UK Food Firms Beg Ministers To Let Them Use Prisoners To Ease Labour Shortages

Jesse Williams

By Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams

23 Aug 2021

Food manufacturers have begged the government to allow them access to prisoners in hopes of countering post Brexit and Covid labour shortages.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, which represents butchers, abattoirs and processors hope to hire staff through a scheme that allows inmates to undertake paid work outside of the prison system.

Suppliers also contacted charities for ex-servicemen and women to try to drum up staff.

After initial talks with the Ministry of Justice Tony Goodger of the meat suppliers’ association said:

“Much of the food industry is facing a recruitment crisis. The advice we have received from the Home Office is that the UK’s domestic labour force should take priority. However hard we and many of the members have tried, staffing remains a challenge.”

Goodger highlighted that some of the associations’ members already had inmates on the release on temporary licence programme working for them and found them to be an asset. 

Goodger added that a rehabilitation officer from HMP Hollesley Bay in Suffolk told him: “We’ve reached our quota and we are not allowed to let any more out to go to work” just last week.

The shortages impact has already started to be felt. Nando’s closed a 10th of its restaurants due to a shortage of chicken last week.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Helping prisoners find jobs during their sentence and after release makes it much less likely they will reoffend. We will support all industries with skills shortages where possible, and are working towards bringing levels [of release on temporary licence] back up towards pre-pandemic levels as restrictions allow.”

Labour shortages are just one in a long list of setbacks UK food suppliers have faced following Brexit and Covid. Check out the story on how the UK is running out of chicken here.