Further Education Area Reviews – Protecting Disabled Workers’ Jobs

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
23 February 2018

Conference notes the continuing impact of the area review process in post-16 education which has seen a wave of mergers (and failed mergers) across the further education (FE) sector.

Further education has already lost around 30,000 experienced staff, half of whom are support staff, since 2009. The area review process has resulted in further job losses and has proved to be about reducing providers and learner choice and cutting staff and closing premises, rather than improving outcomes and the quality of students’ learning experience, with disabled students particularly at risk from cuts to student support.

Disabled workers are often the first to go in redundancy programmes as part of the drive to merge providers. Remaining FE staff face significantly increased workloads and uncertainty about their future, which can cause or exacerbate existing mental health problems.

Conference believes that the provision of good quality further education is an equality issue, with students more likely to be from a deprived background compared with school sixth form students, and with disabled students often disproportionately represented.

Conference notes UNISON’s guidance for branches dealing with area reviews and the model agreement on organisational change, with the later including using equality impact assessments, but that more needs to be done in ensuring disabled support staff in FE are not unfairly selected for redundancy and that terms and conditions and reasonable adjustments are maintained.

Conference therefore calls on the service group executive, working with the sector committee, to:

1)Continue to provide and review FE specific guides, model agreements and bargaining resources that can be used by stewards dealing with the impact of area reviews, including highlighting strategies for protecting disabled workers’ jobs, terms and conditions and reasonable adjustments;

2)Continue to lobby government to return post-16 funding to sustainable levels, providing a quality further education sector that is accessible to all.