MORALE at Scotland's care watchdog is at an all-time low, according to its own staff, with workers voicing concerns about stress, unmanageable workloads and management changes.

A survey, carried out by unions representing staff at the Care Inspectorate, has led to concerns that internal strife may be hindering the organisation's work to protect vulnerable people.

The inspectorate was formed in 2011, combining the roles of three existing agencies. It has recently introduced national specialist teams to investigate care services for adults and children.

But the survey lays bare continuing problems in merging the pre-existing agencies. "We are not working together - it's still the Care Commission, Social Work Inspection Agency and Education Inspectorate," reports one employee.

The survey includes the views of 200 staff and was carried out by unions after concerns at the toll repeated re-organisations are taking on staff.

Rating morale on a six point scale, 50% of employees said theirs was unsatisfactory, or weak. Only 22% said their morale was good, very good or excellent.

Rating stress levels, 14% gave for the worst rating of 1, with a total of 71% opting for one of the bottom three scores available. More than half - 55% - said they did not feel valued and IT systems were rated unhelpful by 61%.

Employees at the watchdog were able to add comments to sections as they scored them. Morale attracted a host of negative comments, with workers pinning the blame on the volume and frequency of policy changes , constantly changing caseloads and the introduction of systems without adequate training.

One commented: "The organisation has a derisory approach to its legal duty of care for the welfare of its employees. It is almost contemptuous of it." Another added: "There is an attitude coming directly from the top that if you don't like it, get out."

Some are positive, with one saying "[the] negativity of others gets on top of me!" However the overwhelming majority of comments speak of unmanageable workloads. Many members of staff complain of having to work excessive hours, while several report an inability to sleep due to anxiety about unfinished work.

One manager reports having two inspectors off sick with stress related health issues: "I find the current work demands to be unrelenting. I am suffering sleep problems as a result of the anxiety," her or she adds.

Staff also complain of an unsympathetic response when they raise concerns. One employee whose duties were reduced after falling behind, says "Work was not taken off me in the spirit of supportive help -I was clearly told I was failing dismally."

Scottish Labour's health spokesman Neil Findlay urged the health minister to act on the findings. He said: "The SNP's attempt to integrate the inspection regime has failed. We can't have a system where a large percentage of staff feel as aggrieved as this survey suggests and Alex Neil needs to tackle this urgently."

Annette Bruton, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said the public was expecting the watchdog to be more rigorous, expert and efficient than ever. "People expect more from care homes, childminders and nurseries so we are raising the bar which involves major change," she said.

"All change is difficult, so senior managers are working with unions to support staff through the process, but we will not compromise on protecting vulnerable people."

John Fair, regional organiser for Unison, said unions had carried out the survey as a result of "real concerns" about the upheaval caused by reorganisations, stress and morale.

He said: "The organisation is aware of the findings and we will be looking to sit down with them to resolve some of the issues."