We are investing significant financial resources totalling about £100 million to recruit 2,500 additional prison officers. We are investing £4 million in our marketing campaign and effort. In addition to our national recruitment campaign, there are local recruitment schemes in 30 jails where it is hardest to recruit.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. I urge him, as he begins the recruitment process, to give due consideration to recruiting in rural areas, such as north Dorset, where house prices are high, rural public transport is scarce and unemployment levels are very low. That makes the governor’s job at a prison such as Guys Marsh in my constituency even harder.
I am aware that my hon. Friend takes a keen interest in Guys Marsh, his local prison. I assure him that Guys Marsh has been made a priority prison, which means that the governor is getting extra resource, in addition to our national campaign effort, to recruit the staff he needs.
Many of my constituents work in the Prison Service and I was contacted recently by one constituent who has worked in it for more than 23 years. He was concerned about the morale among his fellow officers and cited recent riots. What assurances can the Minister give me that those who serve on the frontline are able to work safely and with the appropriate staffing numbers?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: prison officers are some of our finest and bravest public servants, and we want them to be able to work in safe conditions. That is why we are tackling the scourge of drones, drugs and phones in our prisons, and recruiting more staff so that they can work in a safe environment.
Given the enormous turnover of staff on the prison estate and the reality that the Government will need to employ about 4,000 extra staff to reach their net figure of 2,500, what is the Minister doing to incentivise existing prison staff to stay and not walk out?
The reality is that, in 75% of our prisons, recruitment is not a challenge. However, there is a challenge in some prisons, particularly in London and the south-east. In those places, we are offering market supplements of about £4,000 to attract new people. For those who are already in the system, we are in discussions about professionalising the Prison Service more to give them a better status and more pride in their jobs.
The chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, Michael Spurr, told MPs that there is a need to recruit 8,000 more prison officers to achieve the increase of 2,500, as we have heard again today, yet existing prison officers have rejected the latest NOMS pay offer. When Michael Spurr met the Prison Officers Association this week, did the Secretary of State join him, and did she make the necessary commitments to make increased staffing in the Prison Service a reality?
The Secretary of State and I met the POA last week. We had a very constructive discussion about continuing talks and, more widely, about workforce reform, professionalising prison officers’ jobs and raising their status.