Mental health social work faces mounting staffing gap

Mental health social work in Scotland could be facing a crisis due to substantial cuts in the number of staff training to be mental health officers, amid rising levels of retirement.

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Mental health social work in Scotland could be facing a crisis due to substantial cuts in the number of staff training to be mental health officers, amid rising levels of retirement.

The number of trainee MHOs has tumbled from 105 in 2008 to 45 in 2011, while the number retiring each year has jumped from eight in 2009 to 22 this year, Scottish government figures published yesterday show.

As of 31 March 2011, 70% of the MHO workforce were aged 45 or older.

While the number of whole-time equivalent MHO posts rose from 668 to 687 from 2010-11, the number of councils reporting staff shortfalls rose from 12 to 15 and the number of unfilled posts increased from 9.6 to 12.3 during this time.

Other findings include:

● Just 0.7% of the workforce were from an ethnic minority as of 31 March 2011.

● 53% of MHOs were in specialist mental health teams.

Mental health officers are responsible for deciding whether people should be admitted to hospital under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, and also have responsibilities under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000.

They are social workers with at least two years’ experience who have completed further study in mental health.

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