HER Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) does what it says on the tin: it is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice that runs Prisons and Probation. This is perhaps a simplistic summary of our public task. A more detailed description is offered by our official web page on the Gov.uk site: “We carry out sentences given by the courts, in custody and the community, and rehabilitate people in our care through education and employment” (http://bit.ly/2gG7V86).
Complex and sensitive
HMPPS’ management of knowledge and information is, similarly to other Government bodies, complex, multifaceted and bound by legal requirements. Think of the sensitivity of offenders and ex-offenders’ data; or the sensitive development of Ministerial thinking in advance of issuing policies.
On the other hand, think also of the wealth of information generated by HMPPS civil servants as we support the rehabilitation of people in our care: training and development manuals for our professionals; accredited programmes and interventions backed up by years of research into what works; assessment tools that will guide further action and interaction with our prison and probation population, and so on.
One may expect such information to be of relevance only within the tight walls of our prisons or to the supervision and rehabilitation efforts of our Probation colleagues (both Probation and the Community Rehabilitation Companies). And yet interest in our information is ripe. There is appetite domestically and internationally to learn about it and
I have chosen the word ‘re-use’ intentionally, because the focus of this article is how we set up systems and processes to allow re-use of our information and material covered by Crown copyright whilst protecting the integrity of such information and material, designed for prisons and probation. Allowing re-use is a form of knowledge and information management, and one which has been mandatory since 2015 for all public bodies (exceptions apply). For the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 see http://bit.ly/2fEdaAL
On our terms
How do we navigate the new mandatory regime whilst addressing issues of sensitivity of information and integrity of material? The answer is in our licensing systems and processes: we allow re-use of information covered by Crown copyright on licence, in so doing restricting (where necessary) re-use by imposing our own terms and condition for re-use.
An organisation is only able to restrict re-use on licence if successfully holding a ‘delegation of authority’ agreement.
Delegations of Authority are granted by the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office to enable government departments or agencies to licence the re-use of Crown copyright material they produce outside the terms of the Open Government Licence. Sounds straightforward? Yes and no. Departments with a Delegation of Authority are regulated by The National Archives under the Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS); it follows, therefore, that we are and have been for a few years, IFTS accredited! I am not apologetic for the use of an exclamation mark. Our accreditation to IFTS is a source of pride… as well as a necessary element of our re-use regime. (You can read about IFTS at http://bit.ly/2ge8GSb).
What does the IFTS accreditation entail and how does it help us manage our knowledge and information? To join the scheme, a chief executive makes a personal commitment to information fair trading, after which The National Archives assessors carry out a verification to satisfy themselves that the administrative processes to support the commitment are in place and being followed, and that the IFTS principles are met. These principles are: Maximisation; Simplicity; Innovation; Transparency; Fairness and Challenge.
A clear framework
I will not pretend that meeting these principles is easy. It has taken hard work over a few years to build the necessary processes and systems and meet IFTS principles, and there is still scope for improvement. It is taking consistent effort to maintain engagement at the corporate level and throughout the organisation as well. With limited resources to service this area of work, my (very small) team has tackled the challenge from the perspective of building best practice in knowledge and information management. I can go as far as admitting that, in fact, the IFTS principles have offered a clear framework for applying knowledge and information management to a complex area of work. The National Archives Assessors are, as all assessors, looking for weaknesses to redress but have also proved exceptionally helpful at providing advice when faced with more complex requests for re-use of our information and at discussing ways to improve.
Support from CILIP
As for the skills and abilities necessary to drive the agenda, I took a frank look around for an affordable but valuable source of professional support and development and found it in CILIP. I joined CILIP in November 2015 and have not looked back. As a member of CILIP I was able to share my experience with like-minded professionals from a diverse array of knowledge and information management fields. In turn, I hope that our own experience as a large IFTS-accredited public body is also of interest to other CILIP members.