Suffolk

Government asked to reconsider Blundeston prison cuts

Blundeston Prison
Image caption A new report says security could be compromised by further funding cuts

The government is being urged to reconsider plans to further cut funding for a Suffolk prison.

A new report has praised Blundeston prison for making positive changes since being criticised by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Prisons in July.

But the Independent Monitoring Board said proposed cuts of £1m over the next two years would hamper this progress.

The report said the prison near Lowestoft could cut 18 jobs and reduce its rehabilitation training.

The Ministry of Justice said the IMB report would be "fully considered by ministers" and that it would report back "in due course".

The IMB report said Blundeston had cut £800,000, including 17 jobs, from the budget this year but would struggle to meet government targets if the further savings were enforced.

The report said: "Such cuts are not compatible with the rehabilitation revolution and prisoners doing more meaningful work in the prison and courses relevant to work when they leave prison.

"(We) would ask government to reconsider the situation and provide additional funding to prevent further cuts next year."

It also said that cuts in uniformed officers would "undermine the internal security of the prison".

The report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Prisons (HMCIP) had highlighted a problem with bullying and violence and described conditions at Blundeston as "disappointing".

'Genuine attempts'

The IMB report said staff had used the HMCIP findings as a "springboard" to improve conditions for prisoners and that more than 50% of the recommendations had been put into place.

It said that "genuine attempts" had been made to identify bullies but said issues remained over sanitation.

The report stated that the past 12 months had been "the most challenging for several years" but said there was room for optimism.

The IMB praised Blundeston for achieving a 92% accommodation rate and 35% employment rate for leaving prisoners.

But it relayed frustration from staff at the amount of time spent providing data and statistics for organisations such as Ofsted, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons and as part of the prison's service level agreement.

The report also called on the government to review its policy on recruitment.

It said a psychologist could leave the prison in less than a month, but under the current recruitment process would take more than six months to replace.

The Prison Officers Association welcomed the report and said it was also concerned about the level of cuts.

Dean Acaster, area representative, said: "Blundeston is an establishment that is striving to achieve, and has done very well in the past.

"But faced with the size of the cuts which are likely to be imposed on them it's going to be very, very difficult for them to continue to provide the services they are.

"There has to be a total rethink by the government. They cannot say on one hand they want to make the massive amount of savings and take from the front line resources of establishments and on the other hand say they want prisoners working 40 hours a week."

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