Social workers 'forced to miss 30,000 days of work over mental health'

The highest absences were reported in Glasgow, with 8,539 days lost, followed by 3,387 in North Lanarkshire.

Scottish social workers forced to miss 30,000 days of work over mental ill health, figures reveal iStock

Scottish social workers were forced to miss more than 30,000 days of work because of mental health issues in the last year, figures have shown.

Data obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information (FOI) requests revealed that 30,649 days were lost across 27 local authorities in 2021/22 due to mental ill health.

The highest absences were reported in Glasgow, with 8,539 days lost, followed by 3,387 in North Lanarkshire.

The categorisation of mental health absences varies by council area, and includes illnesses like anxiety and depression, as well as work-related concerns.

Leader of the Lib Dems, Alex Cole-Hamilton, urged the Scottish Government to focus on improving pay and conditions within the health and social care sector.

Legislative plans for a National Care Service, which would hand responsibility of the sector to ministers, are being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament.

But Cole-Hamilton has said the Scottish Government should listen to concerns about the centralisation plans, which he said could exacerbate the issues experienced by social work staff.

He said: “These are shocking figures for just a single year. Social workers deal with some of the toughest cases imaginable and it is no wonder that it takes a toll on people’s mental health.

“The last thing these hardworking staff need is to be folded into a bill-pound bureaucracy answerable to ministers and insensitive to local demands.

“To make social work a profession of choice, the Scottish Government should be focused on improving pay, conditions and personal development opportunities, rather than making social work just one small part of a vast machine with ministers at the head.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose the SNP’s disastrous and expensive takeover of social work and care.”

Kevin Stewart, minister for social care, said: “I know social workers face significant challenges and we have taken steps to ensure they have the right support.

“The Scottish Government’s investment of £25m announced in the 2022/23 budget is additional funding to relieve the pressure on the adult social work sector.

“£22m of this funding, which will be recurring, will be used by local authorities to employ additional social workers or support staff to ease the pressure on the workforce.

“Our aim in delivering a National Care Service is to end the postcode lottery in care provision and reward and value the workforce to deliver the best possible service.

“The National Social Work Agency will be an important part of the National Care Service, providing support for the social work profession and considering the future needs of the workforce.”

The plans have been opposed by organisations in the sector and council leaders, with Cosla, the governing body of local authorities, calling the proposals a “distraction” from improvements needed urgently.

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