MINISTER CHALLENGED TO PRISON SHOWDOWN

26th April 2019

MP CHALLENGES UK MINISTER TO PHYSICAL TEST OVER PRISON OFFICER PENSION AGE

Marion Fellows, SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, has challenged Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office, 62 year-old David Lidington, to visit HMP Shotts Prison to take part in physical assessments required of Prison Officers who are campaigning to retire at 60.

To meet operational fitness, all Prison Officers are required to satisfy five tests: grip strength, endurance fitness, dynamic strength, agility and static shield hold as well as complete annual mandatory control and restraint training.

Prison Officers’ pension age was increased to 68 under the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition despite the retirement age of emergency service roles like Police Officers remaining at 60.

In March 2017, UK Ministers said they offered members of the Prison Officers Association a retirement age of 65 which they rejected.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“The Cabinet Office Secretary should make an offer to reduce Prison Officers’ retirement age to 60 or be prepared to meet with staff and inmates at Shotts Prison to show that at the age of 62, he can perform such a dangerous and physical frontline role including physically restraining someone at the peak of their fitness.

“Police Officers can retire at 60, but the UK Government are forcing Prison Officers to work longer. They perform similar roles and deal with the same individuals who can be some of the most dangerous in society. Just because Prison Officers are out of sight, does not mean they should be out of mind.

“Older Officers are finding it more difficult to handle younger inmates and perform their full range of duties. This is in turn leading to lower morale and a higher likelihood of injury in an increasingly dangerous environment. The Cabinet Secretary is failing to recognise the danger involved.

“Prison Officers keep us safe and perform a high risk and high stress role. The UK Government should not be expecting them to carry on doing so to 65 or 68. They must retire at 60.”

Marion’s Letter to Secretary of State for the UK Cabinet Office

Dear the Rt Hon David Lidington MP,

I am writing regarding the UK Government’s policy on the pension age of Prison Officers which is set at 68.

Members of the Prison Officer’s Association have widely rejected this retirement age and the offer made thereafter to retire at 65. I agree with their refusal and their reasoning. They should be offered the retirement age of 60 on par with the age of other similar public service roles.

Our Prison Officers are far too often ignored when compared to other emergency services like our Police, Fire and Ambulance services. Just because Prison Officers are out of sight, does not mean they should be out of mind. Making them work to 68 indicates a failure to recognise the danger involved in their role and is impacting on the morale of the workforce. They deserve full recognition for the demanding and dangerous role they perform.

And what a demanding role it is. The tests for Prison Officers to meet operational fitness are stringent and are difficult for any 65 or 68 year old to complete. One such requirement is the ability to complete mandatory annual control and restraint training. Under your Government’s policy, this would require a 65 year old – previously 68 – to physically restrain, potentially on their own, a violent person at the peak of their fitness.

Clearly, according to the UK Government’s policy, you firmly believe that a Prison Officer aged 65 fulfil their role properly and safely. At the age of 62, do you believe you could meet the physical tests required of Prison Officers and will you accompany me and my colleague Neil Gray MP for Airdrie and Shotts to HMP Shotts Prison to meet staff and inmates to complete the physical requirements of the job?

Sincerely