Cruel cut for cancer victim

16th July 1999 at 01:00
A TEACHER from West Dunbartonshire forced into early retirement at the age of 55 through serious ill health has had to stop drawing sick pay a month earlier than expected - saving the council just pound;1,500.

Lisa Anderson has spent her entire career since 1973 as a drama teacher at Braidfield High in Clydebank, and has run summer schools, helped with community projects, mounted school productions and contributed her dramatic expertise to anti-drugs and anti-bullying initiatives. Her work was featured in The TES Scotland several years ago.

Mrs Anderson, who has facial cancer, is "extremely distressed at the shabby way I have been treated after 30 years' service".

Barbara Clark, assistant general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "The authority has shown a callous disregard for an employee with an impressive record of service."

A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council declined to comment on individual cases. But she said the authority had a duty to ensure staff leave as soon as possible once they are declared unfit for work.

When Mrs Anderson learnt of her condition, she followed the standard union advice to give the Scottish Office Pensions Agency (SOPA) three months' notice of her intention to retire. This should have left her on full pay for six months - from March 19 until September 20.

But West Dunbartonshire is insisting she gives up her pound;23,931 senior teacher post on August 17 when she will have to start relying on her pension.

She said: "This is not the way I would have chosen to retire. I still have a mortgage which has seven years to run, and my husband is waiting to go into hospital for a heart bypass operation."

Despite having undergone two operations, Mrs Anderson went back to school each time to work with her Higher pupils - "as a gesture of goodwill," she says pointedly.

Mrs Clark said the authority's insistence that staff who have to retire through ill health should leave as soon as possible is hardly the mark of a caring authority and is no more than a crude device to save money.

Mrs Anderson says she was not told of this policy. Mrs Clark said the approach by West Dunbartonshire contrasts sharply with that of other authorities, citing one council which extended the sick pay of a dying teacher.

West Dunbartonshire's education chairman is Danny McCafferty, the new leader of the education authorities in Scotland. But policies on retirement are set by the personnel rather than education department.

The council stated: "We take our responsibilities towards our employees seriously and always keep in contact with staff either individually or through their representatives. Once an employee is deemed unfit to work, we would be failing in our duty if we allowed employment to continue.

"Pension arrangements are automatically activated once an employee is declared medically unfit to work, in place of the allowance which is paid when a member of staff is unable to work due to illness.

"In the case of teachers, if they are on the school employment roll on the last day of term, their salary continues to be paid during the school holidays prior to their official retirement start date."

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