Three-quarters of social workers are “emotionally and mentally exhausted” after working through the pandemic, a snapshot survey by practitioner support charity the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust has found.
The poll of 211 practitioners found 70% of those surveyed had worried about their mental health during the course of the pandemic and 20% had taken time off due to stress and 24% had sought professional help for their mental health.
Among those social workers who described themselves as emotionally and mentally exhausted, 59% said they were “just about coping” and 17% said they were struggling to cope.
Covid has also directly affected social workers; of those surveyed some 9% had tested positive for Covid during the pandemic, while 16% had lost a relative due to the virus. Of the SWBT survey respondents, two-thirds were frontline workers, 22% operational managers and 8.5% senior managers.
The survey is the latest of a number of studies highlighting the pandemic’s negative impact on social workers’ wellbeing. A Community Care survey of almost 500 practitioners in November 2020 found that 69% had seen their mental health get worse over the previous twelve months.
Declining wellbeing and an increase in negative coping strategies were found by the Health and Social Care Workforce Wellbeing and Coping during COVID-19 study, in its second survey of health and social care practitioners between November 2020 and January 2021, answered by over 1,100 social workers across the UK.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) used the survey results to highlight the extension to Scotland of its Professional Support Service (PSS), which provides free telephone or video-based peer support to practitioners to help them with personal and professional challenges, and is already running in England.
In Scotland, the service is being funded by a Scottish Government workforce development grant and will thereby be open to all social workers. In England, the service is for BASW members only, and it has been funded by the association itself, with additional resources provided recently by the Covid Healthcare Support Appeal, a charity set up to support health and social care workers, and their families, through the pandemic.