Plans to nearly halve Lewisham’s school truancy team will hit the life chances of many young people in the borough, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
Unite members employed by Lewisham council in the attendance and welfare service are being balloted for strike action in defence of the service which assists about 4,000 school children each year. The ballot opens on 19 February and closes on 4 March.
The vital frontline service has been successful in the battle against school truancy. In league tables compiled by the Department for Education, the borough comes first with comparable statistical neighbours and nationally is seventh best.
Council bosses are preparing to cut the service by an additional £300,000, having already slashed it by £200,000. The staff will be reduced from 22 to 12.
Unite is organising a lobby from 17.00 on Wednesday (12 February) at Lewisham town hall, Catford, SE6 4RU when the council cabinet will be discussing a report on the proposals.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The end result will be a disaster for truancy levels across the borough, with a real impact on young people and the social problems that will follow.
“We are determined to fight to save this service. We understand the financial straitjacket facing the council because of the swingeing cutbacks imposed by communities secretary Eric Pickles - but we call on councillors to rethink these proposals, even at this eleventh hour.
“The impact of the cuts will be drastic and erode the life chances of many youngsters. Early intervention - acknowledged by professionals as the best method of dealing with truancy - will disappear. Instead, there will be an overwhelming reliance on prosecuting the parents of truanting children.
“The council is proposing that schools ‘buy in’ the service from existing budgets. It plans to make staff reductions with this new model in place before any schools have expressed an interest in the ‘buy in’ option.
“The council has admitted that schools are ‘not committing themselves’ and, most worryingly, there is no assumption that there would be a lot of ‘buy in’ from schools.”
For further information please contact Onay Kasab 07771818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Notes to editors
• Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.