Children’s service says anxiety increased in staff during coronavirus

ANXIETIES have increased in care workers as rising referrals escalate during lockdown, councillors were told.

At a virtual education and children’s service scrutiny meeting on July 16 (Thursday), councillors heard the increase in demand Slough Children’s Trust Service (SCTS) – which is an independent organisation but funded by the council and government – has been receiving since lockdown as well as the impact of Covid-19 on the trust’s staff.

Referrals from April-June 2020 went significantly up compared to last year where it was reported there was a 325 per cent increase of referrals involving domestic abuse this year and a 265 per cent rise in referrals involving mental health compared to last year.

In April, 77 cases of domestic abuse were referred to the Trust compared to only five referrals last May.

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The chief executive of SCTS, Lisa Humphreys, said: “These percentages are indicative of changes in the numbers of referrals.

“What this is saying is for Slough the overall numbers compared to a county council are small and you can get a bit of a swing.

“What it is indicating is that things are on the increase and when they are on the increase they’re more severe and we’re also getting a feature through of families that were never known to us for domestic abuse are suddenly reaching threshold of a level of severity.”

She added the Trust was already seeing a much higher level of demand than last year before lockdown was announced and as it eases, SCTS is seeing levels of demand pre-coronavirus.

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Despite this rise, councillors were told the Trust continued to operate during the pandemic as staff who were not shielding, or self-isolating came into the office on a minimum rota basis to respond to calls.

Thirty-eight members of staff were shielding since lockdown was announced and 50 workers reported symptoms – which resulted in 157 working days lost, the report states.

Over 2,300 visits were made to children and families by care workers – who wore personal protective equipment (PPE) – and nearly 500 ‘virtual visits’ were made from March 23 to the end of June.

However, Carol Douch, assistant director improvement and frontline practise, said some SCTS anxieties have increased since lockdown due to not having immediate support from colleagues and managers when dealing with a distressing case.

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She said: “We’ve had this balance between keeping our staff safe by not allowing them in the office – but having the expectations to continue visit children and families.

“That’s increased anxiety for some of those staff. They’ve been going out sometimes in full PPE – but a number of them have had to return home having perhaps seen and been part of a distressing situation for a child and the impact of not going to an office and not getting immediate support from peers and managers is one what we’re starting to see and that’s had a huge impact on some of the staff.

“We’re starting to see nationally a number of social workers finding the impact so significant that they resign from their roles.

“We got to be there to anticipate and mitigate the additional impacts on our staff.”

She added the Trust cannot predict the long-term impact Covid-19 will have on vulnerable or at risk children who have been exposed to mental health issues such as domestic abuse due to lockdown.

Royal Borough Observer | News WIndsor