Lewisham council are proposing a £300,000 cut to the borough’s school truancy team, nearly halving the group in size.
The service, which helps approximately 4,000 pupils annually, has already been slashed by £200,000. Further cuts will see the team cut from 22 people to 12.
Trade union Unite have warned that the cuts will have a negative effect on the “life chances” of many young people. The team have helped in the fight against truanting and thus rank highly in the Department of Education’s league table: Lewisham was placed first when compared to statistical neighbours and seventh nationally.
Unite are balloting members employed by Lewisham council in the welfare sector for strike action to defend the service. The ballot will open on February 19 and end on March 4.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “We are determined to fight to save this service. We understand the financial straitjacket facing the council because of the swinging cutbacks imposed by communities secretary Eric Pickles – but we call on councillors to rethink these proposals, even at this eleventh hour.”
Kasab added: “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.”
Unite will hold a lobby at at Catford Town Hall tomorrow at 5pm, when the council cabinet will discuss the proposed cuts.