75% of Rotherham social workers ‘feeling bullied’ say Unison

A trade union has made claims of widespread bullying within the social services departments of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

Unison said 50% of its members in the departments responded to its “workplace stress and dignity at work” survey.

Of those, 75% said bullying was either a “serious” or “very serious” problem and 60% said they were being bullied or had been bullied in the past.

The council said the claims were disappointing and it valued its staff.

Unison said 33% of those who took part in the survey said they had had time off due to stress caused by their work and 25% said they were on medication for stress or depression caused by their work.

Andrew Freeman, Unison’s regional organiser, said staff in children’s services had complained about “dangerously” high case loads but the authority was addressing the problem.

He said: “We have had people disciplined for raising issues in Rotherham and that is serious. That for a trade union is probably our biggest concern.

“The main issue coming up is how management are managing those social workers, those front-line social workers in the field.

“Instead of treating the clients that they are seeing as human beings they are being treated as numbers and that can lead to bad decision-making so they feel pressurised just to turn the clients through a mill and that’s not what social work is all about.”

One social worker told BBC Look North’s Penny Bustin that staff were often in tears

Rotherham Borough Council said it would be “extremely disappointed” if the union’s claims were correct.

A spokeswoman said the results of Unison’s survey appeared to be “at odds” with an internal survey last year which showed “high satisfaction across the council”.

She said: “We appreciate that re-structuring within certain services has meant change for some people.

“But it is important we continue to improve to ensure we can deliver the best possible service to our residents.

“We do value our staff and want them to be happy in their work. If there are concerns about bullying or anything else, within the workplace, we have ensured there are a variety of ways, including confidential helplines, where concerns can be reported.

“We will not tolerate bullying and when evidence warrants it, we will take swift and appropriate action.”