Alex slams Government over contract changes affecting Holme House

Education and skills staff at Stockton’s Holme House prison are today facing the sack after the Ministry of Justice changed the terms of the contract with the organisation providing the service.

And Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has hit out at the Government who are effectively cutting provision just months after a damning report emerged regarding Holme House prison and revealed a catalogue of failings – including in their education provision.

Now it has been revealed that education and skills staff at Holme House are facing redundancies due to the change in contract terms between the Ministry of Justice and Novus, the education provider. In a letter to employees, Novus state that this includes a reduction in income this year and will mean redundancies.

Education plays a key role in facilitating rehabilitation and preventing reoffending. The report revealed that a third of prisoners at Holme House were unable to get to workshops or training because they were being kept locked up all day. As a category C prison, many inmates will have short sentences or be approaching the end of lengthier ones. It leaves a risk to the public if inmates are not getting the support necessary to get them rehabilitated back into the community and give them a second chance.

Alex wrote to the Home Office in June to enquire what was being done to address these failings and the response received from Minister for Prisons and Probation, Lucy Frazer was disappointing. It spoke of additional funding to build more prisons, but this does nothing to address the failings in existing prisons like Holme House.

Alex says:

“I was very disappointed to hear about the forthcoming redundancies at Holme House and I offer full solidarity to those staff now left anxious about losing their jobs.

“The report produced earlier this year revealed a number of failings at Holme House, including a lack of access to workshops and training programmes. Reducing the number of staff available to deliver these programmes can only make the situation worse. Inmates have already gone months without face to face education, and now some programmes risk being lost altogether.

“It’s all well and good having Ministers boasting about millions of pounds to build new prisons, but the issues faced by existing prisons must be addressed as a matter of priority. Losing staff members will inevitably mean a change in the already sub-standard availability of education and skills programmes at the prison.

“I will be writing to the Lord Chancellor to question the damaging changes being made to the contract between the Ministry and Novus, and asking how he can possibly think this supports plans to address the ongoing problems at Holme House.”