Gaols to face more cuts in jobs and courses

One of the many employment-training courses for prisoners to be cut is Food Safety and Hygiene

More job and course cuts to education in the NSW prison system have been flagged for early next year by Corrections Minister David Elliott.

They will come on top of 130 qualified teachers set losing their jobs.

“We are appalled that the Baird Government and Minister Elliott are now preparing to slash courses designed to rehabilitate prisoners and give them job skills,” Assistant General Secretary Maxine Sharkey said.

“Education is recognised as a major element in the rehabilitation of prisoners but that hasn’t stopped David Elliott from taking the axe to a range of trade courses in a cost-
cutting exercise that will make sure our gaols are full for years to come,” she said.

Courses earmarked for closure include: First Aid, Construction Industry White Card, Fork Lift Operator, Electrical Test and Tag restricted licence, Food Safety and Hygiene, Chainsaw Operations and Working at Heights, plus Safe Use of Chemicals.

There will also be reductions in other prison industry-based qualifications and traineeships in areas such as food services and hospitality skills, carpentry skills, laundry skills, warehouse operations and painting and decorating.

The government has indicated it will close or restrict the courses in many gaols across the state in 2017 despite Minster Elliott’s announcement that 2017 will be the first year of his “new model” which aims to increase vocational education and training in gaols.

“Many teachers are already taking redundancy and will leave on Christmas Eve,” Ms Sharkey said.

“We are predicting chaos in the prison system as this poorly thought-out cost-cutting policy is implemented.”

Ms Sharkey said the decision to slash gaol education, cutting some courses altogether and outsourcing others, is being delivered with undue haste and causing so much confusion that it is impossible to see how any education services will be delivered to prisoners for months.

“These disgraceful cutbacks will slash vocational education and training hours by more than half at some prisons. This is on top of an indicative cut of over 50 per cent to delivery of literacy and numeracy programs,” Ms Sharkey said.

She said the Minister’s claims that provision of education would be maintained and outcomes in literacy and numeracy doubled are not possible.

Federation will continue to campaign to demand high-quality education and vocational training is accessible to all NSW prisoners.