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It’s been six months since taking up my role as Scottish National Committee (SNC) Chair and to say it’s been quick is an understatement. I must take this moment to praise the professionalism and hard work of the membership throughout this unprecedented time. For those who turned up day after day into a high-risk setting and continue to do their jobs to a high standard, it is nothing short of remarkable and should never be forgotten.
In the six months to date, myself and vice chair Jim McCabe have attended 10 branches and seen firsthand the hard work that is going on. We have had some fantastic engagement with the membership in Scotland, which has helped us shape the decisions being made at SNC level.
An example of this was the return of Control & Restraint (C&R). C&R had obviously stopped due to Covid, but members were starting to express their concerns about a lack of confidence and competence in carrying out C&R in a live environment. That feedback, along with restrictions being eased and a robust Risk Assessment and Safe Systems of Work, ensured the re-commencement of this training. Engagement with the membership is important and we thank those who take the time to speak with us.
As a Scottish delegate sitting at national conference, hearing the horror stories colleagues south of the border were facing in relation to Psychoactive Substances, I remember thinking I hope we never experience that. Sadly, we are, and the pressure and stress placed on our members is frankly appalling. The POAS are taking this matter seriously and, with support and information from our LBCs, we are pushing the employer hard on this topic. I give a pledge to all our membership that we won’t let up until we make your working environment as safe as possible, as I have seen first-hand during my branch visits the impact it is having on you all.
With all establishments, except for one due to operational issues, now returned to pre-Covid attendance patterns, undoubtedly – as history reminds me – most establishments will be working staff down in areas. Therefore I want to take this opportunity to remind the membership to follow the locally agreed RA, SSOW and staff shortage protocols that have been designed. We know that following these will mean it will take longer to carry out the role. However, they are there to ensure the role can be carried out as safely as possible, not only for you but for your colleagues, so please follow them when required.
Finally, as more and more restrictions are eased, spending time with friends and loved ones increases and hopefully, like me, you are starting to see the end of this nightmare approaching – just in time for a Scottish winter. All the same, however, please enjoy a return to the things that I for one took for granted. Have a great festive period – and here’s to 2022!
I look forward to catching up with as many of the membership as possible when visiting the branches.
Scottish National Committee 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.