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NATFHE Calls Matter Very Serious

Reed Learning, a private contractor providing education services in some UK prisons, has been breaking the law by not having valid employer liability insurance for its staff at Brixton prison. Employer liability insurance is a legal requirement under health and safety legislation.On Wednesday (12 January) education staff at Brixton noticed that the insurance certificate on display was out of date, valid only until the end of November 2004. The matter was raised at a staff meeting on Thursday and the prison’s education service management confirmed that the insurance cover had lapsed. The certificate was removed from display ““ another breach of the law ““ and staff were told that the matter would be rectified “next week”.Lecturers” union NATFHE represents prison educators at many prisons in England and Wales. Members of NATFHE are amongst educators at Brixton.

NATFHE’s national official for prison educators, Christiane Ohsan, said: “This is a very serious matter. Education staff at Brixton have apparently been without employer insurance cover for more than a month. This is undesirable anywhere but especially so in a prison, where staff work in a very volatile and occasionally dangerous environment. There have been safety problems at Brixton, so this has increased the safety concerns of staff.”The incident illustrates one of the dangers of using private contractors in such a sensitive environment. If a college had been contracted to provide the education service, educators would be covered by the college’s insurance. Some private contractors seem to show little respect for basic health and safety requirements. The Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the Prison Service and the DfES are currently engaged in a new limited tendering process to decide who will provide a new offender education service. It is to be hoped that contracts will not be awarded to organisations that break the law or which seem not to care about the health and safety of their staff.”

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