Fatigue and burnout are the main reasons so many social services and care workers are off sick in Dumfries and Galloway, it has been revealed.
Staff absence rates are on the increase in the council’s social work department and are roughly 25% higher than set targets.
A report presented to councillors on Tuesday showed the department had an average employee sickness absence rate of 11.48 days in the year to April.
That is a slight increase compared to 11.13 days the previous year, and well off the target of just nine days per year.
However, the significant pressures the social work department has been under during the pandemic has been well documented, with many employees forced off sick through stress – and social workers even walking away from the profession.
At Tuesday’s social work committee, chief social work officer Lillian Cringles said: "Without a shadow of a doubt, the level of work-related stress has risen.
"We also, as with other services in the council, have an ageing workforce, particularly in our adult care services.
"It’s our in-house care and support at home service where we do have a significant challenge around an ageing workforce that’s very much a 'heavy lifting' job, if you like.
"So, quite a lot of staff have had physical injuries at work, which is linked to the role and their own physical and personal health challenges."
She added: "We have some high levels of longer-term illness.
"We’ve unfortunately got a number of staff who have had cancer diagnoses over the past couple of years. Those are longer-term illness we’re working to support through.
"But, generally, the increase has been with short-term absences, and much of that is around stress and fatigue.
"We’ve had information from GPs etc that our staff are suffering fairly high levels of fatigue and burnout.
"We’re looking at what supports are available to try and support them back at work."
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...