Donegal County Council - CASE STUDY

donegal co co

Who are they?

Donegal County Council provides an extensive range of services ranging from Planning Control to Social Housing. They are also responsible for the upkeep and improvement of Roads, Pollution Control, and the delivery of Fire Services, Library Services and Water Services to the people of County Donegal .

Over the last number of years the Council has opened offices in Public Service Centres throughout the county, achieving the Council’s objective of bringing services closer to their customers. An extensive range of services are now available from Public Service Centres in Carndonagh, Donegal Town, Dungloe, Letterkenny and Milford. Each of these five Public Service Centres includes a Citizens Information Centre.

Donegal completed an initial survey on paper, based on the HSA’s Work Positive Tool in November of 2007. Questionnaires were issued to 1,400 full-time and part time staff by mail.  This was staff intensive and time consuming, the response rate to the initial survey at 14%, was disappointing. However it did provide some usable feedback and set a baseline benchmark against which to measure future surveys.

Following the HSA’s open day on Work Positive, the Senior Management Team recognised that participating in this project would be beneficial in completing a more defined and focused risk assessment. The Council decided to participate in the HSA’s “Willing 100” Work Positive Project, a stress audit for organisations. The project ran from Sept 2008 to July 2009, under the stewardship of the Health and Safety Team.

No of employees       1400 staff

Business Sector          Local Government

Location                     Lifford, Co. Donegal, Ireland

What part of the organisation was chosen for this project?       

All staff within Corporate Services (approximately 100 staff) were invited to participate in the project.

What groups were the staff divided into? 

Corporate Services is made up of distinct sections. The organisation felt it would be helpful to know the different issues influencing stress within the different sections. Therefore the results were divided by section as follows.

Electoral AreasHuman ResourcesInformation ServicesCounty Secretariat

As different stressors might affect different sections the audit was designed so that managers could target specific interventions for each section.

 How did they set about carrying out the Risk Assessment (from now on referred to as Work Positive)?

Stage one: Stredia were appointed as consultants by the HSA to support and deliver the Work Positive project in Donegal County Council. A meeting was arranged with them and a safety team from Corporate Services. As a result of the meeting Corporate Services agreed to support the project. Working patterns for the department were discussed and the different work sections into which the results would be divided were agreed.

A further meeting with the consultants and the safety team was arranged to agree a plan to meet and inform all section managers and team leaders about Work Positive and to provide advice on how best to engage staff with the survey. At this meeting a project timeline was agreed for the period of March 09 to May 09 for the introduction meetings, the survey, reporting of results and focus group meetings. Potential actions and possible outcomes were discussed and explained. 

Local managers requested a final meeting with safety representatives and the HSA consultants to ensure they had all the knowledge and support they required to engage with their staff. This took the form of an open question and answer session. This extra support early in the project delayed the project plan but helped ensure a good return from the survey.

Posters and leaflets were then distributed to staff notice boards to publicise the project in advance of questionnaires being disseminated. An email invitation to complete an online survey, available through the Stredia web site, was then sent to all participating staff. Through the online system the consultants were able to update managers daily (if required) on the number of returns from each section enabling managers to keep abreast of the participation of their teams.

While some sections did not engage as well as others, overall response rates were good. Returns in the order of 90% were recorded for one section and even the lowest return of 28% marked a significant improvement on previous participation rates.

 This information helped inform senior managers of where to target further efforts, and to encourage participation in focus groups.

What happened next?

Stage two: The sections with the lowest returns were emailed reminders about the survey and asked to take the small amount of time to complete it. They were given an extra week to participate, another benefit of completing the survey online.  This delayed the project by a week but was considered to be worthwhile to ensure higher participation.

Analysis of the results was immediately available through the Stredia website. Reports were formally presented to managers in the Council within one week of the survey completion date.


Was that the entire project completed?

The project is in the final stage of completion. At the end of July 2009 the following had been completed

  • Initial Director level consultation,
  • Partnership Committee agreement,
  • Manager information sessions
  • Survey publicity poster & data gathering
  • Feedback and results presented to Corporate Services (incorporating information sessions on the context of the results).
  • Stress Awareness Training provided to all Corporate Services staff.

The first half of the training day was devoted to the awareness training with the second half of the day devoted to focus groups. The focus groups were facilitated by Stredia as independent specialist consultants.

The outputs of these focus group sessions have enabled managers to complete Risk Assessment/Control Measures Templates (see ‘Risk Assessment Template’ on this site) for their area of responsibility. These contain details of the interventions identified for each teams at micro (Team), macro (Department) and strategic (Council wide) level.


What next?

A final meeting between the Director of corporate services and the consultants has been arranged to discuss the findings and suggested interventions. Stredia will be facilitating this meeting as independent representatives. Each teams’ risk assessment will be reviewed with the intention of prioritising the macro interventions and recording them in an action plan (Risk Assessment Template) for corporate services.


The time invested with senior management proved to be essential even though it did sometimes delay the project. Senior mangers were thoroughly briefed and so able to give their full support to the project. Having understood all the beneficial outcomes they were able to encourage the managers reporting to them of the importance of the project to the council and to the department. The on-line survey facilitated the monitoring of the level of response and was highly efficient in terms of staff time taking only a few minutes to complete. The immediate results and quick feedback to managers and staff was very well received as it highlighted current issues. This allowed teams to take ownership of issues and effect small changes immediately to improve their own place of work.  The consultants provided by the HSA were very flexible delivering advice and support at each stage, managing expectations and ensuring a successful outcome.

The Director of Corporate Services has commented that “Given the additional pressures now arising from constraints on budgets and staffing numbers, this report is timely. It will be of significant benefit to managers and staff as we deal with these challenges”.