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The application process

How long will the process take?

The time it takes to complete your application can vary depending on how quickly an assessment date is secured, and how long your background checks take. The application form and online tests can be done quickly.

On average, you can expect the application process to take 6-8 months in total from when you start your application to day one on the job.

We will do our best to ensure it is as quick as possible and you will be kept updated and informed at every stage of your application journey.

1. Apply online

This process will only take about 10 minutes.

Start by finding a prison officer vacancy on the find a job page.

Click ‘View job & apply’ to read the job description and apply.

Enter important personal details, such as nationality and your right to work in the UK. We use these to check you’re eligible to be a prison officer.

What you will need:

  • – National Insurance number

2. Online tests

You will be invited to complete the scenario-based test, presenting you with different behavioural and numerical scenarios you might face as a youth justice worker.

Questions may mention about being a youth justice worker as we use the same tests for a prison officer application.

We are checking to see if you have the basic numeracy skills and behaviours to work in HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS).

We will let you know immediately if you pass the  online tests. If you are successful, we will invite you to the Online Assessment Centre.

3. Online Assessment Centre

The Online Assessment Centre is a half day assessment carried out online through  a laptop with webcam.  Our friendly assessors will meet you and test to see if you have the abilities, behaviours, strengths and fitness to be a youth justice worker.

We will give you more information of what to expect and how to best prepare later on your application journey. Or, you can prepare now by visiting our candidate portal.


4. Background checks

When you accept an offer for an available vacancy, we carry out security and identity checks before you begin the job. This vetting can take around 12 weeks.

If a position is not available, you will be put on a reserve list. We only begin the background checks when you have accepted an available vacancy.

5. Application success

Once you have passed the online tests, assessments and background checks, you will be eligible to work as a youth justice worker.

Before you start in your role, you will undergo Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) where you will learn and practise all the key skills and behaviours that are vital in the role of a youth justice worker.

Read our introduction to POELT blog

Before you start

Check if you are eligible to become a youth justice worker. You will need to:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • have the right to work in the UK
  • be reasonably fit
  • have good eyesight and hearing

Visa sponsorship

Please note, we are unable to sponsor prison officer applicants via the Skilled Worker Sponsorship/Tier 2 (general) work visa.

Successful applicants must ensure they have and maintain the legal right to live and work in the Civil Service and in the United Kingdom.

Essential skills

As a youth justice worker, we expect you to demonstrate the following personal qualities:

  • good communication and influencing skills
  • commitment to quality
  • effective decision-making
  • care and understanding

Working in youth custody

Have a go at our activity to help you understand the role of a youth custody worker. You can find out more about working in youth custody and see if you are suited to the job.

Remember, every youth justice worker’s experience is different, and while we have deliberately described some more challenging situations, we cannot show the entirety of the role in a series of short films.

See if you are right for a youth custody role

Get ready for the online tests

We use realistic scenarios to see if you have the judgement and skills to be a youth justice worker.

During the online test you will be asked how you would deal with situations you might face working in youth custody including:

  • judging the effectiveness of actions
  • solving basic numeracy and counting tasks

Practice how you would handle the behavioural scenarios

Practice how you would handle the numerical scenarios

Disability support

Tell us if you have a disability when you apply and we can offer reasonable adjustments to help with the online test and assessment centre.

Find out about reasonable adjustments

Job offers

If you are successful at the Assessment & Recruitment Centre (ARC), any job offer will depend on the type of vacancy.

Next available job

For a ‘pass’ vacancy for the Band 3 youth justice worker role, we make a job offer immediately if there is a position available.

If there are no positions available, you will be placed on a reserve list until the next available job vacancy.

Your successful pass from assessment day will be valid for 12 months and can be used to apply for vacancies at other youth custody locations.

Merit list

For ‘merit’ vacancies for the Band 3 youth justice worker role, successful applicants will be added to a merit once everyone has been to the assessment centre.

Job offers will be made first to the people who performed best at the assessment centre as positions become available.

You can stay on the merit list for 12 months. After this, you’ll need to apply again.