‘Children could die’ fear on cuts
SCHOOL dinner ladies have warned that children could die and staff would have to cut corners if cuts are made to the service.
During an, at times, heated Derbyshire County Council debate, school catering supervisors from two schools gave passionate statements to the elected members.
They were voicing concerns about Derbyshire County Council’s plans to reduce contractual hours for nearly 1,000 school catering supervisors – “dinner ladies” – by up to eight per cent.
This would result in staff currently working 37 hours a week earning around £97 less each month. Some members of staff will not have their hours reduced.
Marie Blackler, catering supervisor at Field House Infants in Ilkeston, invited the cabinet member for young people, Councillor Alex Dale to work a shift in her kitchen before any cuts are made. He accepted this offer.
Ms Blackler said that if he does carry out this shift, he will realise that the service is already under immense pressure and must not be cut further.
She said: “As a ‘dinner lady’ in a Derbyshire school, I am very concerned that this proposal will significantly reduce either the quantity of meals pro-
– in are set to their contractual hours cut by up to eight per cent duced or the quality of meals that Derbyshire children will receive.”
Meanwhile, Julia Coxson, a catering supervisor at Hulland Primary School, asked what risk assessments had been carried out about the proposed cutbacks, to ensure they would not have a negative impact on children.
Cllr Dale said the authority had assessed the types of equipment each school has, the size of the kitchens, the length of lunchtimes, special diets, and the number of staff.
But Ms Coxson said Cllr Dale “had missed the point”. She said that with reduced hours, staff may miss details such as allergies and dietary requirements of children, putting them “at risk”. “Children could die,” she said, adding: “I don’t know how we can do this on reduced hours without cutting corners or working in our own time.”
Cllr Dale said he would “hope” staff would still be able to maintain the quality of the meals offered and that the investment the council has put in to improve processes would help ensure this. This includes, he says, more than £1 million on items such as dishwashers and combination ovens.
Cllr Dale said: “Some staff will not see any reduction in their hours. Our proposal is to reduce hours by up to eight per cent. Nobody wants to reduce the quality of school meals – we rate our school meals very highly.”
Local democracy reporter
School catering supervisors – ‘dinner ladies’ Derbyshirehave