HMPPS Awareness Project for new prison staff

“We wondered how we

could reach more staff and this

encouraged us to go back

to basics.”


My name is Lisa, and I am an Assistant Ombudsman in the Fatal Incident Investigations team. I oversee fatal incident investigations and support my team throughout the course of the investigation process.

You might have read our previous article in Issue 9 which talked about our Strategy Officer’s remit which includes drawing up our 3-year strategic plan and yearly business plan. One of our strategic plan objectives is to look at the ways in which we can improve our relationships with services in remit in order to facilitate effective implementation of our recommendations by frontline staff. We want to continue raising awareness of our work with external stakeholders and those in custody, and this is where I come in – it is my responsibility to bring this goal to life.

Feedback from the PPO’s investigators and HMPPS staff tells us that some prison staff do not know much about the PPO. We wondered how we could reach more frontline staff and this encouraged us to go back to basics, leading to the creation and development of the Awareness Project, an e-learning training package designed to provide basic and relevant information about the PPO to frontline prison and probation staff.

The training package will be available to all HMPPS staff on their internal training platform and consists of:

  • an introductory video about the PPO and our investigations;
  • information about our fatal incidents and complaints investigation processes;
  • case studies to bring our investigations to life;
  • a quiz on our investigations; and
  • frequently asked questions.

We are launching the training before the end of the year, so how will the e-learning training help and benefit frontline prison and probation staff? Well, I think it will benefit them in a variety of ways.

We hope that it will:

  • give a better understanding of who we are and why we investigate deaths in custody and complaints;
  • provide insight into the fatal incident and complaints investigation process;
  • engage HMPPS staff in the investigation process as soon as possible when there is a death in custody or a complaint;
  • prepare them for what to expect from a PPO investigation;
  • explain why and when we might ask them to participate in an interview;
  • what they should expect when being interviewed by a PPO investigator;
  • who they can bring with them to interview; and,
  • dispel some historical myths and taboos surrounding PPO investigations.

We hope that by making key information about the PPO accessible to all staff via the HMPPS training platform, prison and probation staff will feel more comfortable in engaging with us and the investigation process, which will in turn lead to both PPO investigators and HMPPS frontline staff having a positive experience throughout the course of the investigation.

If HMPPS staff are open and engage with us, it will result in a clearer understanding of events and better outcomes for the future. We will have better relationships and it will allow us to facilitate even more effective implementation of our recommendations.

Author: Lisa Burrell, Assistant Ombudsman, Fatal Incident Investigations