Legal challenge over Hampshire’s Sure Start job losses

PLACARDS Archie Beaumont and his sister Emily outside City Hall in Winchester during a protest about changes to Sure Start centres. '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (110688-3496)

PLACARDS Archie Beaumont and his sister Emily outside City Hall in Winchester during a protest about changes to Sure Start centres. '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (110688-3496)

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AN EMPLOYMENT tribunal claim has been made against the charity that runs many of the area’s Sure Start centres.

The public sector trade union Unison has lodged the claim on behalf of more than 100 members of staff it says Action for Children has laid off unlawfully.

Action for Children won a contract from Hampshire County Council in March this year to run Sure Start centres in 13 out of 15 areas across the county, including Gosport, Havant and East Hampshire.

Unison regional organiser Peter Terry said: ‘Even though it is a charity, Action for Children is still required to comply with the law. The law states that employers must consult for no less than 90 days in these cases.

‘As a result of Action for Children’s failure to consult for the required 90 days more than 100 hard-working and loyal Hampshire Sure Start workers have been dismissed much sooner than they should have been.

‘This has left many of them thousands of pounds out of pocket.

‘It is bad enough being made redundant or having to accept a cut in pay. Being unlawfully fast-tracked through the process in this way just adds insult to injury.

‘Action for Children was not forced to bid for the county council contract – they chose to take the contract.’

This year there were protests when the county council announced it would be making cuts to the service.

Unison says 130 out of 270 Hampshire Sure Start employees have been made redundant or been forced to accept new contracts on inferior terms and conditions.

Emma Horne, Action for Children’s south division UK director said: ‘Making redundancies is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we do understand that this is a very difficult time for all members of staff affected.

‘These decisions were taken to ensure we could continue to meet the needs of the families we support.

‘We take our legal obligations very seriously. In May we undertook a 30-day consultation, as required by law, with the 69 members of staff who were being made redundant and trade union representatives. At no time did we have plans to make redundant more than 100 staff.

‘During the consultation period Action for Children managers met regularly with staff to answer any questions and fully brief them on the process and timelines affecting them – as well as providing advice and support.’

Centres in Fareham are run by 4Children and Portsmouth City Council runs its own.

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