Rise in sick absence at Cleveland Police rockets by 267 per cent in three years

Iain Spittal
Iain Spittal

SICKNESS absence for police officers suffering with mental issues and depression has risen by massive 267 per cent in three years - as staff jobs have been axed by 16 per cent.

Cleveland Police chiefs say there are many reasons why officers are off sick for mental health issues including personal circumstances which prevent them from carrying out their ordinary duties.

This is despite the 267 per cent rise, in the three years up to 2013, coming at a time when jobs are being axed in the force meaning increased work-loads for officers.

The figures show the force as being one of the worst-ranking in the country for the stress-related sickness absence.

And today force bosses admitted that they are working with union representatives to help reduce work-place stress.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Spittal said: “We don’t underestimate the impact of psychological illness and understand there are some very poorly people in the organisation who we will continue to provide support and advice to.

“These figures could be impacted by a number of longer term genuine sickness cases, where someone is absent for an increased number of days.

“There are also cases where people are absent due to issues in their personal lives which impact on their ability to fulfil their duties at work.”

He added: “We have recognised the importance of reducing levels of sickness by looking further into the reasons why officers may not feel they are able to attend work. “This includes responding accordingly to those who are not committed to attending work when fit and well to do so.

“Locally we are working with the Police Federation and our union, Unison, to understand how we can work together to better support all our employees and officers in delivering policing, thereby reducing work place stressors.”

Nationally there have been 250,000 sick days due to officers’ stress-related illnesses.

This is a 15 per cent increase over the three years up to 2013.

During a similar period – from 2009 – the number of police jobs were cut by 16,000.

The highest percentage rise in the numbers of sick days for mental illness in the three years was 267 per cent at Cleveland Police, whose force was cut 16 per cent.

Data revealed to an national newspaper under The Freedom of Information Act showed 12 forces had seen rises in stress-related sick days rise by more than 50 per cent.

Police Federation chairman Steve Williams said: “It is inevitable that the pressure to do more and more with fewer resources will impact on some officers’ health and mental wellbeing.

“All concerned should be aware of the strain officers are under after the loss of more than 16,000 officers from the police service since 2009.”