School truancy officials in Lewisham will strike on Wednesday for 24 hours over funding cuts proposed by the borough council which will cut their numbers by half.
The strike is in protest at Lewisham Council’s decision to cut a further £ 300,000 on top of £200,000 which has already been taken from the truancy team budget, reducing the number of truancy officers from 22 to 12. The cuts are part of a council- wide plans to save an overall £95 million by 2017/18.
The Unite union has mounted a campaign to persuade the Council against making the cuts but without agreement. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Cutting the team will mean less early intervention work and a greater emphasis on prosecuting parents, so less work to prevent truancy in the first place, but greater emphasis on work when its too late.”
“If the cuts go through, truancy levels will rise,” he added.
Kasab said that the impact of the cuts on Lewisham will be dramatic because the officials work with schools to reduce truancy levels. He suggested anti-social behaviour will rise as a result.
Lewisham Council says that the cuts come as a result of significant budget cuts by central government.
A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “We have had to make some difficult decisions. The agreed savings proposals in this area will still ensure that we have a strong attendance and welfare service and schools will also be able to buy in additional services should they wish to.”
“We very much regret this strike action called by Unite,” the spokesperson added.
The truancy team assist about 4,000 school children each year.