Social Workers Buckling Under Stress Burden

One in five of the country’s 76,000 social workers has signed off work for 20 consecutive days or more in the past five years because of conditions such as stress or anxiety.

Research carried out by the Conservative party, using figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from local authorities across England, show that as many as 15,550 social workers took long-term sick leave. The rate is one of the highest for any profession and double that of teachers. Meanwhile, stress-related claims by social workers cost the taxpayer £13m last year.

‘This is a worrying indication that the government is failing British social workers and with them the most vulnerable members of our society,’ said Tim Loughton, shadow secretary for children. ‘Social workers are being forced to operate under enormous pressure. That pressure is damaging their health. We must do much more to protect social workers from work-induced illness. To many people, these men and women are the fourth emergency service.’

The Conservatives are calling for a Chief Social Worker to represent the profession. They also want a high-profile advertising campaign stressing the importance of social work as a career.

But the government claimed that many of the changes were already underway. ‘Social workers deserve our support and gratitude for their hard work,’ said Kevin Brennan, the Children’s Minister. ‘While their mistakes make headlines, their many successes go largely unreported.’