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Coronavirus / Mental health and substance misuse referrals rise as lockdown eases

AN INCREASE in referrals to mental health and substance misuse services is being experienced in Shetland following lockdown, according to the council’s interim chief social work officer.

In a report to members of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee on Monday, Denise Morgan also said that “we expect to see an increase in support for females who have experienced domestic violence”.

She said the “greatest challenge” for services as things move into the recovery stage is the “unknown impact” of Covid-19 on individuals and families.

“The impact on local businesses and the economy will have a significant effect on people’s lifestyles and life choices and this in itself can have negative consequences,” Morgan added.

“Carers have managed remarkably well supporting their family members during lockdown but we are already seeing an increase in crisis care being requested as resilience wanes, particularly in those families who rely on day services and respite care.

“As redeployed staff return to their normal workplaces, there will be challenges within some services to meet any increases in demand for services and managers are already making preparations for this.”

The majority of social work and social care services in Shetland carried on during the lockdown, with office based staff working from home.

In line with government guidance, day care and respite services were closed.

Morgan said that “services worked with individuals and families to ensure bespoke packages of care were put in place for those individuals with critical need”.

In her report for 2019/20 she acknowledged that care staff were on the front line from the outset of the pandemic.

“Their ability to deliver safe care during this time whilst managing the anxiety of service users and families, including their own, must be commended,” Morgan said.

The interim chief social work officer, however, did note that some staff have become “increasingly tired” in recent months.

“We were very fortunate to be able to fulfil our statutory obligations during this difficult time but we are cautious for the future as services start to reopen and the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown becomes more apparent,” she said.

“We are very conscious that staff are becoming increasingly tired and we are encouraging staff to use their annual leave and to access emotional support as required.

“Home working remains the norm for office based staff and although this has had its challenges, staff have quickly adapted to the situation.

“Poor internet connections remains an issue in some areas and finding a work life balance can be more difficulty with home working.”

Morgan also praised the number of people who volunteered during the lockdown period.

“This level of community resilience and support is something we hope to build on as we move forward,” she said.

“Partnership working across Shetland has been excellent and again the mixture of knowledge and skills from the different areas enabled us to deliver on projects within very short timescales, again this is something we aim to keep as we move forward.”