Friday, 6 July 2018

Culture Clash

There is growing unease that probation practice is incompatible with Civil Service, Police and Prison Service culture, as this Facebook discussion demonstrates:- 

What do people think about Visor vetting? l am refusing to engage with such an unnecessary intrusion into my private life.

A few in my office feel the same way.

Mine too. l intend to fight it. There is nothing to say what happens if you refuse simply what happens is you fail.

Surely it's part of your job to be vetted now? I guess if you refuse it would be the same as failing and you'd be regraded?

I thought it wasn't compulsory any more?

Where did you hear that?

What do they look into for visor vetting? PO in prison so massive vetting process for me anyhow.

By going into prison you agree to it.

All I’ve done so far is the ID bit.

Visor - a name from the past .... I used to train SPO's in how to use it....

I was told that you didn’t have to consent to the visor vetting (it was technically irrelevant for me as I had to pass security clearance for my role) but that if you didn’t you wouldn’t have any access to visor. I’m not sure of the veracity of this though, I’m not sure it was tested in my old office.

What info is required? Why is it intrusive please? I've got the form to complete but haven't looked at it yet.

We were told in no uncertain terms that it is compulsory for OMs. Held out as long as we could on principle. NAPO unfortunately didn’t have any advice on it either.

I have been told l will be disciplined if l don’t consent to it.

Or moved to court / prison?

I will wait for that then dispute it.

I was CPC for the first year it was in Northampton. It's just another check. Who cares?

What's in it?

It just goes into your family a bit more and obviously finances. Nothing to worry about.

Oh okay .....they're a pretty law abiding bunch.

Haha you'll be fine then.

I would encourage anyone stressed about this or who objects to the compulsory nature of it to email their NAPO rep highlighting their concerns.
From NAPO Cymru submission to Wales Justice Commission: - Police, and visor 

"With developing work, particularly in MAPPA and Prolific Offenders (IOM: Integrated Offender Management) there is increasing risk of Probation’s identity and role being subsumed and diluted. There is high concern amongst Probation practitioners regarding the vetting processes required for Probation Staff to be given access to the Police Visor database. This process is opaque - the criteria, who makes the judgement regarding acceptability, whether the information disclosed is stored, the existence of an appeals process, are unknowns. It is likely to further exclude those with “lived experience” of crime and the CJS from probation practice, whose contribution can be significant – and lead towards an homogeneity of the workforce. Furthermore, there are important, and valuable, basic differences of approach and culture. E.g.: Denial of an offence is not necessarily an indicator of risk, and challenging denial can be counterproductive to rehabilitation for some offenders. This doesn’t go down well with those whose primary motivator is catch and convict, preferable with a confession in hand. Distaste for the offender is endemic in police culture, and anathema to good probation practice."

I have to agree with your sentiment around rehabilitation. However I am actively involved in researching the police and have found that most of those I have encountered are not distasteful of offenders but feel their duty to protect and time constraints leave little time for empathy or rehabilitative intervention. This of course is only my experience of research and when in the field as an SPO I often observed what you have described but now wonder if that is more about a 'front' than a entrenched attitude.

I’m sure you’ll know my opinion on police attitudes. I’ll say no more.

Is it the same as the level 2 police vetting?

Yeah. It's looking at your parents and theirs. Your finances etc.

I passed the level 2 vetting for my IOM role. Flipping heck, if I can, any one can!! From what I can gather, the key is honesty!

I do know that there is an ACPO Police search on my credit file as a result.

Level 2 vetting for IOM??

Yeah pretty sure it was level 2 and I had to do it when we joined IOM - actually it was so we got swipe cards to the stations (never did get them lol).

Ooh sounds like I got away with something. 

I think it was the new inspector's instructions.

It’s not a condition of employment therefore not something we can say we’re not complying with. However if you fail the only place you can work as a P.O. is in programmes, court and things like training and quality development. People will fail and not for reasons that would lead to disciplinary. We have no answers yet as to what they are going to do with these people as there’s so few jobs they can do. It is very intrusive and causing a lot of stress for people and I’m none the wiser as to why access is suddenly so important. 

I would rather not be visor trained so no need for me to be vetted.

It’s not a matter of choice unfortunately. It’s compulsory to be vetted if you’re an OM, prison PO, or YOS PO which is pretty much every PO and most PSO’s in the NPS!

I may just retire early then..

I was told to put all my concerns in an email to Napo as we were told at team meeting we would be disciplined if we refuse.

Go to a court job: as far as I know no vetting!!

Why should l change jobs?

Why indeed? We need to fight it...I'll try and find out what the Napo position is and let you know...

It has been discussed at NAPO meetings.

I didn't engage with it. No consequences to date and they did it bout six months ago possibly more.

Not really bothered about it. Had level 2 police vetting when I was on secondment with Police in the PPO/IOM and DIP team as I was classed as a police employee with access to niche. I currently work at court so it's not been pursued since the original email came out. If I have to get vetted again fine.


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  2. I am a P.O. 15 years in Offender Management. I was Y.O and have "lived experience" in adult life as do extended family historically. Have always been open, honest about background and am 50 this year..but have now failed Vetting. Now in a very grey area. Currently still in my role but every indication is at the moment I will not be there for much longer. Only option at moment appears to be Courts however I am an A.T user which obviously causes further complications. They certainly do not embrace diversity anymore in this organisation and it is shameful... watch this space...

    1. Vetting standard plus override.

      NPS senior managers and Prison governors can override vetting failures. This is what enables ex-offenders mentors to work in custody. Likewise it enables even police with convictions to work as police. This is where both the NPS and Napo have failed by not giving us this information.

  3. I find it hard to believe that probation staff don’t mind being vetted we are all appalled in our office The questions are extremely intrusive and upsetting for some We are required to give full details of all family members including brothers and sisters and expected to get their consent to this Also all associates who may have convictions!! In one case a member of staff did not state that she was in a relationship as the form does not allow for this (drop down box) then received an email saying that she was in a relationship with xxxx !!! It’s very concerning to us about how the police are gathering the information and what they will do with it . It’s all very oppressive and completely unnecessary

    1. Agree.i resigned.not due to ViSOR as such but a nail in the coffin. Unnecessary - it's a police recording/detection tool and so let them update it. Yet another sign of probation being swallowed up by other agencies.


  5. Prisons and Police run on a command and control model whereby staff are managed in a similar way to the military. Unquestioning obedience to the hierarchy. Probation is a social work discipline; always was, always will be (if it is to be effective). Operates on the basis shared investment in the outcome. Performance management has been problematic for Probation as it is based on counting things. The things that matter in terms of rehabilitating offenders are qualitative and not quantative so the Prison/Police approach results in the efficient production of a useless product.

    It all went Pete Tong when Carter put Prison Management in charge of Probation

  6. Mixed bag on vetting views but if the employer directs staff to a place of work and vetting is required in the role then the employer has the problem not us. Mass refusal on vetting and exposing our families is a reasonable self protection. Employers cannot penalise me for changing my working terms. Napo should understand this and take the matters forwards for legal advise to all .

  7. On the face of it I can see the culture clash, though it was a lot sharper 10 – 15 years ago. In the meantime there has been a lot of inter-disciplinary activity with the police. Whilst we may recoil at intrusions into our privacy, probation has not had problems sharing clients' information with the police over the years. The protocols have been permissive.

    I think there is a tendency to idealise probation values that were once rooted in advise, assist and befriend. Probation embraced punishment in the community soon enough and had a trigger-happy enforcement agenda. So when it comes to police and probation values I don't think the divide is that great.

    I imagine new entrants to probation will be required to consent to VISOR vetting – and they will, as principles won't pay the bills. As for existing staff, some will unthinkingly agree to anything if
    so ordered; others will wrestle with their consciences and then submit to yet another change in working practices. The root problem for probation staff is their powerlessness. Changes are constantly foisted upon them and they have no power to resist. Some hopeful ones say, tell the union, but they will only wring their hands and wait for the controversy to pass.

  8. I work in the IOM and my husband declined to have their details passed on for the check.

    Nothing said, no repercussions, still in the IOM.

    Maybe, just maybe, others may find that their partners may have similar objects which leaves them fault free but unable to access ViSOR.

    Just a thought.

  9. It’s a sorry state of affairs that probation are dragged through this. Unless we want to work for the police or prisons we should not have to be subjected to vetting. They are using ‘required for access to visor’ as the justification for Vetting, even though Visor is crap and we never use it. Napo agreed Vetting back in 2014 with full knowledge that some probation staff would fail it and be pushed into ‘back-room’ roles against their will meaning having to move to different officers. Some could end up with no job at all. Apparently probation managers can override Vetting failure to enable staff to remain in current posts, but I assume there’ll be some discretion involved. Just so you know it can be failed for various reasons which the ‘vetter’ will use to decide if you’re suitable for CJS work and if prone to corruption. This means many will be unfairly judged due to past convictions, being involved in police investigations past or present, CCJ’s, poor credit histories, any ‘non-disclosed’ information on police files, and previous dismissals from employment, family members with convictions, etc.

  10. I blogged about this before. Vetting is simply a means to remove ‘undesirable’ staff and reduce staff numbers. With OMiC coming I reckon they need to shed a good few PO’s.

  11. The reality is that Napo should have fought against this. Vetting is a change of terms and conditions and many probation staffs contracts pre-date Visor. Instead Napo’s view is that it’s okay if you fail vetting as they’ll help you get a job in Court. Doesn’t matter how embarrassing or inconvenient this may be !!

    Like Anon 07:37 I’ve past convictions from my youth and family members with convictions so I’m expecting to fail too. I’ll not be completing the vetting forms unless forced.

  12. Standard Plus clearance

    Some people with previous convictions can and do obtain clearance to work in prisons through the normal procedures. However, some will not, and many of these might have lengthy and/or serious criminal records. People who have successfully desisted after a history of serious offending can set a powerful example to others in prisons. This is recognised by the fact that a special level of security clearance is available for this group, even if they fail to obtain the normal level of clearance.

    Standard Plus is security vetting for people with previous convictions working in prisons and/or working for the NPS, CRCs and their subcontractors providing rehabilitation services; and offenders serving their sentence, whether in custody, on a community or suspended sentence order or on a licence post release from custody identified for potential mentoring roles in prison or community settings. There are two types of Standard Plus clearance: ‘Standard Plus – Prison’ and ‘Standard Plus – Community’ dependent upon the primary location of the activity the individual will be undertaking. This guidance is concerned exclusively with the former.

    Standard Plus-Prison is a site specific, time limited (maximum twelve months duration unless renewed), form of clearance whereby the Governor/Director can consider and accept the risk of an ex-offender or offender serving their sentence accessing, working or mentoring within their establishment. People with previous convictions are defined as individuals whose community/suspended sentence order, licence or post sentence supervision has been successfully completed and there is no longer a right to recall. Offenders still on licence may only be considered for Standard Plus if they have served at least half of the licence element of their sentence for those who have received custodial sentences or at least half of their CSO/SSO for those in the community.

    The process for any Standard Plus application is outlined in PSI 27/2014 - Additional risk criteria for people with previous convictions working in Prison and Community Setting. In essence, Standard Plus clearance can be used for any applicant applying for a non- directly employed role who is likely to fail enhanced vetting due to adverse criminal history irrespective of how long has elapsed since the most recent convictions and whether or not these are spent.

    Any applicant should have applied for and been unsuccessful in gaining enhanced level vetting clearance. This approach is taken in order that a central record of all such cases are captured. However, Standard Plus can be run concurrently with normal vetting procedures. Where an individual may be suitable, Vetting Contact Points can mark a clearance application for Standard Plus- Prison consideration from the outset, and organisations should tell the VCP if this is likely to be needed.

  13. Funny that the MoJ wants “fair opportunities” for ex-offenders while it adopts new vetting procedures for probation staff that are unfair to offenders and non-offenders alike!

    1. The Government (Home Office and MoJ) likes forcing people to disclose convictions even when unnecessary and unlawful !

    2. The government is challenging a court ruling which said forcing people to disclose minor criminal convictions to employers violates human rights laws.

      Appeal judges have already backed the High Court’s finding the current scheme was “not in accordance” with laws protecting the right to private life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

      But lawyers for the home and justice secretary have taken the case onwards to the Supreme Court, where they are appealing to judges to overturn last year’s finding.

      The Court of Appeal found the programme may have been have been disproportionate and unnecessary in some cases, taking objection to a rule stating anyone with more than one conviction, no matter how minor, must disclose them to potential employers when applying for certain types of work.

      One of the claimants involved is a woman named in proceedings as P, who shoplifted a sandwich and a 99p book which she believed was sending her messages while suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia in 1999.

      The second conviction came when she failed to answer bail for the crime, and she was later given a conditional discharge for both offences.

      Human rights group Liberty, which represents P, said she had committed no offences since and aimed to work as a teaching assistant.

      The current rules mean she would have to divulge her convictions when applying and reveal details of her medical history in order to explain the circumstances.

      “No one should be left at such a huge disadvantage when applying for work because of very minor mistakes they made nearly two decades ago when they were unwell,” P said.

      “The current rules are unnecessary, disproportionate and unfair. They have left me and so many others unable to move on with our lives, achieve our aims and contribute to our communities. I hope the Supreme Court will agree with the High Court and Court of Appeal and make the government take long-overdue action to reform the system.”

      Her solicitor, Rosie Brighouse, said her client simply wants to move on with her life and is “unable to do so”.

      “The criminal records disclosure scheme has twice been ruled unlawful – but instead of putting in place the urgent reform that’s so desperately needed, the government has chosen to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court,” she added.

      “We hope judges will agree that this situation is deeply unfair and disproportionate, and that it’s time for the government to put things right.”

      The Disclosure and Barring Service was established in 2012 to provide details of a job applicant’s previous convictions to prospective employers.

      For certain types of work, such as with children or vulnerable adults, the standard or enhanced certificates issued by the DBS listed all the job applicant’s previous convictions until reforms in 2013 following another case against Greater Manchester Police.

      A “filtering” process meant single convictions for non-sexual offences which were not violent and did not lead to an immediate prison sentence, would not be disclosed after 11 years, or five-and-a-half years if the person was under 18.

      But the exemption does not apply if someone has more than one conviction, whatever the circumstances.

      A Public Accounts Committee inquiry accused the Home Office of running a “masterclass in incompetence” over its attempts to improve the DBS scheme after finding an IT modernisation programme was four years late and £229m over budget.

      Liberty is calling for the introduction of a more flexible system which considers individual circumstances in cases of old and minor convictions, and considers a person’s risk of harm.

      Unlock, a charity representing people with criminal convictions, is also intervening in the case.

      Co-director Christopher Stacey said the current system has “harsh consequences and damaging effects on individuals”.

      He added: “It deters people from applying for employment, and for those that do apply it brings high levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of shame and stigma. It acts as an additional sentence that often runs for life.”

    3. The home and justice secretaries, represented by Sir James Eadie QC, argue the case of P and three other claimants being considered by the Supreme Court represent only a small number of complex incidents at the margins of the scheme.

      They claimed in P’s case, there is a pattern of offending which justifies disclosure.

      The hearing, before five justices, is expected to last for three days and their judgement will be reserved.

  14. All sounds OTT to me. Sounds like some demystification, clarity and rationale needs providing. All very inner sanctum. If VISOR is inner sanctum, then create an inner sanctum passage. Don't understand the approach being taken here. Understandable that people may have aspects of their lives they would rather not be revisited. Some paranoia possibly at play. Some people might say I am easy with vetting but for others clearly they are not. Really confused with the approach on this.

  15. I dislike the idea and would not agree to it as I feel it could raise painful issues for me. Ok, if you have had a charmed life and your family history is similar but imagine you find something out about a family member you didn't know! How is that going to feel? I am in my 50's and there has been DV in my family so if they check my parents and grandparents would they fail me because I was a victim in that respect? I wouldn't put myself through that so no NPS for me!

    1. This is exactly why I’ve never tried to work for the police or other organisations that have a high level of vetting. It’s unfair probation have now moved the goalposts and I’m set to have my whole history shared with everyone that handles my form and then moved into Courts as a vetting failure !!!!

  16. Vetting will disproportionately affect ethnic minority staff as ethnic minorities are disproportionately more likely to have criminal convictions and / or immediate family members with criminal convictions than their white counterparts.