POA survey reveals prisons in crisis as workforce is totally demoralised

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has published an independent survey of their members, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Bedfordshire, which focused on work-related stress and wellbeing. The survey was of prison officers as well as nurses in psychiatric secure hospitals. The report is a damning indictment of government policy, revealing a totally demoralised workforce and the need for an urgent review.

The key findings are:

  • None of the benchmarks set by the UK Health and Safety Executive for the management of work related stress have been met.
  • Levels of psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction are considerably poorer than those found in other “highly stressed” occupational groups.
  • 84% of respondents indicated that they felt under pressure to come into work when they felt unwell.
  • Disclosing work related stress and “failure to cope” is highly stigmatised in the sector and little support seems to be available.
  • 7 out of every 10 respondents to the survey regret their choice of job.
  • 60% are considering leaving the Prison Sector in the near future.
  • POA members get considerably more support from colleagues than they do managers.
  • 75% of the sample surveyed indicated that working after 60 years of age would impair their job performance “very much”.
  • Less than 7% rate the quality of on the job training as very good or excellent.
  • 57% consider this to be poor or very poor.

Comments by POA members (anonymous)

“Currently with the staffing shortfalls and the new regime they’ve got in place, it is constant crisis management every day of the week. There is no let up.”

“Longer shifts, less breaks, higher targets to hit, being shut down constantly stresses me as I am only able to do half my job effectively. I can’t work like that. I like to complete a job to the best of my ability, but now I have no control over this due to reduced staffing and taking away activities that helped staff bonding in the past.”

“The uncertainty over how the service is changing is one of the biggest problems. The cloud of despair never seems to abate. The lack of information available to staff is crazy. We all have questions, but the only response we get is a shrug of the shoulders.”

“I think there’s been far too much change in such a short period of time. It is difficult to change the culture in one prison, let alone the whole prison system as we know it. It has just been a time of major, major change, which we weren’t prepared for. They really need to sit down and see the effect that the changes have on staff and prisoners.”

“I have seen active service whilst in the army, but I have never felt as vulnerable and threatened as I do in my current role. The constant threats are affecting my mental health and I am really worried that this will catch up with me one day.”

To read the full report, please see here.

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