Ministry Of Justice Held An Urgent Meeting With Prison Staff Over Concrete Crisis
Remediation work being carried out on a school that contains RAAC in Leicester (Alamy)
Ministry Of Justice officials held an urgent meeting with prison workers' unions on Thursday, as staff grow increasingly concerned about the possible presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in jails.
This week warnings have mounted over the prevalence of RAAC in public buildings across the country after it was confirmed that more than 100 schools in England that contain the material have been deemed to be at risk of collapse. Many were forced to close or partially close as the new term was about to get underway.
PoliticsHome understands unions first made contact with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) about concerns over RAAC earlier in the summer, but a meeting was not scheduled until this week after the news broke about the crumbling material in schools last week.
Representatives from the MoJ, as well as from the prisons' service are believed to have been present at the meeting.
As well as accommodation blocks for inmates, prison estates also consist of outlying buildings such as kitchens and storage units. The topics discussed at Thursday's meeting included how any buildings that could contain RAAC will be identified, however this is a multi-stage process that it is believed will take a number of weeks to complete.
While the government has this week made significant moves to address the presence of RAAC in schools, there are concerns the scale of the crisis is much greater, with many types of public buildings such as court rooms also thought to be affected.
Earlier this week PoliticsHome reported that local government figures had expressed concern that councils could be left with a “time ticking bomb” and RAAC could become a “cataclysmic issue” if there is no central financial support provided to address the issue.
Christian Stone, a member of the Loughborough University RAAC research group has said that the true scale of the RAAC’s presence in British buildings is “still relatively unknown”, and suspected the crisis in schools was “the tip of the iceberg”.
“There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of these elements in the UK,” he told PoliticsHome.
“At least schools and hospitals are starting to know about these issues. It is probably in office blocks, council buildings, warehouses, airports.
"Theatres, police stations, Ministry of Defence buildings. Anything that was made during that post-war reconstruction era, and right into the 1980s.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “While the majority of the prison estate was built before RAAC was used in construction, we have an established programme of work to assess if the material is in the prison estate and we are working to assess if individual buildings may contain it.”
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