Social workers have revealed they are seeing an increase in violence in homes, as well as more parental and child drug and alcohol abuse and an increase in poverty.
Furthermore, they are reporting a growth in mental health issues, especially in young people. And they warn that some of the dangers are ‘hidden’ due to lockdown, with children not in school or using services as they normally would.
Over the last year there has been an overall increase in referrals to the region’s social work team and they are putting it all down to the impact of the pandemic.
Senior manager Heather Collington has laid out the stark situation in a report for the council’s social work committee, which meets next week.
It is further discussed in the department’s new business plan, which says: “Social Work has specific lead statutory responsibilities in respect of public protection duties, and these have remained our priority throughout this period whether in relation to children at risk, adults at risk, violence against women and girls or high-risk offenders.
“The operational pressures in respect of public protection have been significantly heightened during the pandemic as we have seen an increase in domestic violence and spikes in both activity in relation to child and adult protection referrals. The demand in relation to high-risk offenders has increased to an unprecedented level.”
It goes on: “During the pandemic, the service has placed the safety and welfare of people who use our services, their families, and our staff at the forefront of our planning and intervention.
“During the lockdown period we worked with an increasing number of families and vulnerable adults who previously would not have reached the statutory level of intervention but needed our support due to the impact of the pandemic. We are clear that if we did not offer intensive support and early intervention, the impact for these families and adults in the longer term may result in them requiring ongoing social work support.”
Dumfries and Galloway’s social work team remain under pressure and bosses say the pressures on them are “many and varied” and are expecting a “significant challenge” in the next 12 months. The plan adds: “It is expected that the impact of covid on our most vulnerable people will see a recovery period spanning years and not just the months where we move out of the current lockdown.”
Meanwhile, it is noted that staff have worked “flat out” since March 2020 and are exhausted from the constant and increased demand and expectation.