Today I visited HMP Lowdham Grange to meet just some of our many justice sector workers who have been keeping us safe and learn more about the challenges they have faced over the last year.
People working in the justice and custodial sector have continued to work throughout this pandemic – putting themselves in harms way to keep the public safe. I was struck by the positive atmosphere amongst the workforce of the prison, with the team spirit and togetherness they have showed in this immensely difficult period.
The nature of their work, such as interacting with offenders on a daily basis, means that workers have been unable to work from home. This has created a workforce that is significantly more exposed to the virus than those in industries where greater distancing can be achieved or homeworking is more widespread.
At one point this meant that Coronavirus rates in Lowdham were very high, with a large number of staff members at home either unwell or isolating. It was by pulling together and harnessing this positive environment that they were able to continue operating whilst protecting and supporting each other.
This serves to further highlight what can be achieved when employers and unions work in partnership together.
Caroline Armstrong, Community Branch Secretary at HMP Lowdham Grange:
“I invited Roy Rickhuss to HMP Lowdham Grange to see the facilities we have here and to promote the important work, that often goes unnoticed, Justice Sector workers actually do. Representation is key and it’s important for members to feel appreciated and represented. It would also raise awareness to the wider Community Union family of the good work we all do.
The recent pandemic brought many challenges for both staff and prisoners which ensued with an unprecedented outbreak here, the largest and quickest within the Justice Sector which meant that within two weeks they had to deal with extremely low staffing levels and daily regime changes and by collaboratively working with the Senior Management Team ensured everyone was kept safe.
Staff at all levels have dealt with all this in a very professional manner and I am very proud to be part of the team and to represent them. The prison was also approached, through a Facebook group ‘For The Love of Scrubs’, to provide scrubs for Kings Mill Hospital and to date have provided substantial amounts to the NHS which has led to a permanent contract and creating training opportunities for the prisoners.”
It was an honour to speak to the staff at HMP Lowdham Grange today. Too often during the pandemic, prison workers have been the forgotten emergency service. Community will continue to work with and support our members across the justice sector.
If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0800 389 6332.