Number of school crossing patrols falls by 23% in Wales

lollipop patrols

There is almost one in four fewer school lollipop patrols in Wales than in recent years, figures have shown.

As of March 2016, the number of people employed by local authorities fell by 170 to less than 600 compared to three years earlier – a drop of 23%.

Many of the patrols have not been replaced by cash-strapped councils after crossing assistants retired.

And road safety charity Brake said patrols played a “key role” in keeping children safe.

However, there is no legal duty for local authorities in Wales to provide school crossing patrols and many councils have reviewed the use of crossings in a bid to address deficits over the years.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said financial pressures and recruitment issues were making it hard for councils to fill roles – with bad weather and “commonplace” abuse from drivers putting people off.

Figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show all but three of the 22 local authorities in Wales saw a reduction in the number of crossing patrol staff between 2013 and 2016.

Many crossings are being reassessed and then scrapped when staff retired.

Carmarthenshire saw the biggest cut in the number of crossing patrol staff – with 23 posts being lost in the county since 2013.

Road safety and traffic manager for the council, John McEvoy said: “A number of school crossing patrol sites have remained vacant for a long period of time due to difficulties with recruitment.”

In Neath Port Talbot 19 posts were lost, as the council tried to address a £17.3m deficit in 2014-15. Many schools, town and community councils, now fund patrols in the area.

Seven roles have gone in Newport and the council said it struggled to recruit suitable candidates, adding it was not unusual for a vacancy to fail to attract a single applicant.

Only Monmouthshire increased the number of patrols in the period, from five to eight in March 2016, while Powys employed no-one in the period.

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Assistant Road Safety Officer for Pembrokeshire Council Sally Jones said lollipop patrols were “good for the community”

In Pembrokeshire – where seven posts have been lost due to retirement and ill health – the council reviewed the use of school crossings across the county, carrying out surveys to check the use of patrols to help people cross the road.

The authority’s assistant road safety officer, Sally Jones, said the review had led to plans to cut services in the region being scrapped, and no roles were cut.

She said: “We haven’t actually got rid of any in Pembrokeshire, they have all just naturally gone.”

Eirlys Twigg – at Ysgol y Frenni, Pembrokeshire

Eirlys Twigg started helping children cross the road in 1987.

Almost 30 years later, the community champion is still guiding school children outside Ysgol y Frenni, Crymych.

Her role was under threat during the review, but she said after support from the community it was saved.

“You meet the parents, you meet the children, it’s something you do in the community: you are helping the community by doing this job,” she said.

“[Lollipop ladies] are very important for the safety of the children to cross to the school and even more important in the afternoon.”

Cath Charlton – at St Mark’s, in Merlin’s Bridge, Pembrokeshire

Cath Charlton has been helping children cross the road in Merlin’s Bridge for the last decade.

When she started, her 21-year-old son was at the school, she said helping the children and talking to them always made her day.

“When Merlin’s bridge is gridlocked and when the lanes are flooded it does get busy here, and it can be dangerous sometimes,” she said.

She believes if the crossing was to be scrapped children could get hurt.

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