Violence at work ‘is the norm for social carers’

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Violence at work ‘is the norm for social carers’

With nine out of ten social care workers subjected to regular abuse, threats, and physical assault, workplace violence is in danger of becoming a cultural norm, warns a new report.

In fact, it’s no longer a risk, but a reality — and one that social care workers believe employers have become complacent about, according to the report.

Entitled Crisis, concern, and complacency; A study on the extent, impact, and management of workplace violence and assault on social care workers, the research found that more than three in five experience threatening behaviour weekly or more frequently in their workplace and two in five experience physical assault monthly or more often.

The 400-plus social care workers surveyed work in a variety of care settings, both statutory and private, including children’s residential and disability services, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health or family support services.

The HSE, which operates or funds many of these services, has not nominated a representative to attend the report’s launch today or to respond to its findings, said Social Care Ireland spokesman Noel Howard.

“We first contacted the HSE on July 19 and pursued them right up to last week but we were told that due to people being on holidays, no-one was available. If that’s not complacency, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, will attend today’s launch at DIT Grangegorman.

The report points out what while supervision is recognised as “essential for safe and effective service delivery in social care setting” and is in fact a statutory standard in child residential services, it is “never or only sometimes provided by management for the majority of social care workers”.

The report states supervision should be used to debrief staff impacted by their experiences of workplace violence. The research found that more than half of respondents never or only sometimes receive professional supervision. When the data was further analysed to compare social care sectors, it found that 60% of respondents in disability services never receive supervision, despite a high level of violence (92% working in the disability sector experienced workplace violence).

The report’s authors, Phil Keogh and Catherine Byrne, said the findings raise questions about effectiveness of existing methods of training for staff to manage violent and aggressive behaviour in the workplace.

“Social care professionals experiencing workplace violence can feel demoralised and this, in turn, can affect the relationship with the service user and their colleagues and damage the therapeutic social environment in which they work. This does not augur well for the future of social care,” state the authors.

They make 20 recommendations in the report, including that employers must prevent a culture of violence from developing in social care by ensuring a ‘no blame’ culture; that support strategies be put in place for workers; and that further investigation be conducted into the “significantly higher incidences of physical assault” in private children’s residential services.

By Catherine Shanahan
Irish Examiner Reporter

Wednesday, September 07, 2016