Best in-house team 2018: internal communications - public sector Article icon

Best

Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service is responsible for the management of prison and probation services, to change the lives of offenders and protect the public. Around 44,500 people are employed by the service across more than 300 locations in England and Wales, but at any point in time there are also around 88,000 people in custody and 200,000 people on probation.


The role of the 27 person internal communications team is to engage and inform staff and service users of its work. But with 24 per cent slashed off its budget since 2010, the team has to take a creative approach to maintain both its standards and volume of communications work. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the team relies heavily on the skills of its individuals to offer everything from strategy to events to videography. It also uses free and low cost options where possible, such as harnessing partnerships and in-house opportunities: all campaign materials are produced in the prison print shops, providing employment opportunities for prisoners.


It also works with charity partners like National Prison Radio and prison newspaper Inside Time to support and engage with serving prisoners through trusted non-government channels at little or no cost. It has launched staff awards, which also involve people in custody and on probation, as well as family and victims, in the decision making process. These form a key part of the service’s national reward and recognition strategy for staff. After this year’s service, 94 per cent of employees felt more valued.


A campaign to reduce the number of suicides in custody has raised awareness of the support available and provided information on coping mechanisms. In 2016, prison suicides totalled 122. Last year, this number had fallen to 70 - the lowest number recorded in five years. On any given day, 2,000 people are judged to be at risk of suicide.


As a result of the prison radio element of the campaign, 58 per cent said they took some form of actions, such as speaking to others about mental health or trying new coping techniques. Training videos produced for staff received almost 10,000 views in the first month, while 82 per cent of staff say they now understand their responsibilities. But as well as reducing the stress that afflicts those affected by suicide, reducing the incidences is estimated to save £125 million per year.


Another campaign supported the implementation of a smoke free environment in 116 prisons. When Australian prisons went smoke free, prisoners rioted. But the entire prison estate of HMPPS went smoke free without incident. Support is also growing for a Great and Good Ideas scheme. More than 170 people submitted ideas in its first three months, against just 12 the previous year.


In total, over nine months, the team’s business as usual activities plus support for 25 change projects generated 19 million Intranet views, 30 million page views, 129 global emails, 601 senior leader bulletin articles, 12 national or regional events and 36 teleconferences.


‘This was a massive undertaking that achieved great results,’ said the judges. ‘Amazing work.’