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Burnt-out social workers rising sick days

By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Burnt-out social workers rising sick days

EXHAUSTED social workers are taking more sick days in Dumfries and Galloway than ever before due to the stresses of their job.

Increased workloads and a shortage of staff is leading to “significant stress”, according to social work chiefs.

A new report has shown that the number of social work employee sickness absences has shot up to 14.59 days per year – more than 60 percent higher than the target of just nine days.

These alarming figures are laid bare in an end of year assessment report for April 2023-March 2024, which will be tabled at Dumfries and Galloway Council’s social work committee next week.

In the report, social work director Stephen Morgan states: “The health and wellbeing of our staff remains important to our service, and we continue to provide those staff absent through sickness with continued access to occupational health, early intervention options, adjustments or modifications and support to ensure they can take positive steps back into the workplace.

“The social work governance group consider absenteeism on a regular basis and monitor long term absence as appropriate through relevant management support.

“Social work services continue to promote the relevant vaccination programmes across all front-line and vulnerable staff groups.

“It is important that we recognise the significant stress staff are experiencing as a consequence of the significant increased demand for social work services.

“We have an ongoing recruitment and retention challenge, which is having a negative impact on those staff who are already exhausted following the requirements of the last 19 months.”

Sickness absence is described as being of “significant costs to councils” and the report states that the local authority should be trying to reduce the number of days lost through sickness absence over time.

However, this appears to be an impossible task for a social work department on its knees.

Earlier this year, Mr Morgan warned that vulnerable children and families will suffer if social work services in Dumfries and Galloway are not radically redesigned.

He explained that the region’s social work services are buckling under immense demand, pressures, and lack of finances.

Staff are “exhausted” and hundreds of families needing additional support could see their situation “deteriorate instead of improving” if significant changes are not made.

This staff sickness report underlines his argument.

Councillors will discuss the matter at the social work committee, which takes place next Thursday morning in the council headquarters in English Street, Dumfries.

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