In May 2021 Amina Memon and Nicholas Hardwick, from the Centre for the Study of Emotion and Law, at the Royal Holloway University of London produced their report into “WORKING IN UK PRISONS AND SECURE HOSPITALS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC”.

A preliminary analysis of a confidential survey of POA Members was undertaken in early 2021. The survey found high levels of anxiety and burn out. These feelings were exacerbated amongst respondents with caring responsibilities and those who had concerns about COVID-19 safety measures in their workplace. Respondents also reported very low levels of emotional support in their workplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to heightened concerns about the mental as well as the physical health of the UK population and of those groups that due to the nature of their work, cannot avoid social contact or work from home. POA Members are Frontline Workers and very little work has been done in relation to the consequence of the pandemic for the mental health of POA Members working in our Prisons and Secure Hospitals.

There is reason to expect those working in the custodial sector are more vulnerable to occupational stressors and strains than many other professional groups. In a systematic review of eight studies looking at stressors in custodial settings high workload has consistently emerged as a major source of stress along with lack of personal safety, poor physical working conditions, pay, long hours, low autonomy and role difficulties.

Other studies included in this review highlighted interpersonal stressors, such as a lack of social support from managers and co-workers and lack of communication between management and staff as among the most stressful features of front-line correctional work.

Mark Fairhurst, National Chair of the POA stated;

“This report once again highlights the stresses that POA Members face in their workplaces. The Health and Safety of our members is the number 1 priority of the POA. This report indicates that workload, personal safety, working conditions, pay and attendance systems are having an adverse effect on our members’ Health and Safety and this needs to be addressed by HMPPS in collaboration with this Union”.

Steve Gillan, the General Secretary of the POA stated;

This is another report that the POA commissioned into the well-being of POA members. Action now needs to take place to ensure respective employers in the Prison estate and Secure hospitals are held to account to ensure staff are protected. There needs to be a public inquiry into the mental and physical well-being of staff who work in our prisons and secure hospitals. Warm words of gratitude from Government and employers are simply not good enough”.

The full report is available at





For further information, contact:

POA Press Office                                                  020 8803 0255 Option 7

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.