We seem to have focussed a lot recently on things within Border Force or the general issues which face all members and as such we wanted to also take the time to update you on what the ISU has been doing in Enforcement.
This has been a tough year for Enforcement Staff with the job reductions which have taken place; mainly, but not solely, in the North. The phrase “Declining roles” was invented in Enforcement and although a reasonable redundancy avoidance measure has caused considerable distress to members. Mark Gribbin took the lead in supporting locations with job reductions and we were successful in saving a large number of posts and securing alternative redundancy avoidance measures.
A number of enforcement teams in London have been physically attacked. One officer was attacked with a hammer by an offender. A team had a concrete block thrown through the vehicle windscreen. Tyres have been slashed and members have been intimidated and assaulted by mobs. In one attack staff even had to take refuge in a commercial premises and be rescued by the Met Police Territorial Support Group. The picture is very threatening.
The NEC Enforcement lead John Edun has a seat on the Gold Command working group looking at this and following representations made by the ISU Operational Scenario Training was arranged. This course supports staff in spotting danger signs, de-escalation, extraction, police expectations etc. John took part in the course and reported back that it was a positive experience and well received by those taking part and indeed by the Metropolitan Police officers who delivered it who were impressed with the standards displayed by Immigration Enforcement staff. There were minor issues with the timing and location of the first course which we can iron out; but overall the course was a success and represents support which would not have been available to staff were it not for the involvement of the ISU.
For Enforcement staff in Northern Ireland the spectre of “Reverse Border runs” was raised with the proposal that members travel into the Republic to receive a detainee from the Garda on a patch of disused waste ground on the site of a former police station; returning the detainee back across the border to the UK to be arrested as an illegal entrant. The ISU raised a broad range of serious concerns about this process and Lucy Moreton travelled to Belfast to meet with local reps and manages. A response is awaited.
The ISU also intervened in the deployment of officers for Op Cowl – assisting with the de-briefing of arriving migrants at Longport. Issues with excessive hours and long drives were addressed following ISU input. Safety measures like gloves and anti-bacterial gel were supplied to officers when the ISU asked for these
Mental Health First Aid training is now being rolled out through Enforcement alongside the Trauma Risk Management training; and because of that initiative also more widely in the Home Office. John has worked alongside the management team to ensure the training is suitable, and that staff who might be otherwise adversely impacted by the content are adequately protected. This is an important additional tool for Enforcement staff dealing with the public and it is positive that other areas of the Home Office have taken their lead from Enforcement in this.
In the wake of the attacks on Enforcement staff, as well as issues experienced with Border Force particularly in Juxtaposed locations, Lucy and Mark have been pressing the department for greater support for staff suffering mental health injuries at work. This has led to a greater awareness of the range of services available through EAP which have been promulgated to members in a wider circular. We are continuing to press for wider support for affected staff.
Sadly initiatives around body and vehicle cameras, which would have provided significant additional safety for officers, fell foul of budget cuts. But hopefully our work in this respect will return to the table should the budget position improve. Managers shared our regret that measures like this, which had the potential to improve officer safety, were considered secondary to finances; but we do accept this is the reality throughout the current Civil Service.
In general the ISU has a good working relationship with the department in matters surrounding Enforcement and we are always vigilant as regards any proposed changes or developments to ensure that the well being of our members is paramount.