COUNCIL bosses have insisted they are meeting demands for mental health services across West Dunbartonshire.

A new report on mental health officers (MHOs) in Scotland found more than 50 were needed across local authorities in the country to help residents.

But West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) said they were meeting the statutory timescales for offering support with their 15 filled posts.

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) last month reported on a national shortfall of MHOs, who are qualified social workers and have training in mental health issues and are employed by a local authority.

Despite the significant impacts on mental health reported from the pandemic, the number of MHOs in Scotland overall only increased by one in a year.

But MHOs’ workload increased during the same period, with the estimated number of working hours per 10,000 people rising to 21.25.

Dozens of staff left their MHO posts in a year, and the total shortfall in Scotland is estimated to be more than 50.

West Dunbartonshire has 15 filled MHO posts, with an average of 278 hours a week spent on mental health support.

That works out as 31.5 hours per head of 100,000 people, above the Scottish average and fifth highest in Scotland.

Of WDC’s 15 posts, nine are exclusively dealing with mental health and the other six have training but may deal with other needs.

Nearly all of West Dunbartonshire’s MHOs are employed within the council’s social work department, but only one in 10 of the local authority’s social workers are also MHOs - 14 out of 137.

According to the SSSC’s report, more than a third of MHOs in Scotland are aged 55 or over, highlighting a potential future need for new staff.

Overall, there is a shortfall of 81 posts reported in Scotland across a variety of groups, such as children and young people, residents with learning disabilities or adult mental health.

In 2016, the shortfall was 50 posts.

A spokesperson for West Dunbartonshire HSCP told the Reporter: “We currently have no MHO vacancies.

"We continue to monitor demand and ensure that we meet statutory timescales.

“Staff are encouraged to take on additional training as and when required.

“At present we are able to meet current demands within the MHO service.”