Teachers turn to emergency handouts to cope with public spending squeeze

Supply staff are being hit hard, charity reveals, with grants going to pay for housing and food

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The Independent Online

Growing numbers of teachers are being forced to accept emergency cash handouts to help pay for food, accommodation and clothing.

Cash crises are particularly hitting stand-in supply teachers – many of whom do not receive any pay during the long summer holiday break – according to new figures released to The Independent.

Data from the Teacher Support Network, a charity set up to help teachers in hardship, shows that £120,000 in grants were awarded to struggling teachers in the academic year September 2012 to June 2013.

These included 77 awards to teachers who were unable to afford their own food or accommodation. Of the grants issued, 28 per cent were awarded to supply teachers.

In previous years the majority of the grants handed out by the charity went to help teachers buy whitegoods – washing machines or fridge freezers – for homes they had just moved into. Staff at the TSN say there has been a marked shift towards grants being given for essentials. Of £11,672 awarded to supply staff, 65 per cent went towards food, accommodation, utility bills and clothes.

Supply staff may have to wait for Criminal Records Bureau checks to be completed before they can start work in the new term. They may also have to meet the cost of CRB checks – £44 a time – themselves. One teacher told The Independent she had had to have nine separate CRB checks for the agencies she had signed on with.

A separate survey by TSN showed that 80 per cent of teachers were finding it harder to manage their finances in 2012-13 than in previous years as a result of three years of the public sector pay squeeze.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Local authorities and academy trusts have a duty of care to their employees. Supply teachers’ contracts are agreed directly with the employer. Average teacher pay has increased since May 2010 and currently stands at £34,200 a year.”

Case study

Rose, 49, lost her supply teaching contract at a middle school in June. She had just been going through a divorce and her former partner could not make any payments for the cost of the house.

She had a second string in her bow – special needs teaching – but this often meant travelling three hours a day.

She approached the TSN for help and was advised to declare herself bankrupt and was given a grant of £150 to help meet her costs. She is grateful to the TSN for its help and believes it was the best possible advice she could have received.

All is not yet plain sailing. She is still waiting for the results of her Criminal Records Bureau checks before she can start working in her new location. “I have had to have nine checks with different agencies since I started supply teaching,” she said. But she is in a better place than some others.