Offices working at Lewes Prison are set to receive immediate pay rises of up to £5,000 a year in a Government bid to solve national recruitment and retention problems.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss has unveiled a £12m fund for frontline prison staff at 31 establishments across London and the South East as well as increased training opportunities.
The move was welcomed by Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, who has been calling for improvements to the town’s prison, which was put in lockdown in October after a violent incident with reports of staff retreating from one of the wings.
However the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) labelled the latest announcement an ‘attempt at placing a plaster over a gaping wound’ and argued the prison system was in ‘meltdown’.
Ms Caulfield said: “I am pleased to see this package of measures which will help Lewes prison greatly.
“Not only will the significant pay rise for officers help to deal with the problems in trying to recruit staff in such an expensive part of the country, but the measures aimed at improving the rehabilitation of prisoners will try to address the current high reoffending rate by enabling those who have done their time to get work once they leave prison.
“I have been to visit Lewes Prison a number of times since being elected and have no doubt that these measures will improve prison safety not just for inmates but for our hard working prison officers.
“I am committed to supporting Lewes Prison and welcome the news from ministers which goes some way in addressing the specific issues I have raised with them over the last few weeks and months in relation to HMP Lewes.”
Ms Truss said: “Prison officers do a challenging and demanding job day in and day out. I want frontline staff to know that their work, experience and loyal service is valued. We also want to attract the best new talent into the service, ensuring we recruit and retain the leaders of the future.
“These hard-working, dedicated staff are key to delivering our ambitious reform agenda, and it is right that we offer them greater support as we move ever closer to transforming prisons into places of safety and reform.”
A spokesman for the POA said: “This decision will not solve the recruitment and retention issue, nor bring about operational stability in a prison system that is in meltdown.
“Whilst any additional pay for our members is welcome the latest policy decision direct from the secretary of state sees another divisive decision on pay, which will enrage many who are left unaffected by this latest announcement.
“The decision to uplift pay for staff only at 31 sites identified as amber or red who are either new prison officer recruits or are on F&S pay scales has been poorly thought out and ignores many other grades of staff.”
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