Special needs helpers in pay cut threat

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UNSUNG heroes taking special needs pupils to school are facing a controversial council pay cut.

Town hall chiefs are proposing changing pay terms for 185 Children’s Passenger Assistants by putting them on a lower grade when they are travelling on duty but without with their 900-plus young clients.

Staff claim the move, which is recommended in a review of the Integrated Transport Unit, have angrily condemned the move claiming it could halve wages: In effect a £200 reduction per month.

The council denies the move will drastically affect salaries and said the proposal will put staff on the same working conditions as other authority staff.

But the husband of one of the staff potentially affected by the proposed changes accused the council of hitting a new low. He said 91 per cent of the passenger assistants were women, many part-time workers at the lower end of the pay scale.

The husband, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “For local journeys this loss of pay is bad enough but for staff that travel to schools located outside the borough it is a massive pay cut.

“These staff have to be picked up in the vehicle to get to the clients’ home so it is a bit like saying that ambulance drivers will only be paid when there is a patient in the ambulance or postal staff will only get aid when they have letters in their sack.

“This barmy arrangement is being proposed by a council who previously declared solidarity with the low paid and a commitment to protect part-time women and protect our special needs children.”

And the dad of an autistic special school pupil from Lowton described the move as “truly appalling.”

Former councillor Edward Houlton, whose 12-year-old daughter Amy has attended the Land Gate special school in Bryn for the past eight years, said that just when parents thought that their children were safe and were going to keep their free school transport, they now found the council was “going after” the staff.

He said parents were keen to back the passenger assistants in their fight to get the council to think again.

Mr Houlton said: “No good can come from this.

“Good, experienced members of staff that can care for our children will be forced out of a job onto benefit and may not be replaced.

“Our passenger assistants are unsung heroes who are physically assaulted everyday by children that have special needs.

“Our passenger assistants go through the same thing we do every day and asking them to take a £200 pay cut a month is offensive because the council are proposing sacking passenger assistants where it hurts the most, in the pocket.”

Head of infrastructure, Mark Tilley, said: “We are currently undertaking a consultation with staff employed as passenger assistants around terms and conditions of employment, in order to bring them into line with the majority of council employees. It would be inappropriate to discuss publicly details of the proposals at this time. The consultation is for 45 days and runs until 5th June.”