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‘Hardest year ever’

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
'Hardest year ever'

SOCIAL work staff have this week been praised for their emergency response during the “hardest year ever” in Dumfries and Galloway.

Despite extreme restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, it has been revealed that some social workers continued face-to-face contact with the most vulnerable people in the region.

This also resulted in hundreds of callouts at night to many crisis incidents at the most stressful times.
An annual service report was produced at the council’s social work committee on Tuesday, where it was heard that staff stepped up to the mark – but that there is still unmet need in the community.
Lillian Cringles, the council’s chief social work officer, said: “The period of time covered by this report, which was April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021 – was undoubtedly the hardest year ever in my time in social work, dealing with the real demands of the covid pandemic.
“However, I hope I’ve managed to reflect in this report some of the good news stories where our staff went above and beyond what you would have expected, and some of the positive feedback we’ve had from our service users and families.
“Despite the demand and response to Covid-19, our staff in adults and children’s justice continued throughout the whole pandemic to have face-to-face contact with our service users and most vulnerable members of society.
“And that included our social work out-of-hours service, being out in the middle of the night, being out seven days-a-week.
“Not knowing what they were going out to, what situation they were in, and whilst PPE was available, they didn’t know the situations they would be facing when they went into homes.
“This is always the case, but given it was in the middle of the pandemic, it was a heightened response that was required. They continued to put themselves frontline and have absolutely to be commended.”
Stranraer and the Rhins Councillor Tommy Sloan argued that the full picture of how families and individuals are struggling in the community should be made clearer.
He said: “I want to know the dirty truth about everything that’s wrong out there.
“What we haven’t got, not just what we’ve got.
“And there’s a hell of a lot we haven’t got.”
Lillian Cringles responded: “I agree with Councillor Sloan, we need to look at everything that’s out there.
“We’ve never hidden from the fact that we’ve got unmet need. I’ve been very clear about that.”
Dee and Glenkens Councillor Jane Maitland said: “This report is dealing with the first year of Covid, and there’s no doubt about it – you have laid out how staff stepped up with immense professionalism and they responded to the challenge.
“I sympathise with Councillor Sloan’s view that there’s always unmet need, I totally agree with that.
“But the question is not about merely throwing more resource – cash and staff – at a probem, but also in re-jigging services.
“That has been happening. There have been changes. For example, the single access point, which I think is a great innovation.”
Overall in 2020/21, the social work department handled 81,010 calls – which is equivalent to 222 per day. A total of 14,436 calls were received out of hours.


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