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Issue:- 12 May 2011


CABLE thieves are ruining the lives of thousands of passengers in Manchester and Merseyside and cost the railway industry nearly £640,000 in compensation costs alone last year as they targeted the railway for metal to sell as scrap.

Criminals are targeting the cables which control vital rail infrastructure such as signals and points, causing delays to tens of thousands of trains and millions of people.

Figures released by Network Rail has reveal a £43m cost to this crime-spree over the past three years, resulting in over 16,000 hours of delay. Over the same period in Manchester and Merseyside, Network Rail paid over £2m in compensation alone and services were delayed a total of over 1,890 hours (or 78 days).

Jo Kaye, route director at Network Rail, said:- “These criminal acts have to stop. Every day passengers and essential freight deliveries upon which our economy relies are being delayed by thieves looking to make a quick buck at our expense. I cannot over-emphasise just how serious these crimes are. Cable thieves deny passengers the service they rightly expect and, through the massive cost to the industry, deny everyone improvements to rail services. We are doing everything we can to protect the railway and will continue to work closely with British Transport Police and other rail partners to do everything in our power to deter thieves and bring those who attack our network to justice.”

Nationally, in 2010/11:-

► £16.5m was lost through cable theft

► Nearly 1,000 individual attacks on essential rail systems - a 52% jump on the previous year

► Passenger services delayed by more than 6,000 hours

► BTP recorded 3,000 crimes

► BTP made more than 900 arrests

Detective Inspector Andrea Rainey of British Transport Police, said:- "The railways have seen significant delays and cancellations as a result of thieves cutting and stealing signalling and power cables from the side of the track. But we are working to tackle the issue and in the past few months have seen significant jail sentences handed down to cable thieves put before the courts. We are determined to send a clear message that such attacks on our critical infrastructure are unacceptable and the police and rail industry are working together to tackle the problem."

Methods used to deter and catch the thieves include:-

► Dedicated BTP task force, increased patrols, intelligence led policing. Priority second only to terrorism.

► Network Rail has recently funded extra, dedicated officers

► Partnership working with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

► National intelligence cell with members from BTP, Network Rail and soon external non-rail partners.

► Use of the Network Rail helicopter, CCTV, forensic marking, trembler alarms and other devices to protect the cable.

► Fast response teams to get trains on the move as quickly as possible.

► Introduction of new type of cable that is easier to identify and harder to steal.

► Use of approved scrap yards for disposals of used materials.

Gary Cooper, head of operations at the Association of Train Operating Companies, added:- “Train companies want to do all they possibly can to reduce the number of cancellations and delays caused by cable theft, which regularly leads to considerable disruption for many of their passengers. Operators and the industry as a whole are determined to crack down on the thieves, whose actions lead to extra work for staff and cost of millions of pounds, money which could otherwise be invested in improving services for passengers. The thieves are also putting themselves at risk of serious injury. Train companies are working closely with Network Rail and BTP to reduce and eventually eliminate this dangerous and disruptive crime, but tougher measures are needed to help tackle it."

Anyone with any information about cable theft should contact British Transport Police or Crimestoppers where they can report the crime anonymously and could receive up to £1,000 reward if their information leads to a conviction.

BTP can be contacted on:- 0800 40 50 40 and Crimestoppers on:- 0800 555 111.

Nationally figgers show:-

► Nearly £43 million lost in just 3 years

► 52% jump in attacks in past year - averaging over 6 per day

► Millions of passengers affected and delayed by more than 16,000 hours over the past 3 years


UNISON, the UK’s largest union, has welcomed Professor Eileen Munro’s review of social work, and its focus on tackling bureaucracy to help social workers to get out from behind their desks and into their communities.

But the union warned that the avalanche of cuts hitting councils – including to early help services and admin support in social work departments - will set back the cause of giving social workers more time to focus on children and families.

Helga Pile, UNISON national officer for social work, said:- “Tackling bureaucracy is key to boosting social work. But the avalanche of cuts hitting councils means that children’s services are haemorrhaging staff. Many are making cuts of up to 25% to the admin workers who provide vital support to social workers. Reports are already emerging of social workers spending hours filing, data inputting, organising meetings and booking taxis for contact visits – all because their admin support has been taken away. This is a crazy situation. Professor Munro rightly stresses the importance of early help services, but sadly this comes too late for the hundreds of children’s centres and early help projects that are already closing this year, and for those facing the chop when the second year of cuts hits councils.”

UNISON reiterated its call for the government to put its weight behind the union’s social work contract. This 10 point plan sets out the minimum conditions needed for social workers to practise safely and effectively.

SOS - the contract social workers need...

In order to practice safely, and effectively, social workers should have a new contract with the government and with employers, that gives them:-

1. The right to a manageable workload with a reasonable number and mix of cases. In high risk areas such as child protection, mental health and older people's teams, we believe the Government should publish a recognised benchmark that practitioners can use to raise the alarm when caseloads are becoming too high.

2. The right to have time off or get paid to compensate when excess hours are worked.

3. The right to raise professional concerns when workloads become unmanageable to the highest level of their organisation, for example to an elected member, board member or trustee.

4. The right to a minimum of monthly professional supervision from a qualified social worker of at least one and a half hours and more frequently for newly qualified social workers.

5. The right to 10% of working time to be available for continuing professional development and related activities like reflective practice, mentoring colleagues, supporting students and peer support.

6. The right to a functioning IT system and adequate administrative support so that social workers can use their time on activity that requires their expertise.

7. The right to safe working practices, which address the high risks social workers are exposed to from lone working, threats and attacks.

8. The right for support to deal with stress and traumatic cases.

9. The right to management training and realistic limits on the numbers of social workers any one manager is expected to supervise.

10. The right to a clear definition of respective roles between assistant practitioners and qualified social workers so that there is clarity about who is responsible for cases.


NEARLY half of all school support staff in the UK have been the victim, or witnessed a colleague become the victim, of false allegations, according to a new UNISON survey.

The UK’s largest union has written to English Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP, demanding that school support staff are included in government proposals to grant teachers anonymity from allegations by pupils, or their families.

The union is concerned at the huge damage caused to the careers and health of support staff. In only 2% of cases were the allegations found to have serious substance and ended in the staff member being dismissed, or pressured into leaving.

Jon Richards, UNISON’s Senior National Officer for Education, said:- “It is unfair for teachers to be protected from the public firing line, while school support staff are open to being named and shamed for a huge number of false allegations. This leaves support staff with enormous stress hanging over their heads. School support staff should be protected from malicious allegations and the situation dealt with fairly and properly – to protect both the pupil and member of staff. The Government should not make one rule for one staff member and one for another.”

Do our readers agree with UNISON?  Email our newsroom with your views on this report today!

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