Stressed social worker wins £140,000 compensation

A council’s failure to listen forced a residential social worker to retire
from stress-relates illness

A former residential social worker with Worcestershire County Council who
was forced to retire after developing a stress-related illness through work has
won £140,000 compensation.

Thelma Conway had worked for the council for 20 years and was backed in her
legal action by Unison.

Conway began work as a residential social worker at a home for people with
learning difficulties in Redditch in July 1994 and subsequently blew the
whistle on bad management practices. Her manager resigned after an
investigation, after which there was an 18-month period with various acting
managers in charge.

In September 1996, Conway was put in sole charge of the home but received no
additional training and was working up to 80 hours a week. This led her to
become depressed.

Social services inspectors recommended the home needed a permanent
experienced manager, but the council failed to act.

Conway took 45 days off sick in the year before finally leaving for good
because of ill-health in February 1998 and retiring in December 1999.

The council admitted liability and her settlement was based on the injury
she suffered, claims for loss of earnings, loss of pension, medical treatment
and retraining costs.

Hugh Robertson, head of health and safety at Unison, said the Conway case
highlighted the need for employers to stop thinking of OH departments as a
peripheral part of their organisation. Appropriate OH intervention could have
nipped the case in the bud, he argued.

"An OH department needs to be linked to the ability to intervene in the
employers’ working practices."

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