Back in April, I wrote to the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – at the age of 62 – accompany me to Shotts Prison to perform the physical and dangerous role of a Prison Officer which he expected them to do at the age of 68. Sadly, this invitation was denied.
But, yesteday in a debate on Prison Officer Pensions, I got another chance to extend that invitation to the new Ministers to come to Shotts prison to complete mandatory annual control and restraint training. Under the UK Government’s policy, this would require a 68-year-old to physically restrain, potentially on their own, a violent person at the peak of their fitness.
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.
The UK Government’s policy on Prison Officer pensions reflects its policy on pensions in general. It’s not just Prison Officers who can’t be expected to work until 68, it’s millions of workers across Scotland and the rest of the UK. People are being expected to work until they drop. It’s easy for members of the Cabinet and the wealthy to retire whenever they like. To own their home, have plenty in savings and a massive pension pot. But for people in my constituency, they work hard all their days – sometimes on low wages – to receive a pension that is one of the lowest in Western Europe. The UK Government is allowing this. Working people deserve to earn a decent wage and expect a fair pension at a reasonable age.
I previously wrote to the Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office regarding the Prison Officer pension age and to invite him to HMP Shotts to meet with staff and inmates to show how he, at the age of 62, could meet the physical standards required of Officers who are expected to retire at 68.
Sadly, the Cabinet Secretary did not respond and my invitation has not been accepted. But I have been contacted by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP.
Police Officers can retire at 60, but the UK Government are forcing Prison Officers to work longer in such a dangerous and physical frontline role. Just because Prison Officers are out of sight, does not mean they should be out of mind.
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
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
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
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?