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PSNI staff absence at 'all-time high' as report warns over budget management

Sick leave rate puts pressure on policing

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The rate of sick leave in the PSNI has almost doubled since 2010, a report warns today

The rate of sick leave in the PSNI has almost doubled since 2010, a report warns today

The rate of sick leave in the PSNI has almost doubled since 2010, a report warns today

The rate of sick leave in the PSNI has almost doubled since 2010, a report warns today.

Average working days lost due to sickness absence increased from eight days in 2010/11 to 14 days in 2018/19.

The number of officers on recuperative and adjusted duties has more than doubled over the same period, from 6% to 13%.

The figures are detailed in a report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office which examines the impact of reducing costs in the PSNI in recent years.

The PSNI's budget has fallen by more than £200m in real terms, while demand has increased and the nature of crime has changed significantly.

Today's report warns the PSNI's approach to managing short-term financial pressures had unintended consequences.

Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly, in his report, calls for a more strategic approach to reducing costs.

His report warns that high levels of sickness absence, rising levels of demand for policing and increasing concerns over officer wellbeing all present "significant risks to the future resilience of policing".

Mr Donnelly said: "Despite significant cuts, a reducing headcount and increasing demands, crime outcome rates and confidence in the PSNI have remained stable.

"However, the focus on short term cost reductions means that it has been storing up problems for the future.

"Staff absence is at an all-time high and there is a backlog of building maintenance which will need £27m to deal with.

"It is essential that PSNI manages its budget in a long term strategic way to address the issues that have been created as a result of top-slicing budgets over the last nine years."

To manage costs, the PSNI introduced a methodology called Priority Based Resourcing (PBR).

Today's report says PBR did not deliver the anticipated strategic change and the focus turned to reducing headcount.

The number of police officers fell by 7% and staff by 5%. The proportion of officers on long term sick leave in 2018/19 across the 43 forces in England and Wales was 1.9%. In Northern Ireland, the proportion was 3.6%.

Police Federation chair Mark Lindsay said: "Doing more with less comes at a heavy price. For many officers, excessive work patterns and long shifts with poorly structured leave and rest days played havoc with their lives and the lives of their families."

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton accepted the report's findings and recommendations.

He said: "Notwithstanding this critique, our most recent report on efficiency from HMICFRS (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services), achieved an overall 'Good' rating for the efficiency of the PSNI.

"We are not complacent. The need to drive further efficiencies remains and PSNI will actively seek to incorporate the recommendations in the report to ensure an improvement in our approach and that our next efficiency programme demonstrably delivers value for money."

Belfast Telegraph