ABSENCE levels among police officers in Barnsley soared to more than ten per cent early last year, it has emerged, though the amount of time off work has been halved since then due to a combination of measures, including ‘robust management’.

That has put the Barnsley policing district among the lowest in the force area for sickness absence, with a level of 5.3 per cent in March this year.

District Commander Chief Supt Scott Green said that when absence rates hit 10.5 per cent in January last year, it meant the town’s police had the highest sickness levels in the county.

Managing absence levels was a ‘continuing process’ he said, but measures have been taken to help improve conditions for officers and that has been credited with contributing towards the lower absence levels now seen.

The town was the first in the force to set up a ‘Well Together Board’, made up of staff and officers from all ranks and areas of the organisation.

It is intended as a forum where staff can hold senior managers to account for performance against specific objectives, but also to act as a forum for consultation.

A survey was conducted in December on the back of the work done through the board and the results it produced are being used to help influence further decisions.

Barnsley police station’s gym has been refurbished, with staff encouraged to use it, as one of the measures to improve conditions.

Sergeants, who have detailed work to complete, have also been given more space to help improve their working conditions.

Soon, four of ten of Barnsley’s front line police will be student officers, due to changes in the force, with some staff leaving and recruits feeding through the training process.

“That is fantastic, because they will be enthusiastic,” said Chief Supt Green. “There are opportunities to develop all of them and we take that very seriously.”