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Operational support grade

Prison support worker

What is an Operational Support Grade?

Ensuring that prisons run safely and smoothly takes teamwork. Everyone has a role to play. As an Operational Support Grade (OSG), you don’t need any previous experience – we will give you all the training you need. Whatever your skillset, there is a place for you here!

The variety of your work keeps the prison moving. You will play a key role in keeping it safe and secure at all times.

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More about the role

Welcoming visitors security checks security checks vehicle check

As an OSG you will play a key role in supporting the daily running of the prison, ensuring it operates smoothly. As part of our Operational Support team you will:

  • often be the first point of contact for the public and people working in criminal justice
  • welcome family members, visitors and lawyers
  • carry out security checks and searches
  • supervise prisoners at times, depending on the prison you work in
  • monitor offender mail and phone calls
  • check CCTV
  • patrol perimeters
  • report contraband items
  • occasional prison vehicle driving in some prisons

Your role will be risk assessed based on your choice of prison. You will be offered the training required to undertake core tasks safely. Some duties such as vehicle driving will require an on the job assessment and will be offered if relevant to you.

Your role in HMPPS

You will work for HM Prison and Probation Service (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 will have opportunities across the entire estate.

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. 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
Early shifts 7:00am






Main shifts 8:00am






Late shifts 12:00pm






All day shifts 8:00am






Night shifts 8:45pm




The salary figures quoted are for a 37 hour working week inclusive of a 20% unsocial hours working allowance. Any changes to pay agreed after you have submitted your application will be reflected when calculating your starting pay.

National – £23,226

Aylesbury, Bedford, Bullingdon, Coldingley, Cookham Wood, Elmley, Grendon, Highpoint, Huntercombe, Send, Standford Hill, Swaleside, The Mount, Woodhill, plus all other locations outside of London

Outer London – £26,629

Belmarsh, Downview, Feltham, High Down, and Isis

Inner London – £28,403

Brixton, Pentonville, Wandsworth, and Wormwood Scrubs

  • Two weeks’ paid training and five weeks annual leave per year
  • Access to a paid Level 2 Apprenticeship in Customer Service
  • Membership of a Civil Service Pension scheme
  • Reward and recognition scheme
  • Free access to gym and sports facilities
  • Access to employee benefits and a discounts portal, including a Blue Light card

Friendly staff

We look 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

To work as an OSG, you must:

  • be 18 years or over
  • have the right to work in the UK
  • ideally hold a valid driving licence (desirable)
  • 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 IT skills, and experience using Microsoft Word and email

Please note, for roles in the High Security prisons, you must have been a resident in the UK for the last three years.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, then start your application today.

Safety and training

  • Once you take up post as an OSG, you will receive paid on the job training which will focus on prison security and safety procedures. This will prepare you for situations where you may have to deal with prisoners
  • You will also have access to ongoing local training including personal protection safety training. This is designed to give you an increased understanding of keeping safe when working in a prison
  • The training you will be offered adheres to HMPPS policies and procedures. It also includes relevant health and safety and security procedures

Fully funded apprenticeships opportunity

Once you are successfully recruited as an OSG, you will be offered an opportunity to complete a level 2 customer service apprenticeship (on the job learning). You will:

  1. undertake the apprenticeship alongside your new role. We will provide you with the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours to fulfil your role to the highest standard
  2. achieve a nationally recognised level 2 qualification
  3. 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. Our training provider, Knowledgepool, will support you with your own skills coach throughout your learning.

The OSG role will give you significant knowledge and experience of how a prison operates. It also provides a gateway to a wide range of other prison jobs.

Many OSG’s choose to progress to prison officer roles. Other OSG’s may choose to move into:

  • Instructor roles – teaching prisoners new skills to help them find work after their release
  • Waste management – working with prisoners to reduce, reuse and recycle in the prison. This may include training prisoners in core skills such as counting and recycling
  • Catering – training prisoners in a range of catering skills. This may involve delivering a qualification or supervising prisoners working in the busy prison kitchens

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. This scheme provides eligible former members of the Armed Forces opportunities to secure rewarding jobs.

This scheme allows veterans to continue to serve their country. It also brings highly skilled individuals with a broad range of experience into the Civil Service, which recognise and value your previous service in the Armed Forces.

Stage 1: Application and short test

Take a short, online test

When you apply, you will receive an email with 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 team. This should take around 40 minutes to complete, but there is no time limit.

Before you take the assessment you will have the opportunity to practice and prepare for the real test. Once you apply, you will receive a link to access both practise and the actual test.

Stage 2: Interviews

If you pass the test, we’ll invite you for an interview.

In the interview, you will be asked a combination of behaviour-based and strength-based questions.

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 (may be longer if you are applying to a prison that requires a higher level of security check).

If a position is not available, 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 OSG. These are:

  • 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, hold 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. Also, show determination and drive to solve problems and achieve results

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.

If you feel you need reasonable adjustments, we can offer you support. Please inform 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.

We want our staff to feel safe and that they belong, are treated with empathy and respect, and have the support and solidarity of their colleagues and managers. We believe this helps us 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.

View our Staff Equalities Report and learn more about how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Apply now

If you think being an OSG is the right role for you, apply today.

Life as an OSG

Hear from operational support colleagues about the role.

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Find the latest OSG roles near you and apply now.

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