When you are looking to apply for one of our Prison Custody Officer (PCO) jobs within Serco, we believe that it is really important that you have a realistic preview of what it’s really like to be a Prison Custody Officer on the ground in one of our UK custodial establishments.
Here you will have an opportunity to discover more about the role, environment and recruitment process.
The videos and testimonials are from our PCOs currently working at our custodial establishments and are here to help you understand the role and give you a great insight in this rewarding yet challenging career.
Being a Prison Custody Officer is not always easy but it is rewarding
Make no mistake, this is a role where your contribution counts - helping to give offenders structure within their lives, being a role model to encourage positive choices and ensuring that the prisoners are supported during their rehabilitation journey. When you are on duty you will act as mentor and will assure the safety, security and decency of prisoners and perform a pivotal role within the prison and the community it serves.
Daily duties involve:
- Supervising prisoners in all aspects of wing based activity
- Encouraging prisoners to go to work or complete the jobs they have within the prison
- Attending additional education classes
- Serving food and effectively managing prisoners at risk of self-harm
- Operational matters such as prisoner headcounts, searching, supervision and security together with administrative processes must all be effectively delivered.
It’s not easy being trusted with the safety and security of someone in prison.
Every prisoner reacts differently and you will see a full range of emotions from; apathy, anger, remorse or trauma. For the person in prison it can be one of the most stressful situations they will ever encounter, but for you it’s an everyday part of your job.
Can you do it?
Yes you can - if you have the resilience, integrity and professionalism to handle an ever-changing day, irrespective of the challenging situation you may face. Your natural patience, understanding and commitment to helping people will stand you in good stead – and give you the authority needed - for this position.
Being a Prison Custody Officer demands the best, and our people come to us from a variety of backgrounds. What they will have in common is an ability to relate to people, exceptional communication skills, a commitment to supporting their colleagues and the knowledge that what they do will have a positive impact on their communities.
As a minimum you will evidence that you hold a minimum of Level 2 Key Skills (or equivalent) including English and Maths and we will test that during the process. It is important that you possess the skills that would allow you to pass a variety of mandatory training courses and have a level of fitness to pass Control and Restraint training.
What you can expect from us?
There is a clear salary structure in place to reward you as you grow and develop in to the role, meaning that you will get receive salary increases after 1, 2 and 3 years’ service. Please see the specific prison information below for the salary bandings.
As well as a clear salary structure and career progression, we offer you a holiday entitlement of 23 days plus bank holidays, with your holiday entitlement rising after 1 and 2 years in service, up to 6% contributory pension scheme, Life Assurance and access to childcare vouchers. Alongside Serco discounts which include cinema, merlin entertainment and online shopping discounts, cycle to work scheme and discounts on mobile phone plans and leisure centre memberships.
Hours and Shifts
The service that we provide to our prisoners is available every day of the year across a 24 hour period, meaning you will have to cover various shift patterns; including days, evenings, weekends, nights and bank holidays with an average of 40 hours per week.
Once you have passed the selection and vetting process, you will attend a 8-9 week Initial Training Course (ITC) at the establishment you have been recruited for, and you will be required to have 100% attendance. The ITC will provide high quality training where you will complete a Diploma in Custodial Care and undergo Control and Restraint training. You will also shadow experienced PCO’s on shift to give you a real taste of life on the job.
This role is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and all offers of employment are subject to security clearance checks and approval by the Home Office.
Are you eligible to be a Prison Custody Officer?
First, you'll need to meet our essential criteria, which includes having the right to work in the UK. Beyond that, we'll check things like your eyesight and physical fitness. We'll also expect you to pass a basic maths and English test along side the ability to demonstrate the personal qualities we're looking for, when you come in for an assessment day.
These tests aren't just to make the selection process easier, they're designed to make sure you have the right skills and attitude to get the most from the role.
If you are eligible search and apply for the latest PCO opportunities.
If you would like to pursue a career as a Prison Custody Officer you will go through the following recruitment and training journey.
The initial recruitment process, which includes application, online tests, telephone interview and assessment day will only take approximately 4 weeks. If successful you will be required to go through strict security and vetting checks which will allow you to work in this secure environment. The checks are conducted via the Home Office and can up to 6 weeks to provide the outcome of your application.
Once you have successfully obtained your security and vetting clearance you will then start your employment with Serco and HMP. During the first 8 weeks of your employment you will go through an Initial Training Course which will equip you with the knowledge and skills required for this role, before you go in to your operational position.
The overall process normally takes approximately 18-20 weeks.
2. Online Assessment and Telephone Interview
3. Fitness Testing and Assessment Day
4. Provisional Offer and Vetting
6. Training Centre
Find out more
Serco operate six adult prisons across England and Scotland, with an operational capacity to hold over 5,400 prisoners. All of our prisons are Category B or C establishments. These include; Midland based prisons (HMP Dovegate, HMP & YOI Doncaster, HMP Lowdham Grange) South West prison (HMP Ashfield) South East prison (HMP Thameside) and Scottish prison (HMP Kilmarnock). Read more.
We have asked some of our current Prison Custody Officers about why they decided to embark in this career.
Video: Hear what some of our PCOs say.
Video: Serco in the Justice Sector
Frequently asked questions
Please see a list of questions we regularly get asked, hopefully you will find the answer below, if not please use the contact us form and we will be in touch as soon as possible,