Stress falls among social workers as council declares Wakefield a 'great place to work'

Stress now accounts for a minority of long-term absences within Wakefield's children's services.
Stress now accounts for a minority of long-term absences within Wakefield's children's services.

Stress is no longer the overwhelming reason for long-term sickness among social workers in Wakefield.

Mental health problems now account for a minority of extended absences within the council department.

Stress was rising among social workers last year, but has fallen dramatically since.

Stress was rising among social workers last year, but has fallen dramatically since.

It marks a huge turnaround from this time last year, when stress-related absences were spiralling among social workers after Wakefield's children's services was rated inadequate by Ofsted.
Ofsted themselves had identified sickness and staff turnover as being high when they placed the service in special measures in July 2018.

But Vicky Schofield, the council's service director, said that the picture has changed considerably over the last 12 months.

Speaking at a children and young people scrutiny committee on Wednesday, she said: "The sickness figures we had last year around long term absences were very closely linked to stress related absence.

"That's reduced now. Stress is now in the minority of cases we're dealing with.

"It's very unusual now that we have very long term absences related to stress. It's mainly physical health problems.

"Our workforce tells us they feel better, and our figures reflect that."

The recruitment of new staff to the service, which was described as being slow last year, has now accelerated considerably.

Beate Wagner, the overall head of the department, said that more than 40 people had recently been hired by the service.

She said: "We've seen really good progress in terms of recruitment.

"We put a lot of effort towards that last year but it started to come to fruition in the spring of this year.

We've had a a very high quality of application, and that's a fantastic position to be in.

I think people are now hearing that it's a great place to work.

"I think from what people can see from our social media accounts that this is an authority that wants to go places, and people want to be part of that."

Local Democracy Reporting Service