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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Lollipop staff 'national shortage'
Fred Milstead
Fred Milstead is the Lollipop Person of the Year

Lollipop men and women are fast becoming an endangered species.

They might still appear regularly in the annual honours lists, but they are becoming a less frequent sight on the streets.

A national survey has found a deepening shortage of people applying to help children across the road - leaving crossing patrols understaffed by as much as 80%.

And this means many more children going to school are crossing roads without a lollipop person in attendance.

The survey, accompanying a national competition run to highlight the good work of lollipop people, has found a widespread shortage of crossing patrols.

Every local authority contacted in the survey reported shortages - with an average of 25% too few crossing staff.

Acute problem

But in parts of London, where the problem was most acute, there were areas which only had a fifth of the staff they need to cover the usual number of crossings.

The London Borough of Barnet can only provide crossing patrols for 40% of the roads that it would like to staff.

Theo Panayi, senior road safety officer for the London Borough of Barnet, says the council cannot find more staff.

"We're trying to recruit all year - but it is proving very difficult to find people," he said.

Verbal abuse

There are also suggestions that the shortage reflects a more selfish attitude towards public service.

Sandra Barton, school crossing patrol supervisor at Warwickshire County Council, says that parents expect to have a lollipop person - but will not do it themselves.

"Their attitude is 'let someone else do it'. And then when there is no one outside their school they ring up and verbally abuse the council."

She says that in response, the council now offers a cash bonus of 25 to anyone who can find a new lollipop person, who will stay for at least three months.

But this so far has failed to deliver enough new applicants.

Among the practical reasons for the downturn in applications, she says, is that it only involves working a couple of hours a day - and potential recruits are worried about deductions to their benefits.

Road rage

There are also concerns about the aggression of drivers, who might take out their frustration on the crossing patrol person holding up the traffic.

"There are some parents who would park in the classroom if you let them. They only think about getting their own children to school."

But she says that it would still be an ideal job for a parent who would already be taking a child to school - and that there was a great deal of job satisfaction.

And the council is still leafleting, putting up posters and trying to find parents willing to help.

The competition to find the Lollipop Person of the Year, run Domino's Pizza, has been won by Fred Milstead of Harlow.

The 1,000 cheque will be presented by the head teacher of St. Alban's Catholic Junior School in Harlow at a special assembly.

See also:

05 Apr 00 | Education
09 Jul 02 | Education
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