Anger as county staff course cancelled

SOCIAL care staff in Suffolk have been left devastated today after a four-year diploma course was cancelled just one week before it was due to start.Suffolk County Council has funded the course since 1998 and is believed to have cancelled it due to financial constraints.

SOCIAL care staff in Suffolk have been left devastated today after a four-year diploma course was cancelled just one week before it was due to start.

Suffolk County Council has funded the course since 1998 and is believed to have cancelled it due to financial constraints.

Paul Charlton, UNISON officer at Suffolk County Council, said “UNISON and the students are outraged and dismayed at this action.

“To have acted unilaterally in delivering such a crushing New Year blow to the individuals concerned, amounts to a straightforward abuse of the council's power. It is an example, from the students' point of view, of work place bullying.”

Sixteen social care staff were due to begin their four-year Diploma in Social Work (DipSW) on January 5 but on December 29, 2005 Graham Gatehouse, the council's director of Adult Care and Community Services, wrote to them stating that the course would not now go ahead.

The letter arrived on New Year's Eve.

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Steve Williams, UNISON's National Officer, said: “Social care workers who were looking forward to studying for this professional qualification have been told, at the last minute, they must put their plans on ice because of the council's financial crisis.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “Because of financial difficulties facing the Council in 2006/07 we have had to take urgent steps to review all our existing commitments. This meant a decision was taken to stop new students starting the 2006 BA (Hons) in Social Work programme this year. All prospective students and their managers have been told, and existing students are not affected by this decision.

“We appreciate that the timing was most unfortunate, and it is likely to be a big disappointment. We need to focus on maintaining services and front line posts as a council priority at the moment, although we hope to explore options for other courses in the future.”

The county council is still consulting on budget proposals.