A south east London prison worker says officers are forced to clean out cells without access to PPE despite significant coronavirus outbreaks at the facility. 

The Serco employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims custody officers at HMP Thameside have been told it is their responsibility to clean cells throughout the pandemic after prisoners are taken to court. 

The officer, who has worked for the company for five years, says requests for PPE have fallen on deaf ears, despite the prison watchdog reporting that a member of staff at the prison has already died of coronavirus. 

The custody officer said: “There is no duty of care for any of us staff.

“I have had enough of the way things are and the way I get treated.

“I used to look forward to going a work, but now I dread it.

“I don’t feel safe. I feel like there is no care to our health and safety or hygiene. It's not taken serious in this company."

Outsourcing giant Serco operates six adult prisons across England and Scotland, with capacity to hold over 5,400 prisoners. 

Serco run HMP Thameside, in Thamesmead, is London's only private prison, and can currently hold 900 convicted and remand male prisoners. 

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales reported that HMP Thameside had "experienced significant outbreaks" of coronavirus and that a member of staff had died. 

A custody officer's role is to oversee and control prisoners, ensuring they can be accounted for at all times.

This typically involves unlocking and locking prisoners, supervising prisoner movements around the establishment and conducting roll counts at specified times throughout the day.

The role does not include cleaning duties, for which specialist staff are required. 

A spokesperson for Serco said: “The suggestions that have been put to you are untrue.

“Custody officers are not being asked to clean cells.

“There is a team of professional cleaners at HMP Thameside which is carrying out deep cleans on any cells where there has been a prisoner who has tested positive for Covid.

“Additionally, prisoners are given cleaning products for their own cells

“HMP Thameside has been following the Government Covid guidelines and rules, including ensuring that all our officers are wearing the appropriate PPE.

“There is a plentiful supply of PPE.”