School injury claims falling

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THE number of Wigan school staff claiming compensation for injuries sustained at work is failing.

Information released under Freedom of Information rules show that in 2009/10, there were 23 claims, with a total of £98,000 awarded.

But this figure reduced to just 13 members of staff in 2010/11, who received a combined payout of £24,000.

For the financial year of 2011/12, nine claims were made, with £10,000 dished out.

So far, from April this year, only one employee has filed a compensation report, with no monies awarded as yet.

The majority of claims were slips, trips, falls or related to lifting or moving equipment.

Wigan Council was unable to distinguish the job titles of claimants as, given the low number, it would be possible to identify individuals, although the information covered all members of school staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, cooks and cleaners.

A spokesman for the local authority admitted that although the figures may be slightly misleading as not all claims have been concluded, the number has reduced year on year.

John Mitchell, Head of Service (Legal and Risk) at Wigan Council, said: “Schools are responsible for the safety of staff, pupils and visitors whilst they are on school premises.

“They are supported by Wigan Council in a commitment to ensuring that services can be provided in a safe environment.

“We work together to ensure schools’ staff can operate safely in the workplace. The efforts of this work are reflected in reduced numbers of injuries to staff, which means that days lost through absence and compensation costs are also reduced.

“Schools pay into the council’s insurance fund to provide cover for such incidents, as the law requires compensation and legal costs to be paid if schools are found to be even partly at fault for the injury, irrespective of any spending cuts that are needed.

“The unfortunate position is that this money is diverted from educating our pupils, and the largest proportion actually goes in claimants’ legal fees rather than in compensation to the injured party.”

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The number and cost of compensation claims were clearly far too high in previous years.

“It’s good that the bill is coming down but the local authority must not become complacent.

“Sadly there is a creeping compensation culture found in to many classrooms which must be combated.“