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Social workers burnt-out after pandemic pressures

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
Social workers burnt-out after pandemic pressures

SOCIAL workers who provided a lifeline service across Dumfries and Galloway at the height of the pandemic are now suffering in its aftermath.

A “significant number” of social work services staff are now off sick with work-related stress.

Others are burnt-out following two years of trying to support vulnerable kids, families and individuals across the region.

“They absolutely have worked above and beyond, and unfortunately for a number of them that is coming home now to roost in terms of a deterioration in their health,” said Lillian Cringles, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s social work chief.

The department was already facing a staff shortage crisis before the overwhelming pressure of the last 24 months.

In 2020/21 alone, it handled 81,010 calls – equivalent to 222 per day.

The effects on staff with limited resources was raised at the council’s social work committee last week.

Highlighting the high number of working days lost due to sickness,

Lillian Cringles said: “It really is a concern for us. It’s a concern in terms of our duty of care to staff.

“I have shared with members all the way through the response to the pandemic about the impact it was having no our staff and the huge demand that they were facing.

“We have got a significant number of staff who are currently off as a consequence of work-related stress.

“We are acutely aware that staff are suffering from exhaustion on some fronts.”

The social work chief explained that staff are given support via a national health and wellbeing hub, and a range of support services with the local authority, including the occupational health service.

“We are coming out of the response to Covid, but we are certainly not anywhere near recovery – and I am concerned moving forward,” said Lillian Cringles.

“We continue to have an issue around recruitment and retention.

“For the staff that are left, the burden falls upon them.

“We have got some worrying workloads at the moment. We do have an increased level of demand.

“I will continue to work towards getting extra support, and I am thankful for support being provided, particularly for children and families.

“These are national issues. We have staff absences across the council, but we know it’s the same for social work services across Scotland. There are quite a significant shortage of social workers.”


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