September 18th, 2017

More evidence of burnout amongst front-line workers

Short-term illness up by 60 per cent among DCS social workers

HALIFAX –New data obtained by the NDP Caucus through a Freedom of Information Request shows that burnout, in the form of short-term illness, among provincial social workers in the Department of Community Services has increased 60 per cent since 2013.

“High levels of poverty in our province have led to larger and more complex caseloads for social workers who are on the front-lines of supporting children, youth and families,” said Susan Leblanc, NDP Community Services spokesperson. “A significant increase in short-term illness and burnout among front-line workers in any department is cause for alarm.”

The total number of child protection referrals has increased steadily over the past four years. In that period, the amount of lost time due to of short-term illness among social workers has increased by more than 9500 hours.

“When social workers are handling heavy caseloads and constantly putting out fires, our clients don’t receive the services they need,” said Alec Stratford, Executive Director/ Registrar of the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers. “Providing high-quality social work services means having a focus on a relational approach, embedded in empathy and solidarity with the client towards social justice. The research shows that the needs of children and their families get lost when social workers have large caseloads and high levels of stress.”

Recent changes to the Children and Family Services Act have shortened the timelines for court proceedings, increasing the time pressures on social workers, without increasing the number of frontline workers.

“The government is not dealing with the real issues. We need a plan to reduce and eliminate poverty in Nova Scotia. Instead, families in the system are suffering because the government is creating heavier case-loads and increasing stress for front-line workers,” said Leblanc.

Copies of the Freedom of Information request are available upon request.

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