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HM Prison Service

The main challenges revolved around appropriate resourcing, security clearances, and adherence to the strict processes/requirements once inside the internal areas. To overcome the unique challenges associated with such a high risk, security conscious contract, constant communication was required between OUTCO management and the Site Managers/FMs.

Security Clearance

The contract had to be staffed correctly in the first instance to ensure that any delays were minimised during the security clearance process. This meant recruiting operators of good character with clean backgrounds. The security clearance process was managed internally by regional management whom made contact with the vetting officers to acquire the appropriate documents, liaise with operators to facilitate completion, and arrange for document submission/interviews with the vetting officers. In our experience, we were not always notified automatically with regards to security clearance outcomes, so we therefore tasked regional teams with periodically contacting vetting officers to proactively ascertain whether there were any updates available.

Service Timeframes

The vast majority of establishments went into lockdown between 2200-0600hrs, which placed severe restrictions on when we could undertake service. In consultation with the prisons, we agreed it would be advantageous to complete service proactively prior to 2200hrs. Such tight restrictions resulted in an inability to share resource where two
prisons were located in the same area. To overcome this challenge, we had to recruit separate teams to accommodate simultaneous service in any given location. Strict security requirements inside the prison also lead to an increase in resource across the contract. An example being that an operator must remain with the vehicle at all times once inside the prison, a two-man team was therefore needed if there were any internal pedestrian areas requiring service.

Escorts & Training

Automatic pre-service notifications made all relevant staff aware that OUTCO would be attending, and escorts could therefore be arranged. In addition to the automatic notifications,
our operators would call the Works Department at a pre-agreed interval prior to reaching site, this was agreed on a site by site basis with instructions being entered into our service management system, Nimbus. Some establishments found it difficult to provide the necessary escort resource to facilitate our visits. As a solution, a number of our operators undertook Key Holder training so that they could make their way unaccompanied through the gates. This worked particularly well and provided us with greater flexibility with regard to service times. Having the same operators on each site throughout the duration of the contract helped to facilitate trust, relationships and routines at a local level.


As no electronic devices are allowed within the establishment, our teams had to adapt by keeping laminated hard copies of service plans in the vehicles. Any issues encountered during the visit would be noted down and reported on using PDAs once exiting the prison. Any equipment taken into the prison was kept to an absolute minimum and secured in the vehicles so as not to pose a security risk. Historically, winter services had been undertaken using in house staff and/or prisoners. There was no consistent approach to how and when service would be completed. Sites often utilised weather forecasts, such as the BBC, that would not necessarily provide them with adequate information to determine whether gritting was necessary.

OUTCO provided a robust, consistent solution that ensured the sites remained safe and operational throughout winter. For the first time in many years, not one snow and ice related claim was received from the prisoners unaccompanied through the gates. This worked particularly well and provided us with greater flexibility with regard to service times.


Albeit a demanding contract to set-up and administer, we believe that our technology, infrastructure and local delivery model have contributed to the success of this contract. The prisons have never before experienced a proactive service undertaken by a professional contractor so everything we have brought to the table is new. We continue to make recommendations around contract delivery and or service improvements and this is the first year that the prisons have received no claims for winter related slips and trips.

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