The Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) model is another significant change for the NPS staff – particularly for our probation officers. I am the Implementation Manager for OMiC in the NPS North East and want to briefly describe how this change process is being managed and how the relationship with staff unions has both helped and improved what we are doing.
The project is based on some firm principles set by the Divisional Director, Lynda Marginson who is the chair of the NE OMiC DiB:
These principles act as a ‘touchstone’ for all the decisions we make. From the beginning we have worked hard at engaging with staff and keeping them informed. I delivered 43 staff briefing sessions around the North-East meeting over 700 staff, we do regular communication updates and I attend the Joint Consultative Committee every 6 weeks or so to keep Union colleagues informed and to share ideas.
Following the engagement briefings, we ran an Expression of Interest process for all our OMiC prison vacancies – and were very pleased to get enough responses to fill the vast majority of the posts. The next stage is deciding who goes where – where we have more staff interested than posts we will hold a selection process – where we have less staff than posts the officers who expressed an interest will be deployed into the vacancy. When this process is complete we will review where the remaining vacancies are and run a further EOI in March next year.
So far this is all familiar process – the difference is that that none of these officers will move into the prison posts till the Case Management element of OMiC goes live and the work moves from Community LDUs into Prison OMUs – which aligns with the principle of keeping the community delivery stable. Until then the identified officers will remain in their current LDUs but be allocated cases from the LDU caseload that are serving sentences in the prison the officer is going to work in – for trainers, locals and resettlement prisons this is easy to do because we have lots of North East NPS cases in North East prisons. It is not so easy in High Security prisons but just a few cases is enough to meet the main purpose – that is for the our officers to be regular visitors to the relevant prison, to go through vetting, to get to know the prison and staff, to get to know the OMU team, to have induction and any required training and so on – so that when they do formally move they are already integrated and familiar with the new location – aligning with the principle of going slowly and carefully and that when we go live it will seem like business as usual.
Each step has been discussed with Union reps at the JCC which has been genuinely valuable – we kept reps advised of engagement events across the division to better enable Union attendance, suggestions from these meetings improved how we encouraged staff with assistive technology needs/reasonable adjustments to apply for posts, it improved the guidance we gave to SPOs to help answer questions from staff and discussion and ideas have improved the overall process for selection and deployment.
The other real benefit has been quick communication to respond to difficulties – an example was when one Prison Governor announced he was implementing OMiC ‘next Tuesday’, the concerns of staff were quickly shared with Katie Lomas who rang me. We were then able to sort the reality from the rhetoric and resolve the issue together – which was great. It really has been ‘good to talk’!
Implementation Manager for OMiC, NPS North East