"Custody Care and Justice" (Hansard, 16 January 1997)
HC Deb 16 January 1997 vol 288 cc369-71W
Mr. Alex Carlile

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made on the implementation of paragraph 4.12 concerning staff development in the document, "Custody Care and Justice", published in 1991 (Cm. 1647); and if he will make a statement. [10787]

Miss Widdecombe

[holding answer 13 January 1997]: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Richard Tilt to Mr. Alex Carlile, dated 16 January 1997: The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the implementation of paragraph 4.12 concerning staff development in the document Custody, Care and Justice, published in 1991. Addressing the 11 points under their respective headings the points on each is as follows: 1. Pursue a Better Jobs initiative The Better Jobs initiative continued as a method of improving staff motivation and achieving high quality work by means of collecting and publishing information on good practices in these areas. An evaluation in 1994 gave satisfactory results. Last year saw a gradual change of focus to Investors in People support. This scheme shares many of the Better Jobs aims, but leads to accreditation to a National Standard. Achieving Investors status has been made a government requirement for the Civil Service. Most prisons now have some involvement with work on the Standard and five are already accredited. 2. Increase the opportunities for providing more fulfilling work for prison officers with prisoners A revised sentence planning model is being launched across the Service during 1997. This will enhance the assessment of risk in prisoners and identify aspects of offending behaviour which should be addressed during the course of their sentence. Prison Officers have a key role in this in partnership with the Probation Service. A review of the Personal Officer Schemes is currently underway with a view to better equipping Prison Officers to meet the demands of advising and challenging prisoners' offending behaviour. Together with the Incentives and Privileges Scheme, this will provide a means by which staff gain constructive authority over prisoners as well as enhancing the Prisoner Officer role, providing a worthwhile service to prisoners. 3. Continue to encourage Governors to identify jobs which can be undertaken by staff other than prison officers The Service has continued to identify jobs, where appropriate, that can be undertaken by staff other than prison officers. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 enabled the widening of duties of such staff. Proposals have been put to the Prison Officers Association for the introduction of an Operational Support Grade to further help free prison officers for the work requiring their particular skills. 4. Consider the position of staff working in prisons who were not included in the initial "Fresh Start" arrangements Following negotiation with unions representing industrial staff, the Service has introduced a new pay structure for those staff. Discussion with unions representing non-industrial staff have not been able to identify the necessary efficiency savings along the principles of Fresh Start. The Prison Service pay and grading review is continuing to develop proposals which might go some way to improving the position of Heads of Management Services (which posts were specifically mentioned in the Woolf report). 5. Produce a new handbook for all staff setting out standards for the treatment and care of prisoners The work of providing staff with guidance about the practical implementation of standards has been taken forward in the following ways. (a) Suicide prevention strategies were extensively reviewed between 1991 and 1994. New research was commissioned from the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge and best practice was drawn upon. A revised strategy was launched in 1994 which focuses upon a multi-disciplinary approach to identifying those prisoners at risk and providing support. A new modular staff training programme in suicide awareness was drawn up which includes identification or risk factors; high risk stages in custody; and signs and symptoms of suicidal behaviour. Training and instructions are re-inforced by a detailed guidance pack on Caring for the Suicidal in Custody. It is the responsibility of all staff to be alert to the risk of self-harm and suicide. The process of providing support through a multi-disciplinary approach centres around the use of the Form F2052SH which activates a case-conference approach. Where appropriate, external agencies such as the Samaritans are involved either as individual befrienders or in training and supporting prisoners as Listeners. (b) Since 1993, the Directorate of Health Care in collaboration with operational colleagues has produced and promulgated Health Care Standards on the following 9 topics:

  • Health Assessment at First Reception
  • Mental Health Services in local prisons and remand centres
  • Primary and Out-patient Care
  • In-patient Care
  • Reception, Transfer and Discharge
  • Clinical and related Services for Promoting Health
  • Clinical AIDS/HIV Service
The Use of Medicines Two further standards, on Forensic Psychiatry and Throughcare are planned. (c) The Prison Service has also developed a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), Level Two, in Custodial Care. 700 staff in 40 establishments are working towards this award. A further 400 applications have been made by staff in 1997–98. The award provides operating standards for staff to achieve eg in challenging aggressive and abusive behaviour while maintaining control. It is expected that an NVQ Level Three award will be accredited by Spring 1997. This award will offer a flexible approach and cover other aspects of Prison Officer duties such as personal officer, reception and gate duties as well as imparting some units from other NVQ Lead Bodies, in the Care Sector Consortium eg units in Criminal Justice, Management and Supervision, Training and Development. 6. Issue shortly a new Guide for Line Managers on Service Induction with a clearer and more readable Guide for New Staff A welcome to the Prison Service Pack was introduced comprising a series of 10 small brochures entitled:
  • Introduction to the Service
  • Caring for staff
  • Matching Prisoners to Places
  • Working for the Prison Service
  • Running Prisons
  • Industrial Relations
  • Caring for Prisoners
  • Information
  • Your Career
  • Glossary of Terms
Prison Service Internal communications is presently looking at the redrafting and redesign of the Welcome Pack. In the event, it was decided to incorporate the Guide for Line Managers into the Staff Handbook. A new version is due to be published early this year. Where items are not covered, reference will be made in the Handbook to particular pieces of guidance in existence. 7. Provide staff in prisons with a statement of the facilities for and the standards expected of them The Realising our Potential project of the Pay Grading and Performance Review identified a number of areas to be developed into "Standards" for delivery to staff. Work is well advanced on one of these, Communications, and the Communications Standard will be audited by the Standards Audit Unit. 8. Continue to improve the performance of all staff in treating prisoners fairly and without discrimination on grounds of race or religion The Prison Service is committed to equality of opportunity and the elimination of discrimination on improper grounds. Comprehensive structures are in place to implement the Service's race relations policies. Prisons are required to have a Race Relations Management Team to develop and monitor progress and a Race Relations Liaison Officer to offer advice and support. The Service continues to up date procedures and develop mew initiatives, including revised guidance on the handling of racial incidents. 9. Introduce a Prison Officer Development Scheme The Prison Service is piloting a Developing Managers Programme which is open to all Prison Service staff up to Governor 5 and equivalent. The programme aims to provide meaningful, high quality development opportunities for staff identified as having sufficient potential to progress to higher ranks. Subject to the outcome of the pilot and sufficient resources being available the programme will be launched during 1997. 10. Increase the posting of female staff to male establishments and vice versa Opposite sex postings have been governed by a management/trade union agreement since 1988. On 9 May 1988 there were 101 female staff in the prison officer grades employed in male establishments (9% of all female officers), and 67 male officers posted to female establishments (0.4% of all male staff). The corresponding opposite sex postings figures as at 7 February 1996 (the latest available) are 1–579 (73% of all female officers) and 216 (1% of all male officers). Opposite sex postings have thus increased substantially over the last 8–9 years and are now well established within the Prison Service. 11. Broaden the experience of Prison Service staff To facilitate this initiative, provision was made within the Personnel Directorate salaries budget to finance secondments of senior staff to other organisations. This has included placements with Kingfisher PLC, Newcastle NHS Trust, NACRO, The Church of England, The Prince's Trust, Thames Valley Safer Communities Partnership, Birmingham Institute for the Deaf, Action in the Community and The Lord Chancellor's Department. In addition, the Prison Service has continued to work closely with other Government Departments and Agencies Personnel Sections in order to maximise interchange.