MORE than ten per cent of Barnsley Council workers claim they are suffering with poor mental health - prompting a pledge to give them more support.

Three investigations - compiled before the pandemic, two months after its start in May and in October 2020 - all yielded more than 2,000 responses.

Among the 10.7 per cent of respondents who described their mental health as ‘poor or very poor’, 70 per cent were women, and 46 per cent of the workforce described having symptoms of anxiety.

May’s survey - the first since Covid-19 struck - revealed high levels of satisfaction with subsequent work-from-home measures being introduced, but 21 per cent of staff who remained on the frontline recorded concerns of feeling unsafe due to the public-facing nature of their roles, a lack of social distancing and PPE.

In October, just 11 per cent of the council’s workforce were working from their usual venue such as an office or depot, but 71 per cent praised work-from-home guidance.

However, dissatisfaction levels among frontline staff increased to 24 per cent, again due to the virus’ spread.

As a result, council service bosses have put a raft of measures in place to combat concerns such as an employee assistance programme, mental health training, e-learning courses and counselling.

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A report, due to be discussed by a council scrutiny panel on Tuesday, said: “From each of the surveys the council developed and later updated an action plan to address the needs of the organisation.

“When asked about what they would do if they were to suffer from poor mental health symptoms, 63 per cent of respondents stated they would share this with someone outside of the workplace such as friends or family.

“A total of 25.3 per cent would share this with their manager, and 1.8 per cent would discuss it with human resources.

“In total, 34 per cent of respondents stated they would say nothing and carry on as usual, and this was predominately women.

“There was relatively low awareness of the availability of activities and information to support health and wellbeing among employees; 16.4 per cent reported that they were not aware of any at all.

“In total, 57 per cent were aware of wellbeing courses on our internal learning platform, 36 per cent were aware of mental health courses and 47.8 per cent knew about counselling.

“Covid-19 has been a big challenge for all services, but employees regularly demonstrate their resilience and the council has put in place effective support mechanisms and options for employees through this difficult time.

“A more recent focus on managing employee absence and facilitating an early return to work was helping to reduce the council’s sickness rate year-on-year.

“However, it is predicted that this is likely to rise, primarily due to the pandemic.

“The main reasons for absence are mental health-related, such as anxiety, depression and stress.”