Social workers protest at £12m cuts to child services

CAMPAIGNERS furious at plans to make sweeping cuts to Bolton’s Children’s Services department, will stage a mass rally in the town centre.

Education social workers, youth workers and advisers from Connexions will hold a demonstration to signal the launch of a campaign to stop Town Hall chiefs pressing forward with £12m of cuts.

The equivalent of 37 full-time posts could go as part of the savings, which the council says it is making in consultation with unions.

Frontline staff working with schoolchildren say that the cuts could put the most vulnerable children in the borough at risk.

And there are fears that incidents of neglect involving children will be missed, if education social workers are scrapped and key workers — who currently work with a small number of children — are given their case load.

The rally, at 10am on Saturday, will be led by trade union, Unison, whose members will be urging parents to support their campaign.

Unison’s children’s services convener, Andrea Egan, said: “Under these proposals the quality of services for children will be affected.

“We understand savings need to be made but proposals should have been drawn up in consultation with us, to ensure services will not be affected.

“We are not against integrating services but the proposals put forward are flawed. At this time our members do not know what role they will be carrying out or what their case load will be.”

One steward said: “Who will be responsible for children who miss school if there are no education social workers? Education social workers are often the first to pick up on issues and stop them escalating to child protection issues.

“Now, instead of being pro-active, we will be firefighting.”

Margaret Asquith, Bolton Council’s director of children’s services, said: “As well as efficiency savings, the review of Connexions and Education Social Work teams aims to improve services for children and young people, improve attendance, and lower the number of young people in the borough who are not in employment, education or training.

“The proposals outlined are subject to ongoing consultation with staff, trade unions and elected members.

“The council is meeting representatives from the unions regularly throughout the consultation period to ensure that all parties are fully involved and informed.”

Unison is holding a meeting with headteachers next month over the proposals.