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Social workers in Wales stretched to a point never seen before

Social workers are stretched and exhausted, children’s services leaders in Wales have warned.

President of ADSS Cymru Nicola Stubbins said the pressure to maintain the delivery of social work services is becoming more and more challenging and taking its toll on frontline workers.

“Social care staff are stretched now to a point I've never seen before and at this moment in time, stretched far more than any point during this entire pandemic,” said Ms Stubbins. “They are exhausted, but they keep going.”

Underlining the seriousness of the current pressure on social workers, Ms Stubbins praised the sector for its resourcefulness during the pandemic.

“The pressures of being able to maintain service delivery is becoming more and more challenging and with certain aspects we are only able to cover some critical services - that isn't anything that anybody ever came into this job to do, to have to choose between who you may or may not be able to help,” she added.

The NHS would “grind to a halt” without the social care workforce preventing hospital admissions and supporting people to leave hospitals safely, said Ms Stubbins.

In November, the Welsh government announced that social care workers in the independent sector are to be given greater support to protect their well-being during the pandemic.

The Welsh Government acknowledged that throughout the pandemic, social care workers have continued to provide vital care and support for people who have been among the most vulnerable. Many have been exposed to higher levels of stress, longer working hours and higher than usual number of deaths of the people they work with.

The emotional support, including one-to-one counselling with the same counsellor, aims to provide easy access to well-being support for care workers who have been affected by their experiences working in the pandemic.

Ms Stubbins is also the director of social services in Denbighshire and in May 2020, 15% of the local authority's social services workforce had been absent due to sickness, including Covid-19.

Ms Stubbins described a “constant anxiety” while waiting to hear about new cases or deaths - at first in care homes - but since Christmas she said there had been more cases in the community and children's homes.

“We are literally managing day-by-day because we don't know what tomorrow will bring. We're constantly firefighting. There's no time to stop, think and try and plan ahead and that's really, really difficult,” Ms Stubbins concluded.

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