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SOCIAL WORKER WINS£140,000 STRESS DAMAGES

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Former Worcestershire CC residential social worker Thelma Conway has agreed to a settlement of£140,000 compensatio...
Former Worcestershire CC residential social worker Thelma Conway has agreed to a settlement of£140,000 compensation for a stress related illness that she developed through work. Unison took legal action on behalf of Mrs Conway, 56, who had worked for the council for 20 years. The council admitted liability and the settlement was based on the injury she suffered, together with claims for loss of earnings, loss of pension, further medical treatment and retraining costs.

Mrs Conway began work as a residential social worker at a home in Redditch in

July 1994 and became a whistleblower, when she uncovered bad management

practices at the home. As a result after an investigation the manager

resigned and Mrs Conway experienced a long period of instability, with various

acting managers in charge. In September 1996 Mrs Conway was told that she was in

sole charge. Having received no additional training, Mrs Conway complained

to her employers about problems at the home that were also highlighted by

outside inspectors, who recommended that the home needed a permanent more

experienced manager.

Mrs Conway said: 'It was the worst four years I've ever lived through. It could have been avoided if someone had simply listened. I kept telling everyone that I was

struggling and I felt that I was letting people down. Normally I am a very

confident bubbly person but stress destroyed a lot of things in my life. It

still upsets me when I think about what it's done to me and my family.

'Unison gave me a lot of help and support and I am very grateful to them. I

would advise anyone in a similar situation not to take it, but do

something.'

Mrs Conway's daughter, Karen Rhodes, commented: 'We lost our mum for over three years and she is only just coming back again now.'

Unison took the first ground-breaking stress case in 1994 for social worker

John Walker where the high court ruled that his stress was caused by his

employer leading to a nervous breakdown.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said:

'It is important that employers learn from these cases, and it is sad that

this is the fourth time that Unison has taken a successful stress claim

against Worcestershire CC. The financial costs involved in this case

are a drop in the ocean compared to the£5bn that stress costs employers

every year. And what is even harder to quantify is the human cost to

Thelma, her family and the many thousands of workers suffering from stress.

'Employers have a legal responsibility to protect the health of their

employees. I am pleased that we have been able to secure some compensation

for Thelma, which hopefully should make life a little easier, but the money

cannot make up for the fact that stress has put an end to a long and

dedicated career.'

Mrs Conway hopes that after further treatment and retraining she will be able to

return to hairdressing, a job she has not done since 1964.

* see LGCnetfor Worcestershire CC's comment today.

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