Scottish Prison Service (Auditor General’s Report)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd December 2019.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of his statement. The Auditor General’s report made for pretty grim reading, highlighting that the

SPS is facing threats to its financial sustainability and its operational safety and effectiveness.”

Prison staff, who are the bedrock of the system, are facing serious challenges. The number of serious prisoner assaults on staff is double the number in 2016-17. Stress-related sickness rose by a third in 2018-19, with the average number of days lost now 17 and staff working vastly increased hours. Throughcare—an aid to the rehabilitation that we all desire—has had to cease due to a lack of officers. Rehabilitation would be greatly assisted by work in education, yet the number of hours that are provided dropped by nearly 300,000 in 2017-18 to the lowest level since 2011.

What steps are being taken to address the lack of workforce planning, particularly at HMP Grampian, where 80 per cent of the vacancies exist? When can we expect that to yield results, so that the SPS can reintroduce throughcare and rehabilitation opportunities? Will the cabinet secretary at least consider the roll-out of body-worn cameras to protect prison officers?