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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Front
Staff are burnt out

FATIGUE and burnout are the main reasons so many social services and care workers are off sick in Dumfries and Galloway, it has been revealed.

Staff absence rates are on the increase in the council’s social work department and are roughly 25 percent higher than set targets.

A report was tabled at the council’s social work committee on Tuesday which showed that the social work department had an average employee sickness absence rate of 11.48 days in 2021/22.
This is an increase compared to 11.13 days the previous year, and well off the target of just nine days per year.
However, the significant pressures the social work department has been under during the pandemic has been well documented, with many employees forced off sick through stress – and social workers even walking away from the profession.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council co-leader Linda Dorward asked: “In terms of sickness absence, what’s the biggest cause – and is it mainly long term or short term?”
Chief social work officer Lillian Cringles said: “Without a shadow of a doubt, the level of work-related stress has risen.
“We also, as with other services in the council, have an ageing workforce, particularly in our adult care services.
“It’s our in-house care and support at home service where we do have a significant challenge around an ageing workforce that’s very much a ‘heavy lifting’ job if you like.
“So, quite a lot of staff have had physical injuries at work, which is linked to the role and their own physical and personal health challenges.”
She added: “But generally the increase has been with short-term absences, and much of that is around stress and fatigue.
“We’ve had information from GPs etc that our staff are suffering fairly high levels of fatigue and burnout.
“We’re looking at what supports are available to try and support them back at work.”
It was also highlighted that the social work department continues to have “real issues” with staff recruitment and retention due to the geographical location of Dumfries and Galloway. These job vacancies then increase the workload on the staff currently in place.
A national social work report titled ‘Setting The Bar’ also revealed how social workers are struggling with their heavy caseloads and that most generally walk away from the profession after just six years.

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