Napo, together with Unison, has raised a number of serious worries about the new privatised contracts to provide Double Waking Night Cover in Approved Premises. The government put this role out to tender last year with Sodexo and OCS jointly winning the contract.
Napo believes that not only does the MoJ have an extremely poor history of contract management, but also that the role itself is vital to public protection and should remain within the public sector to ensure quality and safety – neither OCS nor Sodexo has any previous experience of running this type of service.
Specific concerns were raised that insufficient staff had been recruited to meet the needs of the business, that a private provider would not deliver the same level of service in what is a vital part of public protection and that delays in vetting staff would prevent them from fully staffing the hostels.
A speedy, written response was received from the new Secretary of State, David Gauke. The letter unfortunately failed to adequately address these issues. The Minister recognised the issues that recruiting was difficult and stated that agency staff may be used to fill the gaps. Napo is aware that NPS staff are being asked to fill the gaps via sessional work. Members report receiving emails asking if they have any friends or family looking for work. In many cases interviews for new staff are taking place without the AP manager being present. This is despite AP managers having the right to prevent an appointment if they think a person is unsuitable for the role. Neither Sodexo nor OCS have experience of running APs and it is worrying that they are carrying out these interviews without the expert oversight of NPS AP managers.
Of greater concern is the acknowledgement that there were significant delays in the disclosure and barring service in vetting new recruits and as such the secretary of state has agreed a 60 day grace period to allow checks to be carried out. This means that this highly sensitive and challenging role will be carried out by people who have not been cleared to work with vulnerable people. This places both residents and other staff at risk.
It is only a matter of months since the death of a resident in an AP after he was killed by another resident. APs can be highly volatile places and require careful management to run effectively.
Napo firmly believes that adequate measures have not been taken to ensure this and will be taking this up with Ministers again. We will also be issuing advice to members on lodging foreseeability notices if they feel there is an issue of safety in their workplace.