The Crown Prosecution Service is working on making its offices safe to welcome back more staff this autumn.
Inspectors praised the CPS for its early coronavirus response, moving thousands of staff from a mainly office-based service to home working overnight. The prosecuting agency has now established a Future Working programme which, the Gazette was told, will consider how to achieve the right balance between people working safely in the CPS buildings or courtrooms, and people working at home or from a location of their choice.
Mark Gray, CPS director of operations, digital and commercial, said CPS staff will continue to work from home, wherever possible. However, the agency is working on making its offices Covid-secure and planning for a ‘limited increase in office occupation in the autumn, primarily based around where this is beneficial to staff wellbeing’.
The CPS has around 40 offices. Details of how it was able to react quickly to the pandemic were revealed in June following an inspection covering 16 March to 8 May.
Pre-lockdown around 500 people were working from home on any given day. On 24 March, 5,000 staff were working from home.
Three types of support packages were set up. Pack A comprised a laptop stand, keyboard and mouse. Pack B also had a screen for those involved in video hearings. Pack C included an adjustable chair. The CPS spent £140,000 on making the packages available to staff and over 250 were delivered by the end of April.
Explaining the unexpected process of having to supply equipment to people’s homes, Gray said the first priority was those who had reasonable adjustments in the workplace already, such as an oversized mouse or keyboard, or adjusted chair. The second priority was those whose work demanded additional equipment, such as prosecutors doing video hearings, who would benefit from having two computer screens.
Gray said significant savings were made on what would normally have been spent on travel expenses and the decision was made to redeploy some of the savings to fund the IT kit.
According to the inspectorate report, the CPS spent £140,000 on making the packages available to staff and over 250 were delivered by the end of April. Gray said around 1,300 packs have now been sent out.