Over recent months there have been more and more concerns raised by members about the new requirement for all Offender Management staff working in the NPS to undergo ViSOR vetting.
The introduction of this wider use of ViSOR was part of the E3 phase 2 programme. At the time of the consultation on phase 2 Napo made representations about the mechanism for vetting, the additional workload related to use of ViSOR and the impact of failure of vetting on members. You can find the representations made and the employer’s response HERE.
These concerns remain and Napo is in ongoing discussions with the employer to try to find a resolution.
The NPS seem blasé about the impact of failing the vetting process. Leaving the impression that vetting failures will inevitably happen to some people for reasons beyond their control and that this is OK. However the general feeling is that the failure of vetting will be hugely stigmatising and will have a significant impact on someone’s career.
The number of roles that can be undertaken without ViSOR vetting has reduced significantly since the original consultation, and it now appears that only Court and Accredited Programmes roles will be suitable for someone who fails. We have asked that the employer considers how staff who fail vetting may be supported to remain in their role, for example by having adjustments made such as colleagues entering data onto ViSOR for them, as happens now for most staff.
Police procedures not uniform
All of the police forces have different forms and some of the questions differ. We have been told by members in some areas that there are questions on their form about medication they are taking and other health conditions (including mental health). There appears to be a level of intrusion by some forces beyond what was expected, and certainly beyond what is being asked by other forces. The fact that some members are being asked for a different level of information has, in itself, caused members to question the legitimacy of the process.
What happens to the information?
Many questions are arising about what the Police will do with the information they are gathering, in bulk, on Probation staff. In some cases there will be a significant body of information and intelligence, and there is deep concern amongst members about how this may be used in future by the Force.
There is also concern about how the copied identification documents will be held and stored by NPS and later by the Police if they are passed on.
There remains at the heart of this matter a question about whether this is really necessary, especially on such a scale.
Latest engagement with senior NPS Management
As has been reported, we have regularly taken the direct experiences of members during our engagement with senior HMPPS management. At the last meeting between trade unions and HR leads we made it absolutely clear that urgent action is required to prevent the possibility of a National Dispute having to be declared as we receive more and more reports from members who are worried about facing the prospect of a blighted career through no fault of their own.
The urgency of the situation has at least been acknowledged by the Director of Probation Sonia Crozier, who has offered to host a special meeting involving senior decision makers where more time can be spent examining these issues to try and find a way forward. Napo are totally committed to the maintenance of an accurate and effective data base which helps to protect our communities, but is equally determined to ensure that the welfare of our members is taken seriously.
More news will follow after this meeting, but meanwhile members are asked to continue to forward us information (ideally via your Napo Link Officer) so that we can continue to build a picture of the impact of the new ViSOR vetting requirements.
Katie Lomas, National Vice-Chair