Friday, 2 March 2018

Trouble At Approved Premises

The following came in over night and left as comments on yesterday's blog. It's not signed or dated and if from a document, it may not be complete or the sections might not be in the right order. However, as submitted, it clearly sheds some light on the vexed issue of night waking-cover of Approved Premises (Probation Hostels in old money) and therefore in view of its importance, I've decided to publish it here for discussion and comment.


Sodexo and OCS are FM contractors, but as part of their FM contracts to provide cleaning and catering in APs, they are also going to run DWNC in APs. UNISON has campaigned against this dangerous privatisation since it was first proposed three years ago. We believe that the MOJ breached EU procurement legislation in allowing residential services into a facilities management contract, but MOJ Ministers refused to answer our questions on the legal process. This issue has not gone away and we continue to campaign on this.

The NPS realised in January that neither Sodexo, nor OCS, was ready to take over the DWNC contract on the original ‘go live’ date of 22 January. As a result the start date was put back to 1 March, mainly to allow the 1-2-1 meetings to take place between the company and the NPS staff due to transfer to the private companies. The NPS has confirmed that the contract is going to start on 1 March even though Sodexo and OCS are not able to staff up all the APs on this date!!

The NPS is going to cover for them. This is obviously how privatisation works these days. UNISON has written to the Secretary of State for Justice and to Sonia Crozier to ask that the contracts are deferred again, on health and safety grounds. Our pleas have been ignored. NPS cannot say it was not warned.


Sodexo and OCS have confirmed that they will recognise UNISON for the purposes of collective bargaining for TUPE transferees going forward. So UNISON will continue to look after your interests and represent you after you have transferred to Sodexo, or OCS. All of your contractual terms and conditions transfer unchanged to Sodexo, or OCS. Your pension remains unchanged. If you are in the Local Government Pension Scheme, this will continue.

There is no requirement for you to sign any new contract with Sodexo, or OCS. Do not sign any document you are given by Sodexo, or OCS, without first taking advice from UNISON. Your hours of work are protected. You cannot be required to work more hours than you do at present. You can agree to work additional hours/overtime, but this is your choice. If your contract states that you only work at one AP, you cannot be required to work at any other AP (unless you agree).

Sodexo and OCS cannot change any of your terms and conditions without your agreement, or the agreement of UNISON on your behalf. If you have any questions on what Sodexo or OCS ask you to do after the transfer, please speak to your local UNISON representative in the first instance.


UNISON asked for the start date for the privatised DWNC contracts to be deferred again post 1 March. This is because there is little evidence that the contractual requirements around the recruitment, shadow shifts and vetting of the privatised Residential Assistants, (who will work alongside a single NPS member of staff on every night shift), are anywhere close to being put in place in time for 1 March.  On the face of it, the Justice Secretary and HMPPS don’t care and are going ahead regardless. This is a major safe-guarding risk for AP staff, AP residents and communities, and we have warned both Ministers and Sonia Crozier about the dangers of going ahead unprepared. As we know, this is a government which cannot admit it has got things wrong.

The MOJ contract for the private DWNC requires that the following are put in place before any private residential assistant can work a shift alongside an NPS employee:
  • All private Residential Assistants must be SIA licensed. 
  • All personnel will have to display their SIA licence in a card holder on a lanyard at all times whilst on duty.
  • The private Residential Assistant must be recruited only for work in APs (i.e. they cannot have been recruited for general security work for Sodexo/OCS anywhere else). 
  • The private Residential Assistant must be interviewed for the job in the actual AP in which he/she is due to work. 
  • The NPS AP manager in every AP has the right to attend each interview for private residential assistants, and will have the right to veto any appointment by Sodexo/OCS.
  • As part of the appointment process the private Residential Assistant must provide an enhanced CRB check, proof of right to work in the UK, a verified employment history and satisfactory references.
  • This will include a Security Guard Licence and Public Space Surveillance (operation of CCTV). 
  • If at any time Key Holding is required, this SIA licence will also be required. 
All new private Residential Assistants will be required to work a minimum of three probationary ‘shadow’ shifts, alongside an experienced member of Sodexo/OCS staff, before undertaking his/her own shift. This means that for three night shifts, two Sodexo staff will have to work alongside the NPS DWNC member of staff to deliver the ‘shadow shifts’.

It is not acceptable for the NPS DWNC employee, or the AP Manager, to supervise the trainee private residential assistant on these ‘shadow shifts’, this must be done by an ‘experienced’ member of Sodexo or OCS staff. These training shifts will be at the expense of Sodexo/OCS.

NPS reserves the right to request the replacement of any private Residential Assistant should they fail to meet the standard required in the contract and the terms agreed as part of the interview process between the parties.

Approved Premises Managers will be responsible for arranging a site-specific building induction with each private Residential Assistant new to that AP which will include health and safety, use of panic alarms and action to alarm activations, fire and emergency evacuation procedure and other aspects of the local business.

It will be clear to most AP members that the above conditions are unlikely to be delivered in most APs in what is left of February. All of the above requirements are necessary for public protection and for the health and safety of AP residents and staff.

UNISON will not be prepared to accept any departure from these safety provisions. If you believe that any of these provisions is being flouted, please contact your UNISON representative immediately.

UNISON has written to each Divisional Head of Public Protection to ask about what plans are being put in place in each AP to deliver all of the above requirements prior to any private Residential Assistants being employed, and to seek the necessary reassurances regarding the health, safety and welfare of our AP members. At least one Head of Public Protection has written back to admit that the safeguards will not be in place on 1 March in his Division. This is on the record.

KEEP A LOG OF THINGS THAT GO WRONG as UNISON is putting a national appeal together, which we are entitled to do under the National Negotiating Council Job Evaluation Scheme.

However, there is a REAL DANGER that the NPS will ask Sodexo and OCS to back fill the vacant NPS Residential Worker posts!!!!!!!!, as there is the facility in the small print of the DWNC contract to ask the private companies to provide cover during the day. The thin end of the wedge if ever there was one! If you find Sodexo or OCS staff filling in on day shifts, please let UNISON know.

In all probability, HMPPS really wants to privatise the entire AP function and could be tempted to exploit its recruitment crisis in APs to bring this in through the back door. UNISON will fight this all the way. HMPPS to account on any problems that arise because the health, safety and wellbeing of our members, residents and communities is at risk and UNISON is not prepared to stand by and allow this. More information on where to send your logs will be sent out soon.


UNISON has discovered that the NPS is struggling to recruit its own AP Residential Workers in at least two Divisions: South West and London. There are at least 20 AP residential worker vacancies in each Division. This is hardly surprising as NPS cut the salary for AP Residential Workers from a Band 3 to a Band 2 as part of its E3 cost cutting measures. Once applicants find out just how demanding a role the Residential Worker job is, they are less keen to join.

UNISON appealed against the down-banding in 2016, but NPS forced it through, not thinking ahead to the problems that this would lead to in recruitment. UNISON is therefore calling on NPS to review the salary of NPS Residential Workers again in 2018, and we will be asking for AP members’ assistance in this. UNISON asks all AP members to start keeping a written log of any problems and deficiencies which you witness from 1 March in the running of the privatised DWNC contracts. We will ask you to submit these logs to us on a monthly basis. It is really important that we hold the private companies to account!!!!!!


Next time you're supervising somebody's release from HMP and back into the community, perhaps after they have served a long sentence for what was a particularly nasty offence. There are recorded concerns and evidence of potential harm and you feel it would benefit all if there was a period of enhanced supervision during that early period of release......Well sorry to inform you but the AP system has turned to shit and soon will have a staffing model directly imported and inspired by such luminaries as G4S and their running of Brook House.


  1. This was sent as an email to Unison members yesterday. It is pretty much verbatim minus a paragraph relating to AP Staff meals when on site.
    Thanks for publishing Jim.

  2. “The NPS has confirmed that the contract is going to start on 1 March even though Sodexo and OCS are not able to staff up all the APs on this date!! The NPS is going to cover for them.”

    The NPS is so pathetic that it’s to cover for privateers until these shitty companies are ready to take probation jobs and services. More evidence NPS directors are puppets and nodding dogs for the MoJ. Just like the snivelling Probation Chief Officers before them, they haven’t a spine between them.

    “UNISON has written to the Secretary of State for Justice and to Sonia Crozier to ask that the contracts are deferred again”

    The same Sonia Crozier, NPS Director for WOMEN that apologised for Probation mismanagement of John Worboys even though there wasn’t any mismanagement.

  3. Why is this a surprise? The same shower of s*** that pushed through TR is still in charge. They have dumb down to a fine art. I have no doubt that this will end in tears yet again and that no-one in the MOJ or HMPPS will be help accountable. I sat to all the AP staff involved leave. Leave now. Leave the AP's to self destruct and leave the dumbasses in charge to sort the mess out. The sooner this morons are exposed the better.

  4. Now we know why the new breed of AP managers are nodding-dogs too. Hand picked, experienced in saying yes and skilled in reciting HMPPS policies.

    I hope all AP staff will be scrutinising their AP managers who will be interviewing and green-lighting the Serco recruits that’ll be taking their jobs.

  5. Probation Officer2 March 2018 at 10:15

    The dye is cast. Only a matter of time now before the NPS will be recruiting personnel from private firms to do general probation work. With Sonia Crozier’s blessing obviously.

    1. This will be the model when CRC’s fold.

    2. Not enough thought being given to the model when the CRC's fold, and the decisions will be made by the same shower that got us into this mess. The obvious starting point would be to get a new set of heads thinking on this one. In my dreams

  6. I'm just wondering why so much money, time and turmoil was thought necessary in an exercise to keep the public and privatised probation sections apart in probation offices around the county only to put them back together under the same roof in APs?


  7. Privatising AP staff will take us to here:

    1. From Nov 2016:-

      This shocking footage captures the moment a former award winning policeman is cruelly humiliated and mocked as he sits dying in his chair at a Birmingham hostel.

      The upsetting video was taken by an undercover reporter from ITV as part of an investigation at Waterside House hostel for the homeless in Newtown, run by company Expectations UK.

      A hidden camera captures 53-year-old Adrian Bill slumped in a chair in the television room of the hostel on the afternoon of March 24. While he is dying he is cruelly humiliated by other residents as staff join in the mockery and take snapshots.

      Mr Bill has toilet paper stuck up his nose, plastic forks put in his hat and objects are piled up on him while he slumps unconscious in his chair.

      Assuming he was merely drunk, some of the other tenants in the hostel pile books, a plastic warning sign and a pot plant on top of him while giggling security guards take photos on their mobile phones.

      As other tenants began to realise the seriousness of Mr Bill’s condition, they repeatedly call in vain for staff to summon help, but one guard simply shrugs his shoulders and mutters: “He’s breathing,” and walks off.

      One member of staff says: “Hey the guys in there they dressed him up. The guys in there they put stuff up his nose and books on his head and that.”

      Finally the severity of the situation is realised and paramedics are called. However, despite attempts to resuscitate him he is pronounced dead.

      One security guard not involved in the incident said the next day: “That is his last day on earth and they treat him like s***.

      “All of them that been putting stuff on him, samosas and all them bin liner, everything, they all been evicted.”

      Talking about the security staff on duty he adds: “They owe him a duty of care about what was f****** happening. They should have put a stop to it and taken all that s*** off him. Man’s dead man.”

      The footage was part of an ITV investigation into the state of government funded hostels including Waterside House hostel and Wick House in Bristol.

      An inquest was recently held into Mr Bill’s death where it was revealed he died from bronchopneumonia exacerbated by substance abuse.

      The Birmingham hearing painted a picture of a former award-winning policeman who lost his way in life and had become an alcoholic.

      Mr Bill was highly commended in the 2011 “Best of Broad Street Awards” top police officer category.
      He was divorced with two children and two stepsons and was well-liked in the hostel he called home for a year. But his amiable persona masked inner demons.

      He was taken to City Hospital in February, intoxicated and dogged by suicidal thoughts.

      He was also known to addiction centres. In October last year, Mr Bill visited the Substance and Misuse team in Smethwick where he asked to be referred to a help programme.

      Ms Brown had recorded a verdict that death was a result of morphine and alcohol use in the presence of a natural illness.

      The security company told ITV that, having viewed the CCTV footage, they are satisfied that the correct and appropriate actions were taken.

      Expectations UK told ITV that they outsource security but added: “We do not have a say on the security staff, however, in their defence the photos that were being taken were for their report.”

    2. " their defence the photos that were being taken were for their security report."


      A hidden camera showed "tenants in the hostel pile books, a plastic warning sign and a pot plant on top of him while giggling security guards take photos on their mobile phones."

  8. *All private Residential Assistants must be SIA licensed.

    In the video (@10:49) you can see the Security Guards SIA licence on his arm.
    It is worth stating that these private Residential Assistants will be working alongside the newly created position of Residential Worker, graded at Band 2 and as mentioned in the blog above, Areas have had difficulty recruiting enough of these staff and many of the positions are filled by agency staff.
    The Residential Worker will work a rota covering 24 hrs. When on day shift they will work along side an NPS PSO but from 20.00 until 08.00 they will work solely on site with private Residential Assistants.

    On a Friday evening from 20:00 it will not be until Monday morning that they see another NPS staff member. There will be a telephone number for a Stand-By manager who will be somewhere in the region , should telephone advice be required. The proverbial chocolate fireguard safety system.

    Management of APs becomes more of a danger when the company who provides the private Residential Assistants, then starts to provide the staff to cover for the NPS Residential Workers in times of absence. This can begin soon as the contract starts, as the contract also makes the private company responsible for providing Relief/Sessional cover in the absence of the NPS Residential Workers.

    So there you have it, newly recruited staff working alongside a bouncer in an environment where a number of damaged individuals reside together with individuals who do damage. What can possible go wrong?
    When was the last time you heard about inexperienced staff working pretty much unsupervised and attempting to monitor complex individuals.....


    1. Fresh concerns about the way dangerous offenders are monitored in the community were raised today by a damning investigation into probation service failings after the torture and murder of two French students in London last year.

      The inquiry was ordered by the justice secretary, Jack Straw, after the conviction of Dano Sonnex, a violent drug addict who was supposed to be under supervision and should have been back in jail for breaching his release conditions.

      Today's findings show that the quality of probation supervision falls short of the required standard in nearly half of all cases in London, and has actually got worse since the Sonnex case revealed a succession of failings.

  9. This system has failed before:

    1. A company which runs bail hostels has been put on probation after a resident was brutally murdered.

      The Ministry of Justice said Clearsprings was issued with a demand to improve its performance earlier this month. Its contract, worth nearly £6 million last year, could be cancelled if it fails to act.

      The company, which runs 204 hostels, was issued with a rectification notice after a judge criticised controls at a hostel in Stockton, Teesside.

  10. You do not manage an AP like you do a care home:

    1. Six out of 11 care workers who admitted a total of 38 charges of neglect or abuse of patients at a private hospital have been jailed.

      Five other workers from Winterbourne View near Bristol were given suspended sentences after the acts of abuse were uncovered by BBC Panorama. Ringleader Wayne Rogers, 32, who admitted nine counts of ill-treating patients, was jailed for two years.

      Judge Neil Ford QC said there was a "culture of cruelty" at the care home.Judge Ford said no attempt was made to provide a caring environment and if the abuse had not been uncovered by the BBC, it would have continued.

  11. one more to fill you full of confidence:

    1. A man killed a teenager three days after being released from prison, then hid her body in a clingfilm-wrapped wardrobe, a court heard.

      Ashley Foster, 24, denies murdering Megan Bills in his room at a hostel in Brierley Hill on Easter Sunday 2017. He has admitted preventing the decent and lawful burial of the 17-year-old. Mr Foster had claimed she passed out after asking to be strangled during sex, the court heard. But prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC alleged she died in a sex attack.

      Mr Foster left his room and locked the door behind him on Easter Sunday, about two hours after Megan was seen on CCTV entering the room, the court heard. Mr Aylett told Wolverhampton Crown Court: "None of the CCTV was ever to pick up Megan leaving the room and there is no other reliable evidence of her ever being seen alive again."

      Detailing how Ms Bills' body was found, Mr Aylett said hostel staff carried out a routine inspection. "When somebody commented that the room smelled, Foster said the smell came from the carpets", he said.

      By the following day the smell had worsened and staff cut through the clingfilm, found Ms Bills' body and contacted police, the court heard.

      Jurors were told a pathologist said it was not possible to say how she died, but it was "beyond doubt" Mr Foster had wrapped the cupboard because his fingerprints were found on the clingfilm.


  13. I don't quite understand how much the MOJ hopes to save as there are to my knowledge 110 Approved Premises nationally.In the great scheme of things the number of staff affected is relatively small and any potential savings is peanuts in return for predictable inferior service level.

    1. Handing public services to the private sector is about imposing ideology, it's never been about saving money.

  14. How come OCS are allowed to offer the job at £7.45 per hour? I know it says salary is c. £18600 but circa is usually used to advise that employer may amend starting salary to match competitors recruiting to similar positions, not to allow them to amend to actually pay the minimum wage!

    I know my manager raised this when I asked about it and was told it would be addressed. Clearly it gets addressed by ignoring and awarding a contract to a company who thinks so little of our work they decide it’s not even worth minimum wage! Or they hope to only attract staff under 25......