Update for RCN members
There has been a great deal of activity since RCN Congress debated a resolution in 2018 on prison nursing.
This activity included the development of the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (JUPA) which brings together nine trade unions and professional organisations representing people working in the justice sector.
This update focuses on recent Joint JUPA activity, particularly the political/parliamentary engagement through this alliance. There has been a lot of JUPA activity relating to wider safety issues for staff working in prisons but also linking with HMPPS in relation to COVID-19 issues.
JUPA had invited Lucy Frazer, Minister of State for Justice, and other interested politicians to the JUPA Safety Summit held on 25 February 2020. The JUPA unions working together and based on feedback at the Safety Summit produced the Safe Inside Prisons Charter.
Following the summit JUPA wrote to the Minister providing an update on the JUPA Safety Summit which the Minister had unfortunately been unable to attend.
The Health and Safety Executive, who attended the Safety Summit, then invited JUPA, for the first time, to engage with the HSE “Private Sector Custody and Detention Health and Safety Management Forum Meeting”.
The Justice Unions Parliamentary Group (separate and different from the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance) then organised a Westminster Hall Debate on 18 March 2020. Some of the unions in the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance are also members of the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group and this does mean that some parliamentary activity takes off through that route. The RCN is not one of the unions in the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group, but through JUPA, can engage collaboratively.
JUPA then had some further engagement with HMPPS, including the HMPPS Deputy Director responsible for Safety, particularly raising issues relating to the COVID-19 response in prisons and including issues for workers in prisons not employed by the prison service such as nursing and health care staff.
JUPA unions were working on COVID-19 related recovery and had expected to discuss these with HMPPS Director General Phil Copple, however, the planned meeting was cancelled. As a result JUPA then sent a letter along with the JUPA Recover Strategy (for COVID-19 issues in prisons) to the Secretary of State for Justice. JUPA received a response from the Secretary of State and very soon afterwards we received contact from HMPPS to re-arrange the ‘postponed’ meeting with Phil Copple. This meeting is now scheduled for Monday 22 June 2020.
Through our engagement in the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance and other activity engaging with health care providers and other organisations in the justice sector we will continue to work to improve the working and professional conditions for RCN members and all nursing staff in the sector.
Please do make contact with your committee forum to share your experiences of working in the sector and to build your network of support.
You can also contact Ann Norman, Professional Lead for Justice & Forensic Nursing Forum ann.Norman@rcn.org.uk or Brian Morton, RCN National Officer and co-chair of the Joint Unions in Prison Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org