The health and wellbeing of children in the West Midlands are under threat as a ‘significant’ number of school nurse jobs could be axed by the Birmingham School Health Advisory Service, Unite, the country’s largest union, warned today (Thursday 31 May).
The threat to the school nurse workforce has come from cash-strapped Birmingham city council, the commissioner of these services for school-aged children, which is considering, it is understood, decommissioning the current service.
Unite blamed the Tory government’s swingeing reductions to local government funding in England for the cuts that could affect about 170,000 school-aged children in the Birmingham area.
Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), called for the proposed £2 million worth of cuts to the service by the city council for the financial year, starting July 2018, to be halted.
Unite regional officer Su Lowe said: "While Theresa May’s government discusses food adverts and tax on sweets, the reality is that vital face-to-face services for our children in Birmingham face decimation.
“School nursing, once again, faces the biggest hit to our community health services and Unite is concerned for the future of this very British institution that has served vulnerable school-aged children for many decades.
“Without the school nurses, who will attend to our children’s health and well-being? The occasional measuring of a child’s weight is no substitute for supporting those families with complex needs, such as mental ill-health, child protection and other high impact issues, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child sexual exploitation (CSE).
“School nursing services are, sometimes, the only access many children and young people have to health services and it is feared the most vulnerable will slip through the net as a result of these significant cuts.”
This situation is made worse because of the uncertainty hanging over the school health advisory service’s future. The contract ends in July and no decision, as yet, has been forthcoming regarding future commissioning.
Su Lowe added: “Our children deserve their school nurses and their specialist skills and experience. Our members are devastated by the threat to the services and their jobs – these cuts should be reversed; and there needs to be clarity and transparency on future commissioning.”
Birmingham School Health Advisory Service is part of the Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust where Unite has 600 members.
Notes to editors:
Birmingham city council’s budget statement says: “We have to make cuts of £53 million for 2018/19 and inevitably that has meant having to make some difficult decisions.”
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
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.