Memorandum from Local Authority Caterers
The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA)
was formed in 1990. It is the professional body representing 800
catering managers who provide catering services to all sectors
of Local Authorities. In addition a significant number of managers
are responsible for the cleaning provision within Local Authorities.
In excess of 100 Local Education Authorities
in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are represented
in the membership of LACA including DSO Managers, Private Sector
Providers, Client Officers and Dieticians.
Most importantly in excess of 87,000 staff are
employed in this industry.
As school lunches are by far the largest provision
provided by the members of LACA our evidence is based on school
The following information is given to assist
in clarifying how the present employment of staff has evolved.
School Meals were provided in some schools from
the early years of the twentieth century. They were provided in
a variety of ways to provide a nourishing meal, particularly to
pupils from poor families.
In 1944 the provision of school meals in all
state schools became a statutory law within the Education Act
of that time. The diet of the nation immediately after the Second
World War was poor, with continuing food rationing. The Government
was concerned and needed to introduce a well-balanced nutritional
meal for pupils at lunchtime.
The Act had 5 main measures that were to be
implemented by all Local Authorities.
1. All pupils attending a state school were
entitled to a school meal at lunchtime on every school day throughout
2. The meals were to be free to those pupils
whose parents were, (a) unemployed, (b) on low incomes.
3. Other pupils' parents were to pay. The
price was set by government and was the same across the country.
4. The school meal was to provide a third
of the daily nutritional requirements as laid down by the Department
5. Each Local Authority was to make returns
to the Ministry of Education on the quantities of ingredients
The 1944 Act continued until 1980.
By 1980 the provision of school lunches was
out of date, pupils wanted more modern foods and catering facilities.
The 1980 Education Act
This Act changed the role of the school catering
service and the responsibilities of the Local Authorities.
The changes from the 1944 Act were as follows:
1. No nutritional standards. The Local Education
Authority could serve what it liked.
2. The LEA was still compelled to provide
free meals to certain pupils.
(a) Whose parents were unemployed.
(b) Whose parents were receiving income
3. Each Authority could set the charges for
the paying pupils.
4. If an Authority wished to cease providing
a paid meals service it could do so.
The change in the law that LEA's were only compelled
to provide for free meal pupils resulted in a number ceasing to
provide a school meals service to all pupils in Primary Schools.
Examples: Dorset, Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Somerset.
Changes to charges for paying pupils
As at 31 March 1980 the national charge for
a school meal was 35p. Within a year the prices across England
ranged from 35p to £1. The average was 65p. The result of
this was a drop in meal numbers in a considerable number of LEA's.
It was at this time that a lot of LEA's reduced
their staffing but continued with national pay, terms and conditions.
The Local Government Act 1988
This Act introduced Compulsory Competitive Tendering
to both Local Authority catering and cleaning and required all
the provisions to go out to tender.
Until 1980 all staff were employed on National
Pay Terms and Conditions NJC or APTC. In the years between 1980
and the present, dramatic changes to the catering and cleaning
provisions have taken place, as a result pay rates, terms and
conditions have become varied between authorities.
This situation has come about particularly in
contracts won by the Private Sector. The existing staff have transferred
under the TUPE regulations whereas new staff are employed on the
company's own pay rates, terms and conditions.
A consultation has been carried out with the
members of the National Council of LACA. A questionnaire was sent
to them, asking key questions. A copy of the letter and the questionnaire
is attached to the LACA evidence.
Is there a difficulty in recruiting staff?
With the exception of one respondent all colleagues
identified that there are difficulties with recruitment.
There area number of reasons for this:
In the Shire counties in the rural areas.
In an urban conurbation with high employment
(ii) A majority of the jobs available are
short houred and term time only.
(iii) The jobs tend to be in the middle of
(iv) The rates of pay are at the lower end
of the market rates.
Are the jobs attractive to the unemployed?
The response to this question was even between
yes and no.
Those who said that the jobs are attractive
to the unemployed gave the following reasons:
(i) Most staff who join the school catering
service are mothers with school aged children.
(ii) Generally they are returning to work
when their children start full time school.
(iii) The jobs fit in with their children's
school day and also provide the benefit of not working during
the school holidays.
(iv) Those staff do not want to work full
Theose whose response said that the jobs were
unattractive to the unemployed gave the following reasons:
(ii) no or very few full time posts.
(iv) Most of the part time jobs are less
than 15 hours per week.
(v) Some unemployed people attend an interview
with no intention of taking the job. They come so that they can
continue to be able to claim benefits.
Is there a problem employing people on benefits?
Without doubt this has been so for many years
and continues to be a major problem.
The benefits system, to say the least is complex,
but as it will become evident later in this paper, most of the
jobs on offer would means that those interested in getting back
to work would lose their benefits. Some lose their jobseekers
allowance or unemployment benefit, others because they must work
at least 16 hours per week or they lose family income support.
Added to the problem of the hours are the school holidays where
in some Local Authorities and the Private Sector no retainer is
Are job seekers recruited?
A few colleagues have recruited job seekers,
but as stated previously the jobs on offer are not long enough
hours or sufficiently well paid to attract them.
Recruitment of the disabled
For the catering industry as a whole the employment
of the disabled is quite difficult to achieve. The main reason
being the dangerous environment of a kitchen, including machinery,
heat, hot liquids, chemicals and slippery floor areas.
Some colleagues have employed mainly those with
education learning difficulties and partly financed by other agencies.
All respondents identified a career structure
and opportunities for progression. Many of the staff who are employed
in middle and senior managers posts started as part time workers
in a school kitchen.
The responses to this have clearly illustrated
the possible reasons for recruitment difficulties.
Set out below is a guide to the percentage of
the make up of the jobs in the school catering service.
|Full Time||2 per cent
|More than 30 hours||9 per cent
|15 hours or more||41 per cent
|Less than 15 hours||48 per cent
In 2000 there are a huge range of pay rates, terms and conditions
in existence across the British Isles in this sector of employment.
Set out below are some examples:
(i) Full NJC pay rates, terms and conditions.
(ii) Locally determined pay rates, terms and conditions.
(iii) Private Sector pay rates, terms and conditions.
(iv) Two sets of pay rates, terms and conditions within
the same workforce.
(b) Local or Private Sector.
Our response showed about a 50/50 split between nationally
and locally agreed pay, terms and conditions. Some showed a mix
of both in the same Local Authority applicable to all staff, while
in some the long serving staff remain on the national ones whilst
the new staff are employed on less favourable local pay terms
Local terms can indicate no retainer or reduced retainer
pay, reduced hourly rates, less holiday days paid and only SSP
sickness benefit paid.
All respondents with the exception of one use the local job
centres for recruitment.
All use local shops, newspapers and school newsletters.
Some use national adverts, but mainly for management posts.
More than half use employment agencies.
It is reassuring that all colleagues carry out significant
The areas of training that all operators provide are:
Basic Food Hygiene Certificate
NVQ's are carried out either internally or externally in
over half the Local Authorities who responded.
Other "in House" training is given particularly
to school caterers and cashiers.
Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Knowsley Contract Services have carried out a very successful
programme of training for the unemployed as part of the Government's
Welfare to Work scheme.
Evidence is attached for the Sub-committee to see.
It is to be hoped that similar schemes could be set up in
other parts of the country where there is high unemployment.
The School Catering Service is a huge area of employment
with in the region of 85,000 staff.
There are difficulties in recruitment.
The majority of the jobs are below 15 hours or between 15
and 20 hours a week term time only.
The pay, terms and conditions vary within and across Local
Authorities and the private sector.
There are difficulties in employing job seekers, the unemployed
and those on benefits who need to work a minimum of 16 hours.
Without doubt there is a huge army of people willing to work
at present who find it impossible to do so without being financially
worse off than staying at home doing nothing.
There is a career structure and progression within the School
Training continues to be carried out at various levels. This
could be increased with additional grants and finance as has been
seen with the project in Knowsley Contract Services
The School Catering workforce is made up of at least 95 per
cent women. They are very hard working, dedicated and totally
committed to the pupils and staff for whom they provide this essential
service. Sadly in 2000 the school meal continues to be the only
hot meal for many children. More and more it is the only time
that many children eat at a table and learn social skills and
the joys of enjoying a meal together.
We urge the Parliamentary Sub-committee to recommend that
the Government find a way forward to enable those in receipt of
any benefit to retain sufficient part of their benefit and at
the same time be able to work. It must show a financial advantage
by working albeit part time.
LACA is delighted that the present Government is re-introducing
nutritional standards to school meals in the near future.
Local Authority Caterers Association
COMMUNITY INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR
The Key Aims of Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council attach
great importance to the need to instil into its residents a feeling
of belonging. They also stress the importance of education and
training as a means of promoting real achievement and improvements
in the quality of life in the Borough.
In March 1997 a report confirmed statistics regarding the
high long term unemployment levels and showed that significantly
higher proportions of these were young people and lone parents.
The report found that the cost and lack of childcare were
the most important reason why lone parents were reluctant to attend
The Hotel & Catering Skills Training Initiative was designed
to give long term unemployed residents skills which were in demand.
More importantly it sought to nurture and develop an appetite
within the participants to break out of the particular restraints
which held them back and to re-establish their own personal beliefs
and ambitions and their self esteem.
The training initiative recognised and successfully addressed
the important welfare issues which in many cases were obstacles
coming between long term unemployed people who wanted to work
and job opportunities.
Knowsley's Community Initiative recruited 56 long term unemployed
people and commenced a 48 week training and welfare package which
was targeted directly where research had shown there were skill
shortages and employment opportunities. It further guaranteed
the offer of meaningful employment to 80 per cent of the participants
which equated to 45 jobs.
HOTEL & CATERING SKILLS TRAINING
The project delivers a structured programme of Hotel and
Catering skills training, work experience and vocational guidance
and advice to Knowsley residents. It targets the long term unemployed,
young people and single parent who are disadvantaged due to the
length of time they have been unemployed.
In March 1997, a report identified a high proportion of youth
unemployment and households with single parent families. A survey
undertaken for the report found that care responsibilities were
the main reason 31 per cent of residents cited for their reluctance
to attend training. 21 per cent of people thought the cost and
lack of childcare were issues affecting their availability to
accept a job. A fifth of the residents stated that loss of benefits
is a significant factor in preventing them from accessing employment.
The Profile of Huyton in particular, which is at the geographical
centre of Knowsley, identified that over half the residents hold
no qualifications and that 34 per cent of them recognised that
their chances of employment would be improved with them. However,
12 per cent thought that they did not have the necessary entry
requirements to access training. It is a recognised fact that
chances of employment are improved by gaining qualifications and
The Hotel and Catering sector has been identified as being
one of the top ten growth areas in the Merseyside area during
the period 1995-2002, and estimates say that it will undergo a
projected growth of 2,800 jobs. This growth is due to the new
hotels and training centres being developed in the area, including
a new hotel being built for the Liverpool Football Club in the
north of the borough. Knowsley considers this to be an ideal situation
to tap into the projected new jobs market and recognised an opening
in the jobs market that its residents could access given the right
community project and training.
Knowsley Contract Services has also identified a continuous
demand for well trained staff to replace employees who leave.
It is felt that this is an important performance indicator which
will become increasingly relevant in demonstrating services to
the public which represent best value.
A survey has revealed that a greater percentage of residents
felt that they were good at hotel, catering and related skills
than any other skill area. Although 15 per cent of respondents
also had previous work experience in this area, only 4 per cent
had a qualification relating to these skills. Furthermore, where
experience had been gained before a long period of unemployment,
it may have become out-dated or inadequate for current requirements.
To provide 60 long term unemployed people with vocational
and life skills plus career development support over a 48 week
To give high quality NVQ training to levels 1, 2 and 3.
To place at least 80 per cent of the trainees in work.
To refurbish to school kitchens and use them as training
In order to achieve these objectives external funding was
needed. Therefore the European Social Fund (ESF), and Single Regeneration
Budget (SRB) were approached and bids made.
This was to come from four main sources, and totalled £312,000
for a full year. The breakdown is as follows:
|European Social Fund (ESF)||-
|Single Regeneration Budget (SRB)||-
|Private Sector||- ||£10,000
|Knowsley MBC||- ||£51,000
The main areas of expenditure were as follows:
Training Allowance (payment to trainees)
Travel Expenses (trainees)
Rent of Training Kitchens
Trainees Fees To External Training Bodies
Refurbishment of Two School Kitchens
The cost of providing 80 per cent of the sixty trainees with
meaningful, permanent employment (50 jobs), was calculated at
£6,221 per job. This, it is felt represents value for money
when compared to other Intermediate Labour Market (ILM) costs
which average £14,000 per job.
Identify funding requirements and sources
Prepare bid for funding.
Design training course in consultation with training partners
(North West Training Council, Employment Service, Knowsley Training
and Development Centre, Knowsley College, Merseyside Society for
the Deaf, Merseyside Blind Association, St John Ambulance.)
Recruit administration assistant to help training co-ordinator.
Advertise/Market the course to the community.
Interview and recruit trainees.
Finalise domestic arrangements with trainees.
Produce course literature.
Finalise arrangements with training agencies.
First year recruitment on to the training course was in three
phases. The first phase commenced on 23 February 1998 and a total
of 25 long term unemployed Knowsley residents signed up for the
programme. The second phase commenced on 4 May 1998 and comprised
17. The final phase started on 14 September 1998 with another
14, giving a total of 56 trainees to date.
The following training has been delivered.
20 Days23 February 1998 to 20 March 1998.
Some sessions will be held in smaller groups of 20 in three
Introduction to KCS.
Introduction to NVQ's
Work Behaviour to include
Introduction to School Catering ServicePractical and Theory
Introduction to Building CleaningPractical and Theory
Industry presentation from companies involved in Catering and
Basic First Aid
One to one counselling to discuss placements and problems that
10 Days23 March 1998 to 3 April 1998
Some sessions will be held in smaller groups of 20 in different
Basic Food Hygiene
Basic Health and Safety
Portfolio Building for NVQ's
Introduction to Equipment
Off Site TrainingSession One
8 Days6-9 and 14-17 April 1998
Basic Knife SkillsCatering
Fruit and Veg Unit of NVQ
General Catering Cleaning
General Building Cleaning
20 April22 May 1998
Work Experience on Site
Assessment to commence for NVQ's (Catering and Cleaning)
Off Site TrainingSession Two
2629 May 1998
NVQ Portfolio Building
1 June22 July 1998
Work Experience on Site
Assessment for NVQ's to continue
Stepping OutSteps 1, 2 + 3 to be arranged
Off Site TrainingSession Three
2331 July 1998
Stepping OutStep 4 to be arranged
3 August28 August4 weeks holiday
1 September23 October 1998
Assessment for NVQ to continue
Stepping OutSteps 5, 6 + 7 to be arranged
Off Site Training
2630 October 1998
Further Work on NVQ
Any Additional Training and Portfolio Building
December 1998January 1999Completion of NVQ
In summary all trainees have received the following training:
NVQ Level 1 in Catering and Cleaning
Basic Health and Safety Training (CIEH)
Basic Food Hygiene Training (CIEH)
Personnel Development Training (North West Training Council)
Customer Care Training (Knowsley College)
"Stepping Out" Personnel Development Programme
Furthermore, the induction programme offers a well rounded
approach to those who have been unemployed by also giving training
in assertiveness, communication, and a general understanding of
the "work ethos".
This has helped many of the participants who have been heard
to say "It's the first time I've been treated with respect
. . ." "I have been valued during this course . . ."
"I don't want to stay as a catering assistant or cleaner,
I want to be a manager . . .".
It is evident that the people involved will have a different
perspective on the world of work and the contribution they can
As each of the three 48 week training period ends, a minimum
of 80 per cent of the trainees will be employed in permanent positions
within catering and cleaning related DSO services. The posts will
combine the two disciplines, and offer meaningful hours of work.
When the three phases are complete a minimum of 45 previously
long term unemployed Knowsley residents will have jobs and possess
the skills and confidence to progress further.
Building on the success of the first three phases, a fourth
intake of trainees will take place in January 1999.
For the first time real job opportunities have been provided
to the community through targeted training in areas where it is
known there is demand and interest. Unlike other existing training
opportunities, The Hotel and Catering Skills Training Initiative
recognised the need to assist trainees in accessing training by
offering a complete training and support package which included
child care needs, travel costs and assistance throughout in dealing
with any problems which arose as well as personnel development
so that they could enter and stay in the world of work.