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Full study could find the reasons why so many Civil Service staff suffer mental health issues

letter of the day: sickness statistics

Once again the annual statistics for civil servants' sick leave show an annual rise (save for the Department of Justice, although it still holds the record for the average length of absence).

Right on cue, Nipsa's Bumper Graham is given plenty of airtime to rise up in defence and is allowed to make assumptions to underline his neverending crusade for more public sector staff as a panacea for our public service malaise.

Mr Graham states "over 3,000 Civil Service jobs having been lost due to redundancy …". This, of course, is not correct. The staff who left, and continue to leave, volunteer to do so, as our political class had not got the backbone to implement a redundancy scheme, preferring a Voluntary Exit Scheme and generous payments as the carrot to leave.

Now let us turn to issues of mental health. To accept the loss of 3,000 staff has caused pressures so great that those remaining have become stressed and depressed, assumes that all those 3,000 staff were needed in the first place. Hard to believe and takes no account of the myriad of other non-work issues which may cause mental health issues.

Mr Graham is right to look for the underlying causes of a 55% increase in mental health-related sick absence amongst the half of civil servants who took sick absence last year. It is a startling statistic, with no obvious answer.

Perhaps it's time a full study was commissioned to see where this great pressure is within our Civil Service, when it has been accepted by our political class as being both overstaffed and in need of systemic reform.

None of this is to be confused with the Assembly's voluntary exit scheme, which allows politicians to collapse the Government and retain full pay.

Former Civil Servant

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