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FRONT line social care workers have borne the brunt of dealing with Covid-19 in Blaenau Gwent councillors were told.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Corporate Overview Committee councillors discussed a report on council staff sickness absences across the organisation.

Head of organisational development, Andrea Prosser explained that the number of average days lost per employee had dropped in 2020/21 from previous years, even when taking coronavirus into consideration.

At the meeting Cllr Greg Paulsen drew the committee’s attention to “Provider Services” which had an average sickness absence rate of 39.25 days per employee.

This was 10 days more than the closest department, Adult Social Services, and well over three times more than the 11.67-day average for the whole council.

Cllr Paulsen asked what are “provider services?”

Ms Prosser explained they are front line social care staff who supported people living independently in the community and also staff at Cwrt Mytton care home in Abertillery and Augusta Park respite service in Ebbw Vale.

Cllr Stephen Thomas said: “An important point has been raised and also the massive pressures on health and social care as we stand now and given the events in (UK) Parliament.

“This is not just affecting Blaenau Gwent but the whole of the country.”
Blaenau Gwent’s director of social services, Damian McCann said: “We clearly would not want the rates to be so high.

“I’m not surprised to see an increase of sickness levels particularly with those provider services that have been delivering throughout for a period of prolonged intense pressure.

“We’ve also had to ask some staff to work in different environments and that’s created stress and anxiety for some.

“Staff have been under tremendous pressure and strain in terms of trying to keep people safe in the community and also keep their own families safe at home.”

Mr McCann told councillors that there is also national issue about recruiting social care staff.

Mr McCann said: “They have been dealing with the brunt of Covid-19 – this is not just a Blaenau Gwent but a UK issue.

“In addition, we have staff across the sector leaving to work in less stressful areas with less responsibility often for more money and we are struggling to recruit to fill those roles particularly in domiciliary and residential care.”

He added that his department were discussing how best to proceed from a “Gwent perspective” with NHS colleagues over the coming months.

Going back to the report, Ms Prosser told the committee that the figure of days lost on average per employee is 11.67 and if covid is taken out of the equation it drops to 9.98 days per employee.

This compares favourably to 2019/20 when the days lost was 13.91 days, and improvement of 2.24 days.

But figures for the first quarter of 2021/22 are showing a rise with 3.26 days absence compared with 2.41 days at the same point last year.

Ms Prosses said that delays for staff receiving treatment for illnesses could prove have a negative impact on the numbers in future.

The committee endorsed the ongoing work to bring the figures down.
The report will now go in front the Executive Team committee on September 22.

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