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ACTION TO BE TAKEN TO PROTECT SOCIAL SERVICES STAFF

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Violence against social services staff is running at an unacceptable level and must be tackled, said health ministe...
Violence against social services staff is running at an unacceptable level and must be tackled, said health minister John Hutton.

Department of health funded research into the social services workforce, carried out by the National Institute of Social Work earlier this year, reveals that:

* Violence is commonplace, especially for residential staff - a quarter of those interviewed had been attacked in the year prior to interviews taking place and over a third said violent incidents occured more than once;

* A third of staff in the study said that in their current job they had been attacked by service users or their relatives, a third that they had been threatened with violence, and three quarters that they had been shouted at or insulted;

* social services staff are at much greater risk of being physically attacked compared with health staff working in the community, such as GPs and Community Practice Nurses.

Mr Hutton said:

'Recent tragic incidents involving social workers; in particular, the death of Jenny Morrison of Wandsworth social services department, have highlighted the need for a concerted effort to reduce violence against SSD staff.

'Most groups of SSD staff have experienced at some stage in their working careers, threats, insults, physical attack or abuse. Some groups of staff, especially residential workers, seem to be very vulnerable to attack, reporting being pushed, slapped, grabbed hit, kicked or bitten.

'This is just unacceptable. The government has recently launched a major initiative to tackle violence towards NHS staff and it is clear that there is a need to develop a similar initiative for staff working in social services departments. I have invited the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Local Government Association to join with me to discuss the setting up of a national summit this autumn to put in place strategies that will protect and support staff who do a difficult job in sometimes very threatening circumstances.'

NOTES

1. 'The Social Services Workforce Studies' by the National Institute of Social Work and funded by the DOH is a longitudinal study of five social services departments begun in 1992. Four categories of staff were interviewed: Manager (12%); Social Work (15%); Residential Work (31%); Home Care (42%).

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