In this blog, Jo Farrar, gives an update on what Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is doing to protect staff, delivery partners and the people in its care and supervision during the Covid-19 crisis.
Covid-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for our prisons and probation service. This extraordinary public health threat has required us to act decisively to protect staff, the people in our care and supervision, as well as the large number of highly valued delivery partners who work with us.
We have reviewed every aspect of our services. In prisons and our youth custody estate we have stopped non-essential contact and cancelled face to face visits. In probation, methods of supervision are being carried out differently to reduce direct contact.
The Government has moved quickly to keep prisoners in touch with their families with the provision of nine hundred secure phone handsets. Packages of support are being produced for the men, women and children in our care, including advice on in-cell worship, exercise and how to manage anxiety.
The Lord Chancellor has announced that risk-assessed prisoners who are within two months of their release date and pregnant women and those on Mother and Baby Units who do not pose a high risk of harm to the public will be temporarily released from prison. The early release of prisoners will be carried out in a phased way over the coming weeks to ensure stringent risk assessments take place and the individuals have the support they need.
None of these decisions are taken lightly. Throughout this process, we have been guided by advice from the Public Health authorities and have prioritised the safety of staff, service users and their families.
I would like to say a huge thank you for the way that the Third sector has responded. We are extremely grateful for the significant offers of help and support and I would urge you to continue to come forward with ideas for how we can work together during this period.
We will continue to work with Clinks to bring together sector specialisms to discuss how we can work differently together and have already held successful sessions with Family Service Providers and Women’s Services. We have co-produced a protocol with Clinks that provides a process for matching offers of support from the Third sector to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) delivery needs while Exceptional Delivery Models are in place as a consequence of Covid-19. More information is available here.
I recognise that these are worrying times for the viability and survival of some of your organisations. In March, the Minister of State, Lucy Frazer, wrote an open letter to Anne Fox making clear the Government’s support to all businesses, including the voluntary sector. More recently, the Chancellor announced that charities across the UK will receive a £750m package of support to ensure they can continue their vital work during the coronavirus outbreak.
For my own part, I want you to know that we have:
- Worked with Clinks to deliver a survey, to understand better the financial and other impacts of Covid-19 on the sector
- Asked every contract manager and grant manager across HMPPS to reach out to all Third sector organisations we directly fund or who form part of our delivery chains to discuss any concerns and ideas for alternative ways of delivering services
- Worked with colleagues across Government to try to find ways to help organisations which are not funded by HMPPS but which nonetheless provide vital services in our sector.
My commitment is that HMPPS will continue to work constructively with Clinks, and the sector more broadly, to address together the challenges that we face. I encourage you to keep talking to us throughout this difficult time.
Every day I am impressed by the professionalism and the commitment of the people who work in our services - both those who we directly employ and those who work alongside us. In particular I would like to thank those of you who have volunteered to work in different roles in instances where your organisations cannot deliver their normal services.
I am deeply grateful for your work in these immensely challenging circumstances.
Notes from the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) Special Interest Group on Covid-19
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We are extremely disappointed that the JCVI advice on phase 2 of the COVID vaccination programme does not prioritise people in prison and those who work with them, including voluntary sector staff and volunteers https://gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-phase-2-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-programme-advice-from-the-jcvi/jcvi-interim-statement-on-phase-2-of-the-covid-19-vaccination-programme