Initiative to protect care worker’s mental health

LONDON: The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) helped to launch a multi-professional initiative to protect care workers from mental health issues triggered by work stresses.

Action for Care-worker Wellbeing (ACW) has brought together a group of UK caring professions in social work and the NHS to provide a forum for exploring solutions to the increasing cases of stress, burn-out and mental and physical illness within the sectors.

Launched on World Mental Health Day 2018 yesterday, the objectives of the group include leading public debate about how wellbeing issues affect professionals, identifying common problems faced within the care force and campaigning for supportive fitness to practice regulations.

BASW CEO Ruth Allen said at the launch of ACW in London that care workers needed greater support to provide the very best services in “the most austere of times”.

“We all know that the matter of workplace, wellbeing and good mental health is complex in any area of work. In health and care services, colleagues must maintain resilience while carrying out sometimes extreme emotional labour.

“A resilient, long-serving and well supported public sector is essential for a civil compassionate society and it’s extraordinary in a way that we need to restate this.”

Allen added that the health and social care workforce needed to “stand together for [its] own needs”.

“This forum will provide a unique context for the workforce to collate evidence, raise awareness, initiate and lead debates; and define the safety and professional standards relating to care workers well-being.”

Within the social care sector alone, there are concerns around high vacancy and turnover rates, caused by stress and burnout. Between 2016-17, National Audit Office (NAO) statistics estimated there was a 27.8% turnover of staff and a 6.6% vacancy rate within social care.

The NAO said this could “disrupt the continuity and quality of care” for service users and incur providers with regular recruitment and induction costs.”

Meanwhile a recent BASW supported study found high levels of stress, presenteeism and adverse working conditions in social work.

Despite increasing issues surround the wellbeing of social workers, there has been no coordinated central government policy to mitigate these issues. With the launch of ACW, BASW and other organisations, like the Royal College of Psychiatrists, hope the initiative will help employees feel safe in sharing their mental illness.