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We just want to take the opportunity to mark today, the 1st anniversary of when the whole country went into lockdown following the outbreak of COVID. It was a day that nobody understood back then that we would still be in this situation a year on, and it was a day we all approached with some uncertainty, hesitation, and fear.
The work environment became a very different place overnight, and priorities changed to issues of genuine concern and fear for the preservation of life. Prisons were widely talked about as prime environments for the spread of the virus and that we should be concerned for how and what the impact would be. As front-line uniformed staff there was no option, in fact it is an expectation that our members will go into that environment every day, unaware of what risks they face, or what they may be taking back to family homes and their loved ones. Nobody should underestimate the resilience and commitment that involves or be allowed to dismiss or forget those selfless acts, that continue even today.
It is worth remembering and noting today then what a tremendous job everyone involved in the service has done in this last year, in keeping each other safe and secure, and for the manner in which the pulling together has minimised the spread and potential consequence widely talked about back then.
The way that we have worked together and accommodated changes to our attendance patterns, our regimes, our routines, have all played a part in keeping each other as safe as we can be in such an environment. The changes brought in by the SPS to accommodate family contact for prisoners either by phones or virtual visits, the safety measures and provision of PPE, as well as the handling of HR policies to respond to the pandemic have all played their part in managing the environment in which staff have been required to work.
We are not through this yet and we still have some way to go before things return to ‘normal’, whatever that goes on to mean at the other end of this pandemic.
It is important that we continue to work together to get us all through what we hope are the final stages, and on to a better, safer working and living environment for us all.
Today is also a time for everyone to take a moment to reflect on those who have been lost to COVID in this last year, or those who lost loved ones throughout the year without having the opportunity to say their goodbyes in a way that befits the lives of those lost. We can only hope that the opportunity to do them proud in brighter days, is not too far in the distance for us all now.
As an SNC we want to thank you for your efforts in the last year and ask that we continue to work together and support one another through this, while committing to make sure for our part, that we are involved daily in ensuring that all steps are being taken to keep you safe and supported in your workplace while we all work through what we hope is the last stages of the pandemic.
On behalf of POA Scotland
Assistant General Secretary
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.