Operational support grade
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What is an operational support grade (prison support role)?
An operational support grade (OSG or prison support) is a key player on site working to keep the prisons safe and running smoothly.
If you join the team, you’ll be at the heart of a busy prison and will often be one of the first faces the public and people working in criminal justice see when they visit a prison. On a shift pattern, that includes some night work, you’ll support the day-to-day running of our prisons, working to keep our establishments safe and secure around the clock.
Unlike our prison officers, your contact with prisoners is limited, although depending on the particular prison you may interact with offenders occasionally.
Things you need to know
In a typical day, you could be doing anything from greeting visitors at reception, to registering offenders and carrying out searches.
Here are just some of the things you’ll do as part of our Operational Support team:
- welcome family members, visitors and lawyers
- monitor offender mail and phone calls
- check CCTV
- patrol perimeters
- carry out security checks and searches
- report contraband items
- occasional prison vehicle driving in some establishments.
You’ll be working for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Services (HMPPS), which is part of the Ministry of Justice.
HMPPS is responsible for managing all prison and probation services across England and Wales.
Being part of the prison and probation service means you’ll have opportunities across the entire estate.
For more information about HMPPS and what we do, click here.
Most prisons work with a changing shift pattern of an average of 37 hours a week. This can include working some nights, weekends and public holidays (these days are added to your holiday allowance).
Shifts usually follow regular hours although the start and finish time may vary depending on your prison. An example of shift timings are shown below. The frequency of night shifts also varies depending upon prison. Nights are worked in a seven day block and are followed by a week of rest days.
|Example shift times||Start time||Finish time|
|All day shifts||8:00am
The salary figures quoted are for a 37 hour working week inclusive of a 17% unsocial hours working allowance and any additional market supplement payment that will only be paid at certain locations.
Please click below to find our more about the classifications of our prisons.
National A – £20,995
Aylesbury, Bedford, Bullingdon, Coldingley, Cookham Wood, Elmley, Grendon, Highpoint, Huntercombe, Send, Standford Hill, Swaleside, The Mount
National B – £20,095
All other locations outside of London
Outer London A – £24,081
Downview, Feltham, High Down
Outer London B – £23,206
Inner London – £24,829
Brixton, Pentonville, Wandsworth, Wormword Scubs
Part of the package
As well as a competitive salary, you’ll receive two weeks of paid training, a Civil Service pension, five weeks annual leave per year, and many other benefits, as well as access to a paid Level 2 Apprenticeship in Customer Service.
Earn while you learn
All of our training is paid, so you can start earning straight away. Your starting salary will depend on where you will be working.
As part of our Operational Support team, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to progress your career within the prison workforce. You’ll be able to transition into back office support roles, or perhaps consider applying to be a prison officer and beyond.
As part of the national Prison and Probation service, you’ll have opportunities across the service.
Fully funded apprenticeships opportunity
Once you are successfully recruited into the OSG role you will be offered an exciting opportunity to complete a level 2 customer service apprenticeship (on the job learning) . The apprenticeship will be undertaken alongside your new role and will provide you with the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours in order to fulfill your role to the highest standard within your workplace. You will achieve a nationally recognised level 2 qualification and will also have the opportunity to achieve level 1 functional skills in Maths and English if you do not already obtain these.
The programme will run for 14 months and you will be supported by our training provider Knowledgepool who will support you with your own skills coach throughout your learning. Following starting in your establishment you will be offered further information on this exciting opportunity for you to accept.
The Making the Civil Service a Great Place to Work for Veterans initiative includes a guaranteed interview scheme to those who meet the minimum criteria to provide eligible former members of the Armed Forces with opportunities to secure rewarding jobs. Allowing veterans to continue to serve their country, and to bring highly skilled individuals with a broad range of experience into the Civil Service in an environment, which recognises and values your previous service in the Armed Forces.
As a key role in the day-to-day management of our prison, no job is too big or too small for our Operational Support staff.
We want to recruit people who are:
- responsible and trustworthy
- collaborative and like to work as part of a team
- confident, warm and welcoming
- problem solvers, who remain calm under pressure
- detail-orientated, and follow rules and processes closely.
- be 18 years +
- have the right to work in the U.K
- ideally hold a valid driving licence (but this is not essential)
- have basic maths, spelling and grammar skills
- speak fluent English
- be able to read the time in 24-hour format
- have clear and legible handwriting
- have basic I.T. skills, and experience using Word and email.
Please note, for roles in the High Security prisons, you must have been resident in the UK for the last three years.
If you think you’ve got what it takes, then start your application today.
The time it takes from starting your application to your first day on the job can vary. On average, please allow 4-6 months for the entire process to be completed. This allows time for us to conduct all interviews, background checks and issue start dates.
We will do our best to ensure the process is as quick as possible and you will be kept updated and informed at every stage of your application journey.
Stage 1: Application and short test
Tell us about yourself
Fill in your personal details on our application form; name, age and contact details.
Take a short, online test
When you apply, you will receive an email with detailed instructions on how to take our online test.
This assessment checks that you have the right natural strengths and preferences to become part of our Operational Support staff. This will take around 40 minutes to complete, but there is no time limit.
You don’t need experience completing online tests, we’re just looking for your natural ability to succeed in the role.
Before you take the real test, we recommend taking a practice assessment through our Firefly Freedom mobile app. This will help to prepare you for the real test.
You will receive information and a code on how to download the practice test and the actual test once you apply.
Stage 2: Interviews
If you pass the test, it’s time to meet and we’ll invite you for an interview.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s social distancing requirements that are in force, we are taking the necessary measures to ensure both candidate and staff safety and, as a result, some prisons are now conducting interviews online. All details will be sent to you before your interview.
If you are due to attend an interview in person but have any concerns, please let us know and we can discuss alternative options.
The interview is the ideal opportunity to tell us more about yourself, your work history or personal experiences, so we can get to know you better, and assess how you will be suited to prison work.
In the interview, you will be asked a combination of behaviour-based and strength-based questions.
- behaviour-based questions will explore your past experiences and achievements
- strength-based questions will focus on what motivates and energises you.
For both types of questions, we want you to give examples and go into as much detail as possible. You don’t need to have worked in a prison before to do well – you can use examples from your personal and professional experiences.
In the interview, we will also assess your ability to speak and understand English, which is a Government requirement in public-facing roles, such as this, where you will be engaging with prisoners and visitors daily.
Stage 3: Background checks
If a vacancy is available immediately, we will carry out checks including security, identity, past employment and health. This can take on average 25 working days (this may be longer if you are applying to a prison that requires a higher level of security check).
If a position is not available, because – for example – we have had too many applicants, you will be put on a merit list. When there is a vacancy for you, we will alert you and begin your background checks.
How to prepare
To prepare for the behaviour-based questions, think about what you have done in the past, that could demonstrate the qualities and behaviours we are looking for in our Operational Support Grade.
Communicating and Influencing (show that you are a ‘people’ person)
You communicate clearly, concisely, and with confidence. You listen to others and adapt your communication style to suit the situation and audience.
Working Together (show that you are a team player)
You develop good working relationships with others and are a positive and supportive team member.
Managing a Quality Service (show that you are detail-orientated)
You show excellent attention to detail and follow processes and rules. You have a strong work ethic and are willing to learn and improve.
Delivering at Pace (show that you are a quick thinker)
You are highly resilient and quickly adapt to change. You are self-motivated and confident and show determination and drive to solve problems and achieve results.
Try to think of a few examples you could talk about on the day.
No specific preparation is required for the strength-based questions, but you might find it helpful to think about why you would like to become an Operational Support staff, as well as personal strengths you can bring to the role. We’re interested in what motivates and energises you.
If you are finding it difficult to identify your own strengths, consider talking to family members or friends, for their opinions and ideas.
If you feel you need reasonable adjustments to support you, please click here for more information about the support we offer and inform of us of this when prompted in your application form.
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion
We welcome and encourage applications from everyone irrespective of background, identity, experience or circumstance, and particularly those underrepresented in our workforce. We strive for a workforce that is representative of our society and pride ourselves as being an employer of choice.
When people come to work for us we want them to feel safe and that they belong, are treated with empathy and respect, and have the support and solidarity of their colleagues and managers, so we can all deliver our services fairly and in response to individual needs. In joining us, you join an organisation which is committed to the values of humanity, openness, together and purpose.
Find out more about how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Hear from other Operational Support Team colleagues about the role.
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