Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA)


  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 catering employment.

  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 each year.

    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 of Health.

    5.  Each Local Authority was to make returns to the Ministry of Education on the quantities of ingredients used.

  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  By 1980 the provision of school lunches was out of date, pupils wanted more modern foods and catering facilities.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 support.

    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:

    (i)  Location

      In the Shire counties in the rural areas.

      In an urban conurbation with high employment levels.

    (ii)  A majority of the jobs available are short houred and term time only.

    (iii)  The jobs tend to be in the middle of the day.

    (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 time.

  Theose whose response said that the jobs were unattractive to the unemployed gave the following reasons:

    (i)  insufficient hours.

    (ii)  no or very few full time posts.

    (iii)  Low rates of pay.

    (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 paid.

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.

      (a)  NJC

      (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 and conditions.

  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 training programmes.

  The areas of training that all operators provide are:


    Basic Food Hygiene Certificate

    Health and Safety

  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 Catering Service.

  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

April 2000



  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 training.

  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.


  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 developing skills.


  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 training period.

  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 kitchens.

  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
Knowsley MBC

  The main areas of expenditure were as follows:

    Project Manager


    Training Allowance (payment to trainees)

    Childcare Allowance

    Travel Expenses (trainees)

    Rent of Training Kitchens


    Trainees Fees To External Training Bodies

    Training Materials

    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.


October 1997

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.

January 1998

  Finalise domestic arrangements with trainees.

  Produce course literature.

  Finalise arrangements with training agencies.


  Commence Training.

  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 Days—23 February 1998 to 20 March 1998.

  Some sessions will be held in smaller groups of 20 in three different locations.

Introduction to KCS.

Introduction to NVQ's

Work Behaviour to include

      Starting Work




Introduction to School Catering Service—Practical and Theory

Introduction to Building Cleaning—Practical and Theory

Industry presentation from companies involved in Catering and Building Cleaning

Disability Awareness

Basic First Aid

COSHH Regulations

One to one counselling to discuss placements and problems that may occur.

Additional Training

  10 Days—23 March 1998 to 3 April 1998

  Some sessions will be held in smaller groups of 20 in different locations.

  Basic Food Hygiene

  Basic Health and Safety

  Portfolio Building for NVQ's

  Introduction to Equipment

Off Site Training—Session One

  8 Days—6-9 and 14-17 April 1998

  Basic Knife Skills—Catering

  Fruit and Veg Unit of NVQ

  General Catering Cleaning

  General Building Cleaning

Work Experience

  20 April—22 May 1998

  Work Experience on Site

  Assessment to commence for NVQ's (Catering and Cleaning)

Off Site Training—Session Two

  26—29 May 1998

  NVQ Portfolio Building


  Building Cleaning

Work experience

  1 June—22 July 1998

  Work Experience on Site

  Assessment for NVQ's to continue

  Stepping Out—Steps 1, 2 + 3 to be arranged

Off Site Training—Session Three

  23—31 July 1998

  Stepping Out—Step 4 to be arranged


  Building Cleaning

  Portfolio Building

  3 August—28 August—4 weeks holiday

Work Experience

  1 September—23 October 1998

  Work Experience

  Assessment for NVQ to continue

  Stepping Out—Steps 5, 6 + 7 to be arranged

Off Site Training

  26—30 October 1998

  Further Work on NVQ

  Any Additional Training and Portfolio Building

  December 1998—January 1999—Completion of NVQ

  In summary all trainees have received the following training:

    NVQ Level 1 in Catering and Cleaning

    First Aid Training

    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 make.

  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.

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