Social welfare workers announced on Friday that they will go on a 24-hour strike on December 2 in protest over the results of an investigation into a teenager’s suicide which accused the social workers dealing with the case of criminal negligence.
The report, prepared by ombudswoman Maria Lottides and released on Wednesday, sparked outrage among social workers who viewed her conclusions as a direct attack on their entire department.
“After calling an extraordinary meeting of social welfare officers at the headquarters of public servants’ union Pasydy in Limassol on Thursday, we decided to announce that a 24-hour strike will take place on Monday,” spokesman Konstantinos Kambourakis said on Friday.
Welfare offices all over Cyprus will participate in the strike.
In her report Lottides said that the four social welfare officials who were dealing with the case of 15-year-old Stylianos who committed suicide in September showed ‘utter criminal negligence’ and bear disciplinary and possibly criminal responsibility.
Lottides’ report into whether state services had done their best to protect and support the 15-year-old boy who was experiencing psychological violence at home and who committed suicide last September, found that procedures had not been followed by four social workers who were involved in the case.
The four social workers were suspended on November 27 while a probe ordered by Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou is underway into the possibility of disciplinary offences mentioned in the ombudswoman’s report.
The 24-hour strike follows a one-hour work stoppage by social welfare officers on Thursday in support of their colleagues.
Head of the social workers’ branch of civil servants’ union Pasydy Iosif Michail said the four had been “victimised and, basically, have been blamed for boy’s death.”
The social welfare department said employees have a huge workload and should be handling far fewer cases.
“Our officials handle between 100 and 120 cases,” he said, adding that in other developed countries they are called to handle up to 20.
The report also found that first response police officers dealing with the case also violated police regulations.
Police spokesman Christos Andreou said on November 28 that the force would take all the necessary actions and that responsibilities would be attributed where it is deemed appropriate.
Stylianos was found dead by his father at the family farm in Nicosia district on September 5.
The family was reportedly experiencing abject poverty, psychological problems and domestic violence.
After his death, his two younger siblings were removed from their family home.
The ombudswoman also recommended that Stylianos’ father ought to be investigated for criminal offences for using psychological violence on the teen and his siblings and physical violence on the mother.