Exclusive: Around 20,000 social services staff on long-term sick in 2004

An estimated 20,000 local authority social services staff were
signed off work for a period of two months or more last year, an
exclusive poll by Community Care of English councils has
revealed, writes Lauren Revans.

The figure, extrapolated from responses from 100 of the 149
top-tier councils in England for 2004, has raised questions about
working conditions within councils and the success of the
government’s efforts to boost social care recruitment.

Public sector union Unison said high turnover rates and
long-term sick rates could be attributed to high levels of stress
caused by under-staffing. “This then leads to extra
responsibilities affecting the work-life balance of staff,” a
spokesperson said.

In January, the Department of Health launched the second phase
of its national drive to recruit more people into the social care
sector. It claims that its 2004 campaign generated over 80,000
inquiries – although it is unclear how this figure translated
into numbers embarking on jobs or courses.

Retention also remains a critical issue. Responses from 112
councils to Community Care’s poll reveal a 12.7 per cent
average turnover of local authority social services staff in

British Association of Social Workers director Ian Johnston said
he was not surprised by the figures. He called for improved working
conditions, including more opportunities for sabbaticals and time
off to care for relatives.

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