Most social care workers regularly experience some form of workplace violence with staff in children’s residential and disability centres most at risk, a new study has found.
A majority also believe employers, particularly those providing private residential childcare, consider such violence part of the job and employees should “put up and shut up”.
There is an expectation and acceptance of violence and it can become a “cultural norm” in certain work settings which is not addressed, the study found. Pregnant staff in children’s residential centres are regarded as at particular risk but staff feel some employers are failing to protect them by not allocating them to alternative duties, the study reports.
More than 400 social care workers were interviewed for the Crisis, Concern and Complacency study on the extent, impact and management of workplace violence and assault on social care workers.
Authored by Phil Keogh and Catherine Byrne and launched on Wednesday by Social Care Ireland, it is the largest single study ever undertaken of social care workers’ experience of workplace violence in Ireland.
Culture of violence
Noel Howard of Social Care Ireland said the research highlights the “very real” challenges often faced daily by social care workers where agencies “have become complacent and a culture of violence persists”. Unless that is addressed, the losers will be those who need consistent care in a safe environment, marginalised and deprived children and vulnerable adults, he said. Ninety per cent of respondents, most of whom were women, have and continue to experience some form of workplace violence. That figure rose to 100 and 92 per cent of those working in residential children’s settings and disability settings.
Some 75 per cent of respondents experienced physical assault with 18 per cent reporting that as a daily or weekly occurrence at this workplace. Some 73 per cent witnessed aggressive behaviour and 60 per cent were threatened weekly and more often at work.
A senior children’s residential social care manager told The Irish Times the level of violence from residents has risen over the past few years. She said despite “endless inspections” no concrete action has been taken by policymakers.
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 01:00, Mary Carolan, The Irish Times.