- 2018 Community Service Group Conference
- 17 October 2017
In the Community & Voluntary Sector which includes care provision, charities, not for profit organisations and housing associations, it is becoming evident that the biggest issue in the workplace is poor mental health. Statistics now show that it causes many millions of working days to be lost every year. The mental health problems experienced by staff range from common symptoms like stress and anxiety right through to more serious and complex conditions like depression, bipolar disorder and OCD. The impact on employees in the community is immense, whereas many employers have now revised terms and conditions of employment resulting in many reducing company sick pay schemes to the extent of employees only receiving Statuary Sick Pay means that many employees struggle through everyday routines and tasks for fear of taking time off to treat the issues because of financial commitments and the loss of earnings when not in work.
Work/Life Balance is primarily affected by the low salaries and requirement to support the vulnerable individuals that have the services provided by the organisations. Many staff cannot survive on the basic salaries that organisations pay and the necessity in most cases is to work additional hours to provide a monthly take home pay that will support the families of support workers.
The role of a support worker for vulnerable adults is to ensure the quality of life is maintained and in some cases improved, this sounds like a job that would suit many but the reality is the opposite. Mental health problems as well as having a huge impact on individual employees, poor mental health has severe repercussions for employers – including increased staff turnover, sickness absence due to debilitating depression, burnout and exhaustion, decreased motivation and lost productivity.
Sadly too many employees refuse to admit that they are experiencing a mental health problem, the requirement to cover other staff sickness, in some cases bullying by colleagues and management, and the reduced number of staff to provide the support required on a day to day basis. There are support workers that will work through any issues they have, but a great majority will not and it is important that management are aware about spotting the signs that something might be wrong. Austerity has had an implication on our member’s personal and working life.
Organisations in the community need to ensure that steps are taken to reduce the risk of their workplaces being a contributor; they have a duty of care to recognise and respond to mental health as they would with physical illnesses. Openness in the workplace results in a good support network in order for employees with mental illness to continue to work and be supported through tough times by management ensuring the tools available are used with a level of empathy and understanding.
We call on the Community Service Group Executive to:
1. Conduct a review in the Community & Voluntary Sector including the Housing Associations so that the extent of the issue is revealed.
2. Look at the results and start a dialogue with senior management teams in Community & Voluntary Sector and Housing Association organisations.
3. Support Health and Safety representatives of UNISON in these organisations to highlight the issue then encourage a change in the attitude and deliverance by management to improve support and attempt to reduce the lost work time by staff.