CIRC 080: NATIONAL CHAIR UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2021

Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of all POA members.

New Secretary of State for Justice

During the recent Cabinet reshuffle a new Secretary of State for Justice has been appointed. Dominic Raab MP is now responsible for Justice and will oversee HMPPS. The General Secretary and I await an introductory meeting. We also have a new Prisons Minister who is Victoria Atkins.

Information Meeting: England and Wales 9TH November 2021 Central Hall Westminster, London

An information meeting has been convened for branch officials in England and Wales. In the absence of Annual Conference branches will have the opportunity to receive feedback from the NEC and to clarify any issues that are affecting their members. Further information can be accessed via POA Circular 77/2021.  We have applied for facility time from HMPPS for branch officials to attend.

POA Annual Conference 16th – 20th May 2022 – Welcome Building, Eastbourne

I am pleased to announce after discussions and negotiations with the providers for the Welcome Building which is a brand-new facility in Eastbourne it has been agreed by the NEC that the Annual Conference for the POA will be held at this venue in 2022. Further information can be accessed via POA Circular 78/2021.

ACCT Version 6

The NEC have been in talks regarding ACCT V6 implementation, we would like you to respond to help us learn if you have noticed any change in the way ACCTs are managed within your site. We want information on the process, including any feedback on the new forms and process, the lack of training you have received, the additional responsibilities Band 4 staff may be expected to carry out, and your thoughts on how this document improves the ACCT process or not. Please disclose any further information that you that you feel may be helpful, responding to: nicola@poauk.org.uk

POA Memorial

I have just received an update on the Memorial commissioned by the POA, to be placed in the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire. The stone to be used is on route from India and we wait for it to arrive at the docks at Felixstowe. There are reported delays as containers are often delayed due to current UK transport problems. It is therefore suggested that the Installation will be completed in April 2022.

Regime Progression

Many local officials have expressed concern about the forced pace of regime progression that their Senior Management Teams wish to implement. The NEC have confirmed with Directors that the pace of progression is entirely risk based and dependent upon staffing resources available, and approval from Public Health England after considering the Covid prevalence in the prison and the region.

Stage 1 regimes simply refer to loosening Covid restrictions such as mask wearing and social distancing. Prisons may be able to facilitate additional activities or longer periods out of cell if it is safe to do so and Public Health England agree this will not increase risk.

Stage 1 regimes in many prisons will not look much different from stage 2 regimes. The main difference being the removal of Covid restrictions. It is down to local committees to agree unlock numbers and activities. This must be based on risk.

Local committees are encouraged to review all Risk Assessments and Safe Systems of work, especially if local SMT wish to put on an activity that has been curtailed due to Covid restrictions. Committees must be given sufficient facility time to engage so they may update their Regime Management Plan (RMP) for Stage 1 (delivering the Stage 1 SOP) and incorporating any remaining backlogs from Local Recovery Plan. This is to be agreed as per the Regime Management Planning PSI.

If you have any concerns or issues, please inform your area NEC representative immediately.

Pay Award

The Government have still not released the report from the Prison Service Pay Review Body. There is no indication as to when any pay award will be announced by the Government. We await to see if the Government will give Bands 2-5 a pay increase and approve any incremental pay which is non contractual and can be removed or denied at any point in the future. Whilst I accept this is annoying and frustrating the fault and delay rests entirely with the Government.

Pay legal challenge

The POA applied to the court in February to Judicially review the Government’s decision not to abide by recommendation 3 of the Pay Review Bodies award for 2020, which would have seen Band 3 F&S staff receive an instant £3k per year pay increase. The court has finally responded refusing the application.

We have appealed this decision and requested an oral hearing so we may attempt to persuade the court to accept our application.

The Coroners Court Support Service (CCSS)

The POA are proud to enter into a professional relationship with The Coroners’ Courts Support Service (CCSS), an independent charity founded in 2003.

Trained volunteers offer free, confidential, emotional support and practical help to bereaved families, witnesses and others attending an Inquest Coroners’ Courts in England.

Full details can be accessed via POA Circular 79/2021.

HMP Five Wells: G4S Award Voluntary Recognition To POA

I am pleased to announce that on the 3rd September 2021, we received official notification that the POA have been successful in gaining voluntary recognition subject to the completion of a formal recognition and procedural agreement which will be signed off by both the POA and G4S.

The bargaining unit will be for Prison Custody Officers’ and Security Officers. We look forward to welcoming our new members into the POA. 

POA Scotland

The NEC have approved a business case from the Scottish National Committee to sell POA Scotland HQ Office at Calder Road, Edinburgh, due to its disrepair. Feedback from local branch committees in Scotland confirms that they support this business case. The property market is buoyant, and the proceeds of the sale will be ring fenced for POA Scotland to utilise for future rental of a modern office facility in a location of their choice.

Northern Ireland Area Committee

Northern Ireland still has restrictions in place including the wearing of face masks and social distancing. The area office remains closed, but plans are being made to reopen it once restrictions ease. The Area Committee await the publication of the Northern Irish Prison Service Pay and Regrading Review before they commence pay talks.

High Secure Hospitals

An indicative ballot on industrial action relating to the NHS pay award has commenced.

Staff Survey

POA members are reminded that it is the policy of the union NOT to participate in the annual staff survey. This survey is not specific to operational staff and has been used by HMPPS to support their recommendations to the Pay review Body. Last year’s survey that was completed predominantly by non-operational staff and Senior Managers confirmed that only 30% of respondents strongly disagreed that “Compared to people doing a similar job in other organisations I feel my pay is reasonable.”  This statistic will be used to justify pay freezes. I would urge all POA members to refuse to complete the annual staff survey.

Please be aware that Covid still remains a threat in our secure environments, and we must remain cautious when expanding any regimes or activities. Only 50% of prisoners are fully vaccinated with a refusal rate of 32%. Only 38% staff have declared that they are fully vaccinated.

Please continue to work safely and remain vigilant to the threat of Covid. 

All the best.

 

Mark Fairhurst
National Chair

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.