The Daily Express: Stressed-out police costing £1m a week

Monday, 7 July, 2008

A thousand police officers a day are calling in sick because of stress, anxiety or depression.

At least 70 have been signed off work for a year while absences are costing the taxpayer almost £1 million a week in total.

Millions of pounds are also being paid annually to keep hundreds of police on "gardening leave." Meanwhile £500million was spent on overtime last year.

Fifty per cent of cases are said to be triggered by tension at home because of relationship problems or money worries rather than work-related stress.

But critics blame the Government for piling extra pressure on officers and shattering their morale.

Shadow police minister David Ruffley said: "Under Labour our police have become demoralised. It is unsurprising given the burden of paperwork and red tape tying officers to their desks and keeping them off the beat.

"We need urgent action to slash bureaucracy and remove unnecessary targets so police can get on with the job of keeping the public safe." Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "There's something seriously wrong with the way the police are run.

"Officers increasingly find themselves chasing targets, filling in forms and jumping through Whitehall hoops.

"It's no wonder so many are demoralised, ill and stressed when they are stuck in a blizzard of paperwork instead of being on the streets catching criminals."

Stress-related sickness among the 141,000-plus police last year amounted to over two days off per officer at a cost of £162 a day.

In total 293,831 days were los, costing taxpayers £47.6million last year.

It meant an equivalent of 1,030 officers absent due to stress each day- the same as a small force such as Warwickshire staying away from work en masse.

Officers who have taken an entire year off include 10 at Strathclyde in Scotland, eight in the Met and four each in Sussex, Hampshire, Northumbria, North Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall.

Figures have shown that a further 8,200 officers are earning a full salary while working as little as one hour a day. The wage bill for officers on "restrictive or recuperative duties" has topped £240million a year.

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: "The numbers probably reflect the problem associated with modern policing.

"With the stresses that officers are facing and the targets culture, I am not surprised." Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show officers at Strathclyde fared the worst with 28,563 days lost to stress, followed by the Metropolitan Police (26,058) and Northern Ireland (22,057).

The Met with its eight officers off sick with stress all year spent £500,000 on 15 occupational health counsellors.

The Home Office said: "We are working hard to reduce sickness absence and we have provided police forces with £19million over four years to strengthen occupational health provision."