Memorandum submitted by the Public and
Commercial Services Union (PCS)
1. The Public and Commercial Services Union
(PCS) is the trade union representing civil and public servants
in central government. We represent 320,000 members in over 200
departments and agencies and have over 5,000 members working in
HM Prison Service (HMPS) in England and Wales. Our members undertake
a wide variety of jobs both in prison establishments and in headquarters.
These range from managerial, administrative, secretarial and typing
jobs to support tasks such as cleaning and office management.
We also represent Instructional Officer (IO) members who are responsible
for helping prisoners address their offending behaviour through
vocational training and also through work-based learning and development.
2. PCS believe the issue of prison education
cannot be separated from the wider issue of reducing re-offending
and its link to the current record high prison populations in
England and Wales. Within this submission we highlight what we
believe are the current failings in the delivery of prison education
and our suggestions for a way forward.
3. As a point of principle PCS believes
that any private profit derived from prisoner education (or industries)
is morally wrong and indefensible. PCS believe that the purpose
of prisoner education is to assist in the rehabilitation of offenders
and to ensure they are properly equipped to contribute to society
upon their release. We believe therefore that prisoner education
is a public service benefiting both the individual and the public
as a whole and all monies and resources must be directed to this
4. PCS welcome this further inquiry from
the Committee and would be happy to supplement this evidence with
further written or oral evidence.
5. The current prison population in England
is currently in excess of 80,000 and rising, making it the highest
imprisonment rate in Western Europe. This directly impacts on
the delivery and quality of prison education.
6. PCS believe that a prison building programme
is an expensive and counter productive way of managing this crisis
and tackling re-offending. We further believe measures including
prison education and drug and alcohol treatments are the key to
reducing the prison population.
7. PCS feel that the Offenders' and Learning
Skills Service (OLASS) has failed to adequately address the issues
identified by the Education and Skills Select Committee in March
2005. In many instances OLASS has been counter productive, making
reductions in training time for prisoners and also progression
opportunities for staff.
8. We believe that a more effective and
productive way to deal with a rising prison population and the
failings of current prison education is to invest in prison education
and industries within the public sector HMPS. As such we believe
a successful model for delivering in-house vocational training
has been developed in the south west and we would recommend this
approach is used in the future (with small changes) to deliver
a more prisoner focused service to reduce re-offending. This is
discussed under point 39 below.
9. The prison population in England and
Wales currently stands at a record high of 80,060, with 79,908
inmates in jail and another 152 being held in police stations
under emergency plans ordered by the Home Secretary. This is approximately
75% higher than 15 years ago when the population was 45,000. Home
Office projections in 2006, forecasted a rise to over 100,000,
meaning even in a best case scenario that a prison population
of 87,600 by 2011 is being considered a real possibility.
10. England and Wales already has the highest
imprisonment rate in Western Europe at 143 per 100,000 of the
population, compared to France with a rate of 88 per 100,000 and
Germany with a rate of 97 per 100,000.
11. Earlier this year, Lord Phillips, the
most senior judge in the country, warned judges that they should
not send people to prison unless they really must. He stressed
that within the current prison population an estimated 5,000 prisoners
have acute mental health disorders and up to two-thirds of the
entire population have at least two mental health problems. He
stated that prison for these prisoners is not the sensible place
12. PCS believe that the population crisis
has adversely impacted on the delivery of prison education. The
movement of prisoners, re-categorisation of prisoners and in some
cases the closure of whole establishments for re-categorisation,
have all undermined the stability required for effective delivery
of prison education.
13. It has been estimated that the cost
to the taxpayer of building a new prison currently stands at approximately
£300 million per establishment. HMPS currently operates in
a "contestable" market where they are both a purchaser
and provider of "offender management" services and has
to compete with the private sector. With a total of 10 private
prisons, Britain already has the most privatised prison system
in Europe and a major concern to PCS is that any prison building
programme will now be another opportunity for the Government to
deliver more prison work to the private sector.
14. PCS were angered by the announcement
on 30 November 2006, that the Home Office are considering offering
the public the chance to buy shares in new prisons under a "buy
to let" scheme. We believe this idea has been suggested to
overcome the difficulties in finding extra money for the 8,000
new prison places announced by the Home Secretary earlier this
15. Trade unions in the justice sector have
continually argued that the interests of the private sector do
not accord with the values that exist within the public sector,
since the private sector's key priority is always their profits,
rather than service to the public and benefit to the taxpayer.
16. In this regard, PCS agrees with the
comments made by Phil Wheatley, Director General of the Prison
Service, that private prisons have led to "very little innovation
in custodial management. Most of the gains have come from using
fewer staff, lower wages, less employment protection for staff".
17. PCS believe that a prison building programme
would divert vital resources from schools, hospitals and other
areas of the public sector, and would have little or no effect
on the key to tackling the rising prison population.
18. PCS note that the Education and Skill's
report in March 2005The Link to Recidivismdemonstrates
that 67% of those released from prison re-convict within as little
as two years and that this figure is higher when applied to specific
groups such as young males. Furthermore that prisoners who do
not take part in education are three times more likely to be reconvicted
than those that do.
19. Although the arguments in terms of efficiency
and effectiveness support tackling re-offending as opposed to
building more prisons, PCS believe that genuine political will
is required to implement such a programme.
20. The implementation of OLASS did not
start positively as it was not listed as a statement of priority
by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). Arising from this, concerns
were raised directly by the Education and Skills Select Committee
that prison education was being viewed simply as a "bolt
on" to the existing work of the LSC.
21. Whilst not wishing to be critical of
the LSC PCS believe that prison education was imposed as an added
task on the LSC who had to quickly cultivate arrangements with
education providers. From experience of our members across the
country, at best OLASS transfers have simply replicated previous
in-house HMPS education courses (often with the same personnel)
and at worst education courses have been withdrawn and/or diminished.
When dealing with a number of new separate private education providers,
it is hard to see where any "strategic thought" has
taken place or evidence of a future strategy.
22. In this regard PCS believe that commitments
given by the Government in June 2005 in respect of a clear purpose
and an "overarching strategy" for prison education have
not been delivered.
23. On 30 November 2006, the Independent
carried a lead article by Lord Ramsbotham, the respected former
Chief Inspector of Prisons. In this article, PCS believe Lord
Ramsbotham correctly made the link between the prison population
crisis, the delivery of prison education and the lack of co-ordination.
Commentating on the current delivery of education he stated: "Education
is being run by the Learning and Skills Council, without direction
from the Home Office. It's a recipe for confusion."
24. It was promised that OLASS would provide
better quality training, more delivery time and better career
opportunities for staff. As the union representing those staff,
PCS disagrees. The evidence collected since the first outsourcing
of staff last November suggests that:
In some cases prisoners are receiving
less training than before the transfer.
The cost of delivering vocational
training per prisoner has virtually doubled.
Additional funding is being channeled
to external education providers rather than into providing more
training opportunities for prisoners.
The cost of the upkeep of the prison
estate has risen as instructors who used to provide vital services
to their establishments (for example, industrial cleaning) no
longer do so, as it is not included in their contract.
Experienced Instructors are leaving
their job rather than be transferred to private contractors, resulting
in many vocational training courses being cancelled as the new
providers are not able to fill these vacancies.
25. In November 2006, PCS conducted a survey
of our members who have been transferred to external education
providers to determine the experience of transfer on their working
lives and also the impact of transfer on the service they provide.
Although not complete the survey has confirmed our worst fears
that morale of our members is low and the cost of the service
26. The experience of HMP Edmunds Hill and
HM Young Offenders Institute (HMPYOI) Glen Parva are two examples
of the difficulties faced by our members who have been transferred
under OLASS (in both cases September 2006). We have included these
case studies within this submission to identify common themes
(1) HMP EDMUNDS HILL
27. Closure of Workshop. From 2004-05
there were two vocational training (VT) courses offered at HMP
Edmunds Hill, namely Construction Industry Training Board (CIT)
paints and industrial cleaning. Post OLASS transfer this has reduced
to just industrial cleaning as the IO left, resulting in the closure
of a workshop that previously accommodated 12 prisoners for 22.5
hours a week and had provided nationally recognised qualifications
for these prisoners.
28. Quality of Service. PCS understands
that the external provider did not have an ordering system in
place when they took over the contract. This led to late delivery
of materials and the disruption of the training modules. The workshop
budget had still not been set (three months after the contract
was let) resulting in machines not being usable and repair contracts
outstanding. A useful (but not untypical) anecdote is that the
existing computer on site which contained vital course documentation
was appropriated by the external education provider manager for
their own use. PCS believe that the standard of training being
provided has declined since the transfer.
29. Training and Career Progression.
PCS members state they do not believe there are any prospects
for progression. No training has been received and applications
to training courses have been accepted in principle as relevant
but refused due to budgetary constraints.
30. Costs. PCS reports that the
costs of having an instructor in post delivering a course have
dramatically increased, to £49,000 per instructor per annum.
There is a widespread belief that funding for VT is being subsumed
within other budgets and used by the external provider to fund
other areas of the education department, not necessarily concerned
with courses for prisoners.
31. Job satisfaction and morale.
PCS notes the following quote from a member, which we believe
summarises the experience of many members: "I love the
job I do, the interaction, the teaching, helping prisoners achieve
qualifications, the whole package, but my job has plummeted in
the last 10 weeks to a point where I have updated my CV and I
have forwarded it onto local employment agencies."
(2) HMYOI GLEN PARVA
32. Closure of Workshops. From August
2006 there were nine VT/CIT courses offered at HMYOI Glen Parva,
including building operatives, painting and decorating and bricklaying.
Post OLASS transfer the IOs responsible for these three courses
left HMPS rather than work for the external provider, and the
IO previously responsible for delivering machine setting has moved
to another job within HMPS to avoid the transfer. The effective
loss of four of the most experienced IOs has had a significant
impact on the service provided to pioneers. Currently there are
four vacancies, (bricklaying, building operatives, painting and
decorating, and training kitchen) meaning these four courses are
not being delivered. The number of courses providing nationally
recognised qualifications has therefore reduced from nine to six
33. Quality of Service. The external
provider focuses on key performance targets for each course leading
to a "culture of competition" between courses, replacing
the co-operative approach that previously existed within HMPS.
Needless to say members report this approach is counterproductive
and dysfunctional and negatively impacts on the service they provide.
34. Training and Career Progression.
PCS members state they do not believe there are any prospects
for progression. One member reports they had an application to
start a Certificate of Education course accepted, but as his attendance
required the closure of his workshop and because the external
provider was unable to provide cover, nothing has happened. Members
report that promises made pre-transfer in respect of training
and self-development have not been delivered.
35. Costs. Members are not aware
of actual costs but anecdotal evidence suggests that some courses
are being charged at £60 per hour. Members report there has
been an increase in "managers" at the expense of IOs,
who deliver the actual education/training and this has pushed
36. Job satisfaction and morale.
PCS reports the following quote from a member, which we believe
summarises the experience of many: "In my opinion staff
morale is very low. The prison has lost all the small jobs that
we previously did for free and now it costs them more. "
37. IOs have a long and proud tradition
of delivering education and training to prisoners in the public
sector HMPS. Our members have a public sector ethos and they share
the values that their work should benefit both individual prisoners
and society as a whole. Our members have unmatched practical experience
and competence in working with prisoners and in developing and
maintaining good relationships that allow for a "learning
38. The public sector HMPS also has considerable
flexibility in delivering prisoner education. Establishments are
in a position to offer education suited to their particular type
of establishment and to their prisoner population. Operational
flexibility also exists between IOs and other Prison Service staff.
39. A successful partnership between HPMS
vocational instructors and external providers in the south west
of England has resulted in benefits for everyone; prisoners, HMPS
and their partners. In the south west model HMPS has become a
learning and skills provider and working with the learning and
skills advisors Prison Governors have been able to bring innovation
to learning and skills training in their prisons and flexibly
deliver the training that they know inmates need. Instructors
have remained in house (and in some cases transferred partner
employees staff into HMPS).
40. The south west model has proved that
public sector HMPS is an excellent LSC sub-contractor and if given
the chance, by adopting this model across the rest of HMPS could
provide an excellent in-house service across the whole estate.
41. In light of historical problems with
the funding of prison education PCS believes that the south west
model should be adopted across the whole of the prison estate
with one fundamental change. Instead of current practice of only
being reimbursed for the cost of staff salaries and employer National
Insurance and pension contributions (currently around £29,000
per annum for those on the maximum of HMPS IO pay scale) all existing
LSC funding should be transferred to HMPS to establish an in-house
vocational training service.
42. Naturally such funding will need to
be "ring-fenced" and the LSC will still need to retain
the responsibility of monitoring contractual compliance. This
should present no problems to HMPS as there is considerable expertise
within the organisation of contract management both as a purchaser
43. Also as an operational service the risk
element of creating an in-house service is considerably less than
the current contracting-out arrangements. Risk management is a
process undertaken in HPMS on a daily basis throughout the organisation
and is fundamental to everything they do.
44. PCS welcome the creation of the head
of learning and skills posts within prison establishments and
the expertise they have brought to HMPS. We believe these professionals
can play a significant role as the basis for developing an in-house
service of excellence.
45. We believe the creation of an in-house
service not only represents the best use of taxpayers' monies
but will also provide more training opportunities for offenders
if it is allowed to fully invest the profit element contained
in the current contracts.
46. PCS also believes that under the south
west model inmates will receive better training opportunities.
PCS is keen to work with HMPS in two key areas:
"Professionalising the Prison
Service" project currently being undertaken by its Training
and Development Group. This is aimed at assisting all staff to
maximise their potential while developing appropriate skills to
help them undertake their jobs.
the Sector Skills Council (Skills
for Justice) is working to "map" the sector and developing
National Occupational Standards.
47. PCS believes HMPS staff will benefit
from these initiatives. We also believe that HMPS will also benefit
by having a highly professional workforce working to agreed standards
of care and inmates will benefit by the expertise these staff
will bring to their job.
48. We firmly believe that only the public
sector can genuinely achieve these goals which are long-term in
nature and involve a co-coordinated use of existing resources.
Private providers, may have good intentions but cannot achieve
this, as they are primarily interested in making profits or are
small scale operations without the required resources or incentives
to properly train, motivate and reward staff to the highest standard.
49. Delivering prison education through
the public sector HMPS will be more efficient, flexible and will
not require additional resources or funding (in fact we believe
the costs could be lower). We think it will have an impact on
reducing re-offending, all that is required is the political will
to guide and direct the public sector HMPS in this direction.
50. Throughout the submission we have demonstrated
where OLASS has not delivered what is required of it. We believe
HMPS should use the south west model with a slight change to create
an efficient in-house service with IOs who pride themselves on
delivering a high quality service which in turn will reduce re-offending.