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Staff axed at boxing star's former care base

PUBLISHED: 17:19 05 August 2009 | UPDATED: 15:39 16 August 2010

FORMER RESIDENT: Chris Eubank

FORMER RESIDENT: Chris Eubank

STAFF at London s only secure children s home, which once helped turn around the life of boxing legend Chris Eubank, carried out a sit-in protest after they were fired with no redundancy pay. Some 73 workers at Orchard Lodge in Anerley, near Crystal Pala

SHOCK REDUNDANCIES: The angry staff at Orchard Lodge. Picture by On Demand Media

STAFF at London's only secure children's home, which once helped turn around the life of boxing legend Chris Eubank, carried out a sit-in protest after they were fired with no redundancy pay.

Some 73 workers at Orchard Lodge in Anerley, near Crystal Palace, lost their jobs when it was closed without warning last Friday with the last remaining young offender being relocated within half an hour's notice.

Union representatives have described the move as a "slap in the face" for the staff who occupied the building until 10.30pm.

One worker, who didn't want to be named, said that staff decided to protest because none of them were given written confirmation of their redundancy leaving them with no legal rights.

The 46-year-old from Bromley, who has worked at the unit for 16 years, said: "If we left we would have no opportunity to get official letters outlining our dismissal. They tried to fob us off with an A4 bit of paper but it was not signed by any member of Glen Care Group and we would not accept it.

"We had every right to request what we were asking for. We eventually got a letter, after some pressing from our union but they still insisted in phoning the police to check that we hadn't taken anything from the building. We were treated worse than any of the offenders and criminals that we have worked with. We had to open our bags to prove that we hadn't taken anything with us. To be treated like that was completely undignified."

The secure unit has provided education and rehabilitation for vulnerable boys, aged 12 to 16, in London for more than 20 years. In the 1980s, a young Chris Eubank spent several weeks at the unit when he was in the care of Social Services.. Turn to page 2

Later, one of Damilola Taylor's killers Ricky Preddie also stayed at the unit.

The centre is a lower security level than Youth Training Centres, such as Feltham, and has been known to increase the reading age of inmates within six weeks as well as help them pass GCSEs and go into further education.

A spokesman for UNISON said: "These are dedicated members of staff who look after vulnerable children while providing an important service to the public.

"Despite this effort the employer has rewarded them with a slap in the face. Glen Care has shown complete disregard in their shabby treatment of members and the one remaining boy in the unit who was bundled out of the centre within half an hour of the announcement of the closure."

However, since Glen Care Group took over the facility in 2006, mental health provision has been reduced and it was described as 'unsatisfactory' by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) after its most recent assessment.

Later the YJB put the future of the William Booth Road unit in jeopardy when it announced that it will not renew its contract with the 24-bed unit, as reported in the Times in March.

Following the decision, Glen Care Group issued Judicial Review proceedings against YJB but the number of offenders at the unit were gradually transferred to other units in Hampshire and Medway.

UNISON claims that despite a series of emails and communications, Glen Care Group have refused to have a meaningful consultation with unions or staff about future arrangements.

Last Friday (31) the final inmate at Orchard Lodge was given half an hour to pack his bags before being relocated and staff were told that they were all to be dismissed at 5pm.

Managers claimed that the unit had gone into administration without the YJB contract and staff would have to seek statutory payment through the government's insolvency scheme.

Despite repeated requests, a spokesman for Orchard Lodge was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

A spokesman for the YJB said that legal procedures are still pending and that there would be no further comment.

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