Mother takes SCP fight to the top

12.58 | 16 May 2011 | | 6 comments

A mother from Dorset has written to David Cameron urging the Government to intervene in the SCP (School Crossing Patrol) service cuts taking places across the country.

In Dorset, the cuts are among measures agreed by the conservative run council to help save £27m in 2011/12. Helen Toft, from Weymouth, has been campaigning against the SCP service cuts since they were announced.

Local Dorset MPs Annette Brooke and Richard Drax took up Ms Toft’s campaign and raised it with Norman Baker, under secretary of state for transport, at an adjournment debate in March. Despite Mr Baker labelling their argument ‘important’ and ‘persuasive’, he added that responsibility for funding lay with local authorities and there was nothing he could do.

At the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety the prime minister said he was “adding my voice to all those across the world who are coming together in support of the launch of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety”.

In her letter to David Cameron, Ms Toft said: “I presume that you agree with everything this world wide campaign is trying to achieve? Therefore, in order not to just pay lip service to promises of improving road safety in the UK, the Government must take back from local authorities the responsibility for keeping our children safe on their way to and from schools each day.

“You cannot be part of a global campaign for road safety and sit back and let these cuts take place and our own children’s lives be put in danger.”

Click here to read Helen Toft’s blog.


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    SCPs are not just about actual safety, they are about providing a civilised service that encourages short journeys on foot. Many parents would be forced into the car if the walking route takes a longer time or is perceived as less safe.

    Peter Whitfield, Manchester
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    If highway authorities have been doing their job properly for the past 10 years (and I’m not suggesting they haven’t!) then ALL current SCP sites in England and Wales are already at evidence-based locations. Site risk appraisals are required annually and where risk is to high, ‘other’ mitigation measures of the kind Mike refers to should, by now have been introduced. I’m wary of looking for casualty prevention based evidence, especially from countries that have a stronger safety culture when it comes to childrens safety – and also a wiser land-use planning strategy when it comes to locating schools. Even if SCP’s are removed, the potential for identifying impacts from accident records are limited.

    Martin Heath, Glasgow
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    The latest version of The Handbook of Road Safety Measures (Emerald 2009) lists one piece of Danish research (Kjaergaard & Lahrmann 1981). The book summarises thus: ‘[SCPs] can lead to fewer accidents involving pedestrians who cross the road, but the reduction is not statistically significant. The reduction … may be due to the reduction in car speeds. [The] Danish study concludes that [SCPs] reduce car speeds by 3Km/h compared with areas where [SCPs] do not operate.’ I know of at least one borough road safety manager who would love to remove most if not all the crossings in his area, though, as Rob says, it takes extreme circumstances (like the current slash-and-burn approach to road safety funding) and/or a lot of courage to do so. That person bases his desire on the safety performance of SCP sites where they have been unable to get a person to do the job, which incidentally has interesting ‘Big Society’ implications! If the Danish conclusions are correct, then in some places the safety of school children might be better served by other methods of reducing vehicle speeds – given that SCPs only operate around school start/finish times. It does not reflect well on our industry to jump on the bandwagon of this well-intentioned mother when we should be focusing our meagre resources on things that we know work.

    Mike Mounfield, Birmingham
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    As well as the much loved SCP services being cut and reduced so too are essential road safety education services. Some Local Authorities have already cut this service.

    Road safety teams throughout the country have worked towards the road casualty reduction targets set in 2000. The professionalism and commitment to deliver high quality programmes of education, training and publicity has helped to meet the targets. In London the number of children injured on the road reduced by 73% in the 10 year period.

    Surely it must remain a priority in the UK during the Decade of Action for Road Safety to sustain and improve the number of children injured on our roads. As well as your local SCP service find out what is happening to your road safety team too.

    Liz, London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Tony – I think you will struggle to get many responses to your question. As a manager of SCPs currently working on a proposal to withdraw funding for the SCP service, I have raised this very issue, how do we justify SCPs? Unless a Council withdraws all the SCPs at sites that meet national criteria for a period of time for the purposes of evaluation, there is never likley to be any evidence. However, I would say that SCPs are generally only approved at sites that meet national criteria, which is a measure of the level of risk at a given location in relation to crossing a road safely. If you remove this service, the level of risk has to increase. Of course, the responsibility for a child’s safe arrival at school is a parental one, so while you could argue that vulnerable children should be accompanied to school, in reality that is unlikely to be case. There is no evidence to justify SCPs – but who wants to take the risk to remove SCPs at sites that are justified in accordance with national guidance?

    Rob Camp
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    I’ve asked before but will ask again.

    As an “interested amateur” in road safety if an argument is to be made for SCPs (and given that the Secretary of State has commented that all RS work should be evidence based) could someone direct me to good quality,ideally recent, research showing that SCPs DO contribute to school children’s safety?

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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