BASW demands greater protection from violence for social workers

By Joe Lepper

| 06 June 2018

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and the Social Workers Union (SWU) have called for social workers to be given the same level of protection from violence as emergency services personnel.

John McGowan described social workers as "the forgotten emergency service". Picture: Social Workers Union

The plea has been issued in a bid to persuade politicians to amend the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which is currently passing through the House of Lords.

The private members' bill, introduced by Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant and backed by the government, aims to create a new offence of assault on emergency workers, which doubles the maximum penalty from six to 12 months in prison.

But while non-emergency frontline NHS staff and prison escorts have been added to the list of "emergency workers", social workers are not included.

BASW has this week issued research from Northern Ireland to highlight the scale of violence against social workers.

This found that half of social workers in Northern Ireland have been subjected to physical violence, 86 per cent have experienced intimidation and three quarters (75 per cent) have been threatened.

In 2014 research published by De Montfort University found that 70 out of 87 residential care social workers had been threatened or assaulted during the previous 12 months. 

"Social workers are the forgotten emergency service. We support people and families of all ages, 365 days a year, in very difficult circumstances," said SWU general secretary John McGowan.

"Our clients increase in number year on year, at the same time as funding is repeatedly slashed. Nevertheless, social workers and approved mental health professionals ensure vulnerable people receive the care, support and protection they need, in collaboration with their family and friends, often under difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances - just as a new study from our Northern Ireland branch clearly shows.

"We urgently need an amendment to add social workers to this bill."

Other professionals classified as "emergency workers" in the bill include police officers, frontline fire and rescue personnel, emergency health workers and prison officers.

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