Jobs to go at Lancaster college for disabled people

Beaumont College, Lancaster.
Beaumont College, Lancaster.

Staff at an outstanding college for disabled young people are furious after they were told a quarter of the workforce would be made redundant.

Employees at Beaumont College were told 72 jobs would go and were informed that remaining staff could face a 13% pay cut.

Workers say the cuts will seriously reduce the quality of care they give to students, who have a range of physical and learning disabilities.

One member of staff said: “It’s a disgrace.”

The charity Scope, which runs the Slyne Road college, said the decision was due to declining student numbers.

The proposals are for 236 out of 308 employees to remain at Beaumont with changes to their roles, and their terms and conditions.

Maria Chambers, Director of Education at Scope, said the changes were “a difficult decision”.

“Student numbers at Beaumont have been declining in the last few years,” she said.

“As the number of students being referred by local authorities has reduced, the amount of money we receive in fees has also reduced by around £1.5m.

“This means the college is running at a significant loss.

“In the last few years, we have made savings in other areas and also reduced staffing numbers on a smaller scale.

“We are unable to continue losing significant amounts of money running Beaumont College.

“We are proud of the education Beaumont College provides and we want to continue to support young disabled people to learn valuable skills and become more independent through quality education.

“We have to make these changes now so that we can support students starting in September 2015 and onwards.

“We have given great consideration to the impact on students and we are confident that the proposed changes will not affect the education, care and therapy support they receive. We remain committed to providing excellent care and support to each person at Beaumont.

“We appreciate that this will be a very difficult time for everyone at the college and we are committed to supporting each person throughout the process.”

The changes come after the college received a glowing report from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission after an inspection in September 2014.

It gained high marks in all five categories for being safe, effective, caring, well-led and responsive, and was also rated ‘outstanding’ in its most recent report by education watchdog Ofsted.

The Slyne Road college offers education and support to 79 young people with a range of conditions, including cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and autism.

Diana Heyes, who works at Beaumont College, said: “The students are the voices that matter.

“They do not want to see their college run like a care home.

“They want to continue to have the same opportunities as their able bodied peers. It is their right as human beings.

“The staff cuts and the significant drop in wages to remaining staff will hugely affect the quality of care and opportunities open to the young people. It is a disgrace.”

Another member of staff posted on the Guardian website: “The 13% pay cut means that remaining staff will not be able to afford to stay on at the college so in reality the college will be losing significantly more than 72 members of staff, not to mention temporary staff whose contracts expire in July.” Another staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The staff are fantastic. Parents will tell you the difference we have made to their lives.

“The support staff do all the care work, they support with physio exercises for the students, they give medication, help at mealtimes, and take them on weekend trips. Last weekend staff worked 19 hours at the weekend taking students to the Parklife festival in Manchester.They say (job losses) are due to lack of numbers but what are they doing to advertise? Nobody knows we’re here.”

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster, said: “Government cuts which has seen years with no increase in funding can’t have been easy for the college.

“I am deeply sorry to hear of the job losses and concerned to hear that remaining staff are facing a 13% pay cut and I am in touch with staff working at the college to offer my support at this difficult time.”