Thursday, 7 January 2010

Social Workers' stress epidemic feared

Chris Tansley is one of our region's reps on UNISON social care forum . Chris has been campaigning hard for a better and fairer deal for social workers. Here he writes about his concerns for the profession and the need for the recommendations of the recent Social Work Taskforce to be implemented.

I don’t know if this article in the Guardian on New Years day was spotted by members but it threw up some disturbing but well known issues to for our social worker members.

It came from Birmingham one of the UK’s biggest social work departments and said that social work staff are signed off sick for an average of 24.9 days a year – nearly three times the average for other staff. The head of the Department Colin Tucker said he was raising the issue to raise awareness in the public of the extreme pressures that social workers were under following the Baby Peter case.

Just one team in Aston was now dealing with a staggering 700 new referrals a month as outside agencies react to the aftermath of the Baby Peter case by referring any and every concern they have about vulnerable children in the community.

All this comes on top of social workers saying they face increased levels of hostility in the community because of the bad press stirred up by irresponsible parts of the gutter press like the Sun who launched a vicious campaign against social workers with no thought about how this would react in communities and the effects it would have on the already immensely difficult task social workers have in protecting vulnerable children.

UNISON has been in the forefront of saying to Government and Employers that the high caseloads, high vacancy levels and increased demands of an inflexible computer programme system of recording were having on the stress levels of our social worker members. It is precisely these high stress levels that have led to the sickness rates that Birmingham and other Authorities are experiencing.

Towards the end of 2009 the Government seemed to be listening. It fully accepted the task force (which UNISON was a part of) recommendations which largely mirrored UNISON's own set of proposals in our 10 point plan. But it needs to start doing a great deal more and urgently if we are going to restore social work as a profession that gets the respect it deserves and social workers get the support they desperately need to undertake what must be one of the most difficult and challenging jobs around.

If they don’t and the situation continues to be held at the low levels of esteem it reached in 2009 we will be looking at a profession in terminal decline and what that means for the most vulnerable in our society who so desperately need the skills of social workers doesn’t bear thinking about

Chris Tansley
Chair Unison National Social Care Forum

No comments:

Post a Comment