A NATIONAL service responsible for Redditch children in care is to be axed with more than 100 job losses across the county.
Outrage was sparked when Babcock International revealed its intentions to slash 104 roles – just weeks after winning a contract to provide Worcestershire County Council’s ‘Learning and Achievement’ services after it was out-sourced by chiefs at County Hall.
Helen Hill from Astwood Bank, who is now an independent education advisor at three fostering agencies, said children using the ‘Virtual School’ service – especially those with special needs – will suffer.
“These are not ‘back office posts’ but vital services for the most vulnerable children,” she said. “The Virtual School has been completely disbanded and all posts deleted, including mentors, teachers who support individual children and training for schools and early years workers.
“Children who have already experienced loss and trauma are to be abandoned yet again.
“There is now a high risk that school exclusions will rise, achievement will decline, transitions will fail and young people will not find school or college places or employment plus foster placements may break down under the pressure of school exclusions,” she added.
In a further twist, County Hall bosses claim they ‘were not made aware in advance of Babcock’s proposals’ – a claim Babcock strongly refute.
Babcock was awarded a contract covering 391 workers in school support roles at the start of October and a consultation on the redundancies is now underway and due to finish on December 6.
The jobs under threat include admin workers, teachers for disabled pupils and early years schooling.
Helen admits she expected the service to be restructured but added she was stunned to hear it would be ‘completely disbanded and posts deleted’.
“This specialist, highly trained service, once lost, may never be recovered,” she said. “The most vulnerable children in our society, to whom the council have a duty as corporate parents, will be further disadvantaged.”
A Babcock International spokesman said: “We are in regular consultation with the council and cannot comment as we have only just begun this process.
“But services will remain unaffected and we are working with staff on the options,” he added.
The case has been taken up by the GMB union which is now calling on Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to explain why frontline staff who help the most vulnerable pupils are under threat from losing their jobs.