Sunday, 15 April 2018

NPS and Vetting

A reader raises the following questions and I think the issue is well worth re-visiting:-  

Vexed about Vetting!

Is anyone else concerned about the direction from NPS to comply with police vetting? It seems the Probation unions haven't had much of any interest to say about this but I might have missed something?


We have received an email this week saying we must complete this process and give consent for the intrusive police checks prior to being issued with any laptop. To be clear, I couldn't care less whether I have a laptop or not, but I think it's a sneaky way of getting us to comply with vetting.


This issue has been rumbling on for several years in my office. Initially volunteers were sought but nobody did! We have been given very little information about why we need to comply, just some vague notion around access to visor. I think if I was given a full explanation as to why it's suddenly required after 15 years working as a PO, I could make a more informed decision about allowing access to mine and my families personal data?

I was one of those who completed the training for visor at least 5 years ago and at that time we were told it would only be accessed by a small number of staff. In fact it never came to anything and it became something Mappa staff dealt with. The question of access in the future still remains unclear. I'm struggling to believe the police would allow access to visor via laptops.

There are two main issues for me, firstly I don't agree with being forced to supply personal data about my myself unless I choose to do so and I don't believe I should supply my family's information without their consent. Secondly, I see this as a change to my terms and conditions? and I accept that the organisation can do this, but I am also aware that there is a process that needs to be followed to do so. To make matters worse rumours abound about what will happen to those who fail?

I presume that staff in other areas who have received laptops have already complied? I would be interested to hear the views of others.

--oo00oo--

This issue was covered in Guest Blog 67 from 16th Ocober 2017 entitled Whitewashing the Probation Service:-    

The second thing that irks me is Vetting. I understand the need for CRB checks, DBS checks and all that sort of stuff, but this process has taken such an intrusive form with the implementation of Vetting to police standards. For those that haven’t had the privilege yet, according to the long since implemented PI 03/2014, while we were preoccupied, this means:

“Once staff transition to the NPS, they will be subject to the same vetting checks and requirements as other HQ personnel. Where NPS staff apply to move to other NOMS HQ and prison locations they will be subject to a full security vetting check. If NPS staff move to another role within NPS, vetting will only be required if they are subject to a higher level of vetting for the post. This will be a minimum level of Enhanced Check 2, but may be higher dependant on the level of risk and type of work undertaken.”

Now you may be thinking “well I’m not changing role at the moment so I can file this PI in the trash with all the other important NPS instructions”. Well you can’t because our probation directors and unions have allowed Vetting to be forced upon us. Firstly, Vetting now replaces CRB/DBS checks now we’re part of the (un)civil service. Secondly, all ‘offender management’ staff are required to use the police Visor database as a “reasonable management instruction”, and that’s whether to want or need to use it or not. For this privilege we all must be vetted first, and the Vetting itself is a “reasonable management instruction” too.

“ViSOR users are now subject to additional Vetting requirements by the police who as data owners require NOMS staff to undergo Non Police Personnel Vetting (NPPV) at level 2 or 3 depending on access rights.” PI 03/2014.

So there we have it, even though we don’t need Visor and it is not necessary for all probation staff to have access to what is actually a piss-poor database. The probable truth is that we’re being vetted simply because police officers and prison officers are vetted, and the Ministry of Justice probably see it as a way of further sidelining probation and speeding up our extinction. If any of you, like me, have been through this process already you’ll know how intrusive, stressful and worrying it actually is, and that you can fail it.

The minimum level of Enhanced Check 2 that will being forced upon us includes PNC and local police intelligence checks, checks on other non-conviction databases and Special Branch for applicant, spouse/partner and co-residents (including parents and siblings); military and Professional Standards checks on the applicant if required; Credit Reference checks on the applicant, including history of credit card refusal, debts and CCJ’s. I’ve seen a circular stating this may adversely affect a small number of staff but I think this could affect a significant number of probation staff, some with past criminal records, some with family members or spouses with criminal records, and some with bad credit histories past and present.

So what do the unions say? Not much, well this is Ian Lawrence’s (Napo General Secretary) position on Vetting;

“Unless the reason for failure of vetting is such that a disciplinary case is warranted then no member of staff will lose their employment as a result of vetting failure. Anyone failing the vetting process would be redeployed or have a restricted caseload or other adjustments to allow them to continue to work”.

I’m going to end by saying that the Probation Service used to represent rehabilitation and change. Our wealth was largely in the diversity of our staff group which included people from all walks of life, ranging from rich-gits and Tory-boys sitting next to ex-soldiers, ex-miners and those from beyond the fringes of regular society, including the poor, the underclass, recovered addicts, reformed gang members, and the like. This all now ends because once again our probation bosses have bowed to the will of the Ministry of Justice, this time putting police procedures and prison logic over probation staff and practice. I wonder if Vetting is why the ex-offender mentors and volunteers have disappeared from the NPS?

On a side but related note, the recent David Lammy Review told us that certain groups are more likely to be ‘over-policed’, stopped and searched, prosecuted and therefore have criminal records. He concluded as part of his solution that the inequality should be addressed and even that criminal records should be sealed to help former offenders combat discrimination and find work.

I watched our Prime Minister vow to end the racism and discrimination that certain groups face in every walk of life, including the CJS and workplace. I am sure the Ministry of Justice will be tasked to get its house in order because of the bias and discrimination in the justice system. While the MoJ and the UK in general is trying to achieve what it couldn’t dating from the MacPherson (Stephen Lawrence) Report and before, the NPS will be simultaneously dismissing probation officers for their circumstances and mistakes of yesteryear.

Sadly, I know many probation staff of all backgrounds that have past criminal histories, criminal family members and financial problems, mainly due to bad life choices, and in some cases stemming from the earlier forms of the discrimination and disadvantage described in the Lammy Review. I couldn’t think of anyone better placed to support those on probation facing similar experiences, and to help balance our unfair justice system, but now that’s only if they are able to get past Vetting. With the Lammy Review in mind, if those adversely affected by Vetting are disproportionately originating from working-class family backgrounds, ethnic minorities or marginalised communities then this could end up being seen as a ‘whitewashing’ of the Probation Service.

Thanks for reading.

Probation Officer
Too many years to retire

--oo00oo--

There were two relevant comments:-

VISOR (Violent and Sex Offenders Register) does require enhanced security access controls (usually available behind two locked doors), controlled printing etc. If an offender manager does need to access VISOR they shouldn't need any more security checking than they currently have (as agreed during its original rollout to Probation). Access should be controlled with system access control measures and controlled user management. As you say the strength of probation is the variety of backgrounds of Probation Officers enabling empathy and understanding with true rehabilitation measures. Perhaps this concept of polication and prisonation (thereby losing the third pillar of the triangle of offender management and rehabilitation) should be raised with the Judicial Review.

*****
Our VISOR terminal & security-cleared operative are in the same office as all staff; and the terminal is linked to a shared network printer. Presumably if you pick up the wrong sheet of paper a sniper on the neighbouring rooftop will take you out.

21 comments:

  1. Watch 'The Death of Stalin' - therein lies the manufactured future society this Tory Govt is dragging us towards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. - Yes. If only we hadn't...put away all those highly competent doctors for treason.
      - You remember?
      - Yes, I do. I do. You know, they were plotting to poison him.
      - Yes, that's right.
      ________________________________________

      - If only we hadn't got rid of all those highly competent prison & probation officers to save money
      - You remember?
      - Yes, I do. I do. You know, they were plotting against the CRCs...

      Delete
  2. No surprise and as expected from probation management. Unions complicit as usual. All strutting around with an “I'm OK - You're not OK” attitude.

    ReplyDelete
  3. And those who work for agencies?
    Will be vetted prior to placement?

    ReplyDelete
  4. 28\09\2015 On Probation Blog.

    ViSOR vetting (NPS staff) - This was raised as a topic of concern at the last PCF meeting. Napo took the view that it was unhelpful for all front line staff to be classified as requiring ViSOR vetting - not all posts do require the use of ViSOR a and small minority of staff will either not wish to submit to this vetting or will fail it. Thus to retain a number of posts not requiring such vetting - e.g. those which are Court based, enables a degree of flexibility in accommodating such individuals. This proposition appears to have found favour with the NPS.

    6. Vetting (general) - This was previously reported upon briefly in BR 70/15. It was discussed again at the PCF on 3rd September. Within the NOMS Security Group, we are told that a Vetting Steering Group has been established and it is this group that will apparently review the relevant Probation Instructions. To date, Napo has not been approached by this group for comment, although we have written to Digby Griffith (Director of National Operational Services - with overall responsibility for the Security Group) to express our concerns - notably about lack of transparency, lack of a clear appeals procedure and what is still a generally prison-centric emphasis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. “To date, Napo has not been approached by this group for comment,“

      Napo are useless. Approach and keep approaching until an adequate resolution is achieved.

      Delete
  5. There's a simple get out clause.

    Return the form incomplete and advise them your partner declined to have their personal details harvested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you tried this?

      Delete
    2. Reminds me of when speeding fines could be avoided by returning the form completed but unsigned

      Delete
    3. The form cannot be processed if incomplete!

      Delete
  6. Those I’ve known to fail Vetting were not told why immediately, some never told when the failure related to 3rd parties. In every instance they were marched off the premises by probation managers. Some returned, some didn’t.

    Nobody uses Visor anyway!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If vetting is being linked to the issuing of laptops, then it would be legitimate to question if its the integrity of the I.T systems and software that's driving the need for vetting and not the user.

      Delete
    2. I cannot think why. If it is, then as usual the staff are punished and made to jump through hoops for probation’s failures. Vetting or not, there will always be one person that leaves their laptop on the train! And Vetting doesn’t make IT more secure, not so long ago I recall reading about a number of police prosecuted for sharing PNC details. They were vetted!

      Imagine what your probation Vetting coordinators sitting in your offices will be doing with all your confidential information about you and your family??

      Delete
    3. Staff have been held responsible in the past when work items taken from their homes as a result of burglaries.It was the "rationale" for not supplying staff with desk diaries.Nothing to do with cost cutting.......noooooooo.

      Delete
  7. This has "purge" written all over it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Personal view only, and it relates to purpose and identity, both of which I feel probation has struggled with in recent years.
    If probation is an organisation that provides assistance and support to help offenders steer their lives back onto the right track and help them maintain a stable existance (as probation once did) then vetting is not going to be an issue beyond the normal CRB check.
    However, once probation positions itself, and more and more sells itself, as an agency of public protection, then it becomes an 'agent of the state' and can have no real objection to being subjected to the same criteria that the state impose on other public protection agencies such as police.
    If you see probation as a service that assists offenders, helps with rehabilitation and are of course "constantly mindful" of public protection, I think you have reason to complain about the level of vetting.
    If however you view probation as a service of public protection that also provides some assistance where possible to the offenders you manage, then I think you have to accept the level of vetting other public protection agencies are subjected to.

    'Getafix

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately my view of Probation is in keeping with your first description so I will be forced out as I can't go along with this vetting and the direction of travel it is taking us

      Delete
  9. Thus us yet another ploy to 'ligitimately' get rid of staff. Bump!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Malicious gossip around vetting has led to serious bullying issues in North Yorkshire

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Divide & Rule - proven tactics of NOMS/HMPPS bullies.

      Delete
  11. The new private sector security guards working in Approved Premises have not been vetted at all. The MoJ has given a 3 month grace so the company OCS can get its house in order

    ReplyDelete