Mental health named top reason for social care staff absences

Research by the British Psychological Society and BASW found councils in England lost over 50,000 working days due to poor mental health amongst social care workers.

During 2021-22 figures, which were obtained from a freedom of information request sent to all English councils with social services responsibilities, found bad mental health and wellbeing accounted for 30% of sickness absence among adult and children’s social care staff.woman with red and blue photo effects

Within their research, the two organisations received usable responses from 114 councils, three-quarters of the total.

However from the responses that were able to be used, they found:

  • Adults’ and children’s services staff took 1,653,117 full-time equivalent (FTE) days of sickness absence during 2022-23
  • Mental health issues accounted for 406,796 of these days – 25% of the total
  • Stress, including work-related stress, accounted for a further 93,225 FTE days
  • Mental health and stress combined was the most common reason for sickness absence among adults’ and children’s services staff in 76 of the 98 councils who provided responses to this question

‘These shocking figures highlight the urgent need for action to address the wellbeing of our social care workforce. It’s crucial that the government not only acknowledge this issue but also takes proactive steps to support dedicated social care professionals,’ said a BASW England spokesperson. ‘To gain a clearer understanding of the reasons behind these absences, BASW urges for monthly reporting of staff absences to identify common themes.’

They added: ‘Feedback from BASW social workers consistently underscores the challenges faced by social care workers, including high caseloads, chronic stress, and insufficient resources.

‘The wellbeing of our social care workforce should be a top priority, and we can call upon healthcare leaders and policymakers to allocate the necessary resources and funding to address these issues and provide much-needed support to those who care for our most vulnerable in our society.’

Against this backdrop, the BPS criticised the government’s decision to end funding for NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs in March. The hubs were set up in February 2021 to provide health workers with fast access to free mental health support.

However, NHS England have provided £2.3m to fund the hubs in 2023-24, but the BPS have claimed their annual running costs should be around £40m and that 15 of the 42 hubs were pending closure or had shut altogether.

Image: Jurica Koletić

More on this topic:

Government warned against underfunding children’s mental health services


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