, an exemption to contact isolation can be granted. This will only apply to fully vaccinated staff (defined as someone who is 14 days post-second dose – and where other controls are in place ie. PCR and LFD testing). This is not a complete exemption from self-isolation: employees would still be required to self-isolate unless at work or travelling to and from it.
Staff who agree to volunteer to work during their isolation period are subject to a number of conditions:
Regime progression to stage 1
Plans are in place to allow prisons who are ready, to progress to a stage 1 regime and Ministers have confirmed the gateway for progression to stage 1 will open from August 2nd. It is imperative that local committees get meaningful engagement when formulating plans to progress regimes. The POA position is clear. No regimes should replicate pre covid regimes.
This has been confirmed by the Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland MP QC who recently announced in a speech at the Centre for Social Justice on 20th July:
“There will be no going back to how things were done before.”
We witnessed record levels of violence and crime in our prisons pre covid- this clearly demonstrates that our regimes where neither productive nor safe.
Before progressing to a stage 1 regime local committees must be in agreement. If no agreement can be reached on levels of regimes, unlock numbers or potential mixing of prisoners please contact your area NEC representative immediately for support. HMPPS have confirmed a prison cannot have their stage 1 model signed off without an RMP in place.
We must not waste this opportunity to produce safe regimes with manageable numbers of prisoners unlocked.
We are asking all POA members to protect themselves and others by booking their vaccines. With rising rates of infection in the community, accelerated by the Delta variant, and the time lag before the vaccine offers maximum protection, we are now in a window in which our actions will have the biggest impact. It is therefore preferable that everyone takes up the offer of a vaccine and makes an appointment to receive the vaccine as soon as possible
If you have been vaccinated or have chosen to decline the offer of the vaccine, please record this on SOP. You can do this on the ‘My Vaccination Information’ tab on the home page. If you are unable to access SOP for any reason then, with your consent, your line manager can input your vaccination status on your behalf. This data will be used anonymously for information purposes only, to assist with recovery planning and to inform Public Health England and Public Health Wales advice.
Please note that it is purely voluntary for staff to register their vaccination status on SOP. You cannot be forced into registering your status and must volunteer this information.
DIGITAL ASSESSMENT ROUTING TOOL (DART)
HMPPS are introducing a new Digital Assessment Routing Tool (DART). DART is an Employee Support Service where staff can access the Occupational Health service privately if they suffer from one of the following conditions or, if they feel they may be beginning to experience signs or symptoms relating to the following:
Optima Health professionals will then offer the individual an assessment meeting and then provide information, advice and guidance in a confidential setting to support colleagues with their condition. Staff may then be eligible to join a clinically supported metabolic health programme or receive a medical device / monitor to help them monitor and measure their conditions. Members are encouraged to use this service should they feel the need.
POA Podcasts and POATV Channel
For your information, the newly launched POATV channel and podcasts can be accessed via the following links
YouTube POATV -https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiLVvQTDewlc9om9IJuMTiQ
Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/53UfQ51ztMTAOAIEvB1XtX
Anchor fm - https://anchor.fm/poa-podcast
POA Website and the Podcasts - https://www.poauk.org.uk/poa-podcast/
The POA have been in prolonged discussions with HMPPS over the removal of razors from our prisons in favour of electric shavers. Over the past few months, we have witnessed some horrific assaults on our members resulting in life changing injuries due to attacks with razor blades.
A successful pilot of electric shavers has proved we can replace razors if there is a will to do so from the employer.
Staff are reminded that they should have a robust process in place to issue and return razors and are encouraged to ensure that razors are managed appropriately.
The following is a directive to Governors from Phil Copple Director General of Prisons:
Improvised weapons - Items presenting a risk to personal safety
Governors of establishments must carry out a review of existing local risk assessments of the significant items which prisoners could fashion into weapons and ensure that appropriate controls are in place to manage this risk, by the end of January 2020; in all cases, this must include razor blades and, where applicable, tins and tin lids, and ceramic items. Prison Group Directors need to ensure that these have been completed to the standard required and report to their respective Executive Director by Friday 7 February 2020.
Local committees are encouraged to review how they issue razors and other items that can be utilised as weapons against staff in line with this directive.
Pay Recommendation 3
We are still waiting for permission from the court to Judicially review the reluctance of the Government to approve pay recommendation 3 from the 2020 pay award. We will progress our complaint about the delay in proceedings accordingly.
Due to the uncertainty and risks posed by Covid the Scottish National Committee have been forced to postpone their annual conference scheduled for October. A new Justice Minister has been appointed, Keith Brown MP, who has good relationships with the SNC. The Scottish Prison Service intend to adopt pain free restraints of juvenile prisoners within youth prisons and are in discussions with the SNC.It is intended by the Scottish Prison Service to return staff to pre covid attendance patterns by September.
Northern Ireland Area Committee
HMP Magilligan was recently praised in an Inspection report for its commendable actions during the pandemic which has witnessed no Covid positive cases. The threat towards Prison staff from dissidents remains as severe.
The Government have announced a 3% pay award for NHS staff. Many sites are experiencing staffing difficulties due to the NHS track and trace system that is forcing self-isolation. POA members who work in both NHS settings and Prison settings, even if their provider is part of the private sector, are reminded that they can access the following grant:
The COVID-19 Healthcare Support Appeal (CHSA) is a new, time-limited charity which makes grants to organisations that are supporting health care staff who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on hardship and psychological support. We are pleased to announce that the POA have been successful in making an application to the Charity in respect of POA members who are health workers and have been awarded approximately £50,000 to be distributed for:
Applications in secure hospitals can be made via your local branch committees. In all other instances please apply via email at email@example.com.
Branch Officials Training
We are in discussions with the Quorn Grange Hotel on how we may facilitate branch officials training later in the year. As soon as we can confirm dates and numbers a circular will be published.
Members are encouraged to sign the TUC petition calling on Government to recognise long Covid as a disability:
We are pleased to announce that the Firefighters rehab centres that the POA utilise will reopen this month. They will offer a blended approach consisting of some remote and on-site services. Any POA member that needs assistance with their recovery from psychological and physical impairments should submit an application to access this service. Details can also be found on our website. Please contact Carol Strahan by email, firstname.lastname@example.org or 0208 884 5693 for applications.
We are witnessing increasing numbers of outbreak sites and staff absences due to Covid. This is a timely reminder that this threat still exists in our secure settings. Although community restrictions are easing, Prisons remain a high-risk workplace and we will continue to ensure safe working practices are in place that protect you all. There is no rush to resume fuller regimes and we must avoid unlocking unmanageable numbers of prisoners as restrictions ease. The days of pointless association periods must end.
If anybody has any concerns, please make sure your local committees and area NEC representative are fully informed.
Stay safe and all the best.
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.