Covid-19 prisons

Lockdown restrictions for prison educators

5 November 2020

Please find below an update following the further lockdown restrictions as they apply to prisons in England. Thank you to the POA for sharing their member circular in advance to facilitate some of the detail that is set out below. An all member survey together with a summary of recent developments from national HMPPS H&S meetings and letter from the general secretary to PEF providers will be circulated on Friday 6 November 2020.

Lockdown restrictions for prisons in England

We are now able to confirm the extent of lockdown restrictions that will come into effect from today in Prisons in England. We have included Public Health England Advice for clarity.

These restrictions apply across public and private sector establishments.


Adult Estate

No face-to-face education will now be taking place and no plans for progressing to EDM Level 2. Remote education should continue as previously.

YCS Education

HMPPS support the continuation of education for this cohort. This falls in line with national lockdown protocols in our communities.

Please note that for our colleagues in the YCS estate we are currently working on updating Risk Assessments which will be circulated to your reps to reflect developing advice on the wearing of masks and ventilation in classrooms.

Wing work

Risk assessments that relate to the delivery of in-cell learning packs to wings and wing work should be immediately reviewed which takes into account the status of the prison (e.g. red site, outbreak control team etc.)

Staff who are extremely clinically vulnerable

Any member who receives communication from the NHS informing them to shield should follow that advice and stay away from the workplace and remain at home shielding. You should receive special leave with full pay throughout your shielding period. If this is not the case, please contact your branch officer or local rep for advice as it is our understanding from HMPPS that all providers have been given provision within the PEF contract to ensure that staff continue to be paid in such circumstances.

Any staff, whether they have health conditions or not, who are living with someone or caring for someone who has health concerns, that places them or family members at greater risk of infection, should immediately speak with their line managers to review workplace risk assessments and discuss any further measures that may need to be put in place to reduce risk. Please also refer to the template letters prepared by UCU which takes into account various scenarios in setting out why you should be able to work from home.

Only those staff who receive communication from the NHS informing them to shield will be expected to shield.  If you think you need to stay away from the workplace, please discuss your concerns with your line manager ensuring you have UCU support if you need to and reference the template letters as cited above.

Please see link for government guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from Covid-19.

Social and professional visits

Public Health England Advice specifically relates to the Youth Custody Service and states: In the Children and Young Peoples' Secure Estate (CYPSE), enabling ongoing social visits and other supports is very important and children and young people are in the main less impacted by Covid-19 infection, but this is not a universal experience and the health and wellbeing of those who work in and visit CYPSE spaces needs to be considered. HMPPS have confirmed that they intend to continue with social visits in the YCS estate. Professional visits will continue and are to be facilitated remotely wherever possible.

Social visits in the adult estate will cease. Visits to recommence at the end of the lockdown under the current Stage 3 EDM.


The POA believe that restrictions that are in place in the community in relation to indoor gyms should be replicated in prisons. HMPPS have confirmed that indoor gym may remain open throughout the national lockdown in prisons. Local governors may decide they wish to utilise outdoor facilities only as the risk may be judged to be too significant. Access to PE for prisoners can be maintained where it is safe to do so.


Essential services only to be maintained, following social distancing rules and cohorting in line with Stage 3 EDMs. Governors must be able to justify why a workshop needs to be open.

Inter-prison transfers

Transfers should be approved by gold/silver as per Stage 4 activity and during the first lockdown. It should be noted that HMPPS are introducing a comprehensive testing regime that includes testing all prisoners upon reception to a prison.

Courts are still in operation which will create the need to meet capacity pressures and facilitate the use of prison transfers.


Libraries will close in line with the community. Mobile services can continue in line with present EDMs. Establishments may by exception allow individuals or small numbers to attend the library where the suspension of this support would cause a significant detrimental impact.

Faith services

Church services and groups are to close in line with the community. Pastoral care should be provided as previously during the first lockdown. Establishments may still allow individuals or small numbers from the same regime group to attend an activity such as small prayer group where the suspension of this support would cause a significant detrimental impact or risk supports this activity.

Hairdressing and barbering

Must cease for the duration of the lockdown. Establishments may by exception allow individuals to attend a barbering/hairdressing facility under exceptional circumstances where the suspension of this facility would cause a significant detrimental impact.

Contractors and agency providers

Governors should allow contractors to continue to deliver urgent work and activity to ensure the H&S and vital services are maintained. Agency/third sector work to support rehabilitation can continue in line with present agreed EDMs.

Covid-19 testing

HMPPS will introduce regular testing for all staff (voluntary). Public Health England Advice states prisons need to have an effective testing strategy in place to enable better risk identification through identification of infected individuals, staff, and prisoners. In non-outbreak situations for staff, PHE recommend weekly testing with turnaround times and appropriate reporting and surveillance infrastructure in place to inform the dynamic risk assessment. For prisoners, PHE will seek further advice from SAGE on testing interval recognising needs will differ depending on population dynamics in a prison. In outbreak situations, PHE recommend whole prison testing (all staff and prisoners) to guide infection control measures including decisions on regime and population movement restrictions.

Infection prevent and face masks

Please note Public Health England Advice in relation to this: Prisons need to fully implement all infection prevention control (IPC) measures advised by PHE to prevent and manage outbreaks including use of appropriate use of PPE, social distancing measures and cleaning of spaces, places and surfaces as directed, and population management advice especially around isolating, cohorting and protecting clinically vulnerable people. It would be wise to look into the further use of face masks. Although fluid resistant surgical masks are advised as an IPC measure HMPPS may need to look into the legalities of mandating them.


No prison will expand their regime during lockdown. There will be a hold at level 3 if staffing resources can maintain this level of regime. Individual establishments will revert to stage 4 as required by local risk management such as during an outbreak or severe staffing constraints, but this will be determined on a site by site basis. All establishments are required to carry out an immediate regime review to determine which live regime elements should continue to operate for the next four weeks.

Further stipulations

Governors/directors in red sites must mandate that FRSMs (fluid resistant surgical masks) are worn by staff in all areas for the duration of the new national restrictions period. Governors/directors in red sites may choose to mandate that face coverings are worn by prisoners in all areas for the duration of the lockdown period. Governors/directors in green or amber sites should consider widening the use of FRSMs for staff and face coverings for prisoners for the duration of the lockdown period if they assess that the risk warrants this approach. All regime activities must be limited to one regime group at a time with a focus on reducing the mixing of different groups. Hand-hygiene, cleaning, social distancing, compartmentalisation controls and safer operating procedures (SOP) specific to all activities must be communicated and enforced effectively.

All contact and movements between wings/residential areas or within activities areas should be minimised. Establishments may need to review how essential services such as food, activities movements and medication collection take place during the next four weeks. Consideration should be given to minimising or removing the cross deployment of staff maintaining consistency in the deployment of staff to regular work areas. In-cell enhancements will continue to offset the impact of regime restrictions. Free PIN credit, supplementary food packs, payments for those not able to access work and suspension of the removal of TV for breaches of discipline are unaffected at this time.

Marianne Quick
UCU bargaining & negotiations official
(Climate & sustainability/prison education)

Last updated: 6 November 2020