Mental health suffers at risk due to staff shortages
Figures have found that people with mental health issues are not receiving vital support due to a shortage of specialist social workers.
A report from the Scottish Social Services Council has found that there are now only 657 mental health officers practising in Scotland and an additional 30 full-time workers are needed to fill the shortfalls, reports Herald Scotland.
Colin McKay, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “We are disappointed but not surprised at these figures. The Commission has raised its concerns over declining numbers of mental health officers for some time, against a background of a significant rise in caseload. These specialist social workers play a key role in protecting the rights of people with mental ill health or learning disability. We urge the Scottish Government and local authorities to work together to ensure the MHO service is sufficiently resourced to fulfil the responsibilities placed on it in mental health and incapacity law.”
Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, Scotland’s leading mental health charity, added: “Mental health officers play a vital role in safeguarding the human rights of people detained under the Act, so it is crucial that this workforce is well-supported. The MHO workforce has been of serious concern for many years, but the current figures are extremely worrying in light of the additional duties placed on MHOs by the Mental Health Act 2015, with a workforce at an all-time low. SAMH calls for increased recruitment, funding and training for MHOs to help them to meet these duties and uphold the rights of extremely vulnerable individuals with mental health problems or adults with incapacity.”
Anna Fowlie, chief executive of SSSC, said: “It is interesting to see from the results of the survey how the profile of the MHO workforce is gradually changing with 56 trainees joining the MHO award courses run by three universities in Scotland and around 30 MHOs retiring last year. “Added to this the increase in the proportion of younger workers along with the decrease in the proportion of older workers, especially in women aged 60 and over, may indicate that the recent trend of an ageing MHO workforce is being reversed to some extent.”
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