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Prison Officers

Volume 632: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2017

6. What assessment he has made of the effect of the recent pay award on the recruitment and retention of prison officers. (902745)

The Prison Service pay review body recommendations, which I accepted in full, were implemented in the October and November pay of officers. It is therefore too early to assess the effect of this particular award, but I can report to the House that at the end of September this year total prison officer numbers were up by more than 1,200 full-time equivalent staff compared with the previous 12-month period.

Given that the leave rate among key prison officers in bands 3 to 5 is still running at 10%, does the Secretary of State not think it time to offer prison officers more than the 1.7% they have been offered in order to retain experienced prison staff and keep our prisons safe?

For those prisons, mostly in London and south-east England, experiencing particular challenges over both recruitment and retention, we are offering additional support and resources. I would have hoped, however, that the hon. Lady would have welcomed the significant increase in prison officer numbers over the last year. The prison officer pay recommendations were implemented in full, and prison officers received a pay rise of 1.7%. In terms of the total bill, that is more than was awarded to other public sector workers.

What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the impact of prison officers’ terms and conditions and pay scales on their morale now compared with five years ago?

Prison officers certainly are working under very challenging conditions, not least because of how organised crime is promoting traffic in new psychoactive substances across prison walls, but we believe that not just the increase in numbers but the shift, in forthcoming months, to the new offender management model, under which each officer will take responsibility for about half a dozen named offenders, will contribute to increased morale.

One in four prisons have seen a reduction in the number of prison officers over the past year, including a quarter of prisons the Government label as being of concern, so given their so-called recruitment drive, will the Secretary of State guarantee today that no prison, apart from those planned for closure, will have fewer staff at the end of the year than they did at the beginning?

As I said in response to the last question, the new offender management model, which we are implementing throughout the system, will reduce the pressure on individual prison officers. Where a particular prison has greater than average difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, we will continue to put in extra resource and support to help them.