UNISON, the union representing Glasgow’s residential child care staff, today released the results of a survey of their residential childcare members about violence at work over a twelve month period. At the same time, the union at UK level has issued a ten-point plan to address the problem of violence against social work staff.
The survey finds that the vast majority of the city’s residential childcare workers were worried about violence in their job, and they don’t feel that their managers take their concerns seriously.
The survey also found that a majority of workers have been physically assaulted (53%) and threatened with a weapon (51%) in the past year. Almost all workers responding (98%) said that they had suffered threats or verbal abuse.
Andy McCallion, UNISON’s Glasgow branch Residential convenor said: "This survey was organised because our stewards were telling us that the levels of violence were increasing – both in frequency and in extremity. Even we, however, were surprised at the levels of the concern and the frequency of the violence.”
However, the union has found similar problems across the UK, and today issued a ten-point plan* to tackle the issue. Helga Pile, UNISON’s UK Officer for Social workers, said: “There is a chronic problem across the UK with violence and threats against staff working in social care. Threats and assaults contribute to stress, ill-health, sickness absence and high staff turnover. Employers have a responsibility to protect their staff, but sadly, social care has become a high risk job.
“First on the list to tackle this is additional funding from government to tackle violence against social workers and social care staff. Measures to address this should include thorough risk assessments that are revised following any incidents, co-working on visits and redeploying anyone who is threatened or abused whilst the incidents is fully investigated.
“Also vital is a new system to encourage social care staff to come forward and report incidents, and to record them more accurately, as well as improve the way incidents are responded to on a local level.”
In Glasgow, the union also asked their members about attitudes to the violence from their managers, and was concerned to find that 85% of respondents did not feel that management outside the direct workplace took violent incidents seriously enough.
Andy McCallion said "The bald statistic was backed up by many of the comments on the questionnaire. Comments like – ‘we are not being listened too’ or ‘we are the only group of staff where zero tolerance doesn’t count.’. It is time that management started recognising that being verbally abused and threatened on a daily basis is NOT part of the job, that incidents need to be brought out into the open and tackled, and that the placements need to look at all the individual needs of the service user, other service users living in the home, and the resources available.”
UNISON has raised the survey findings in negotiation with management to improve the service to young people in residential units, and to build a safer working environment for our members. The ten point plan will be used both at local level with individual employers, at Scottish level in the joint working group set up with the Scottish Government, the STUC and CoSLA, and directly with employers representative groups.
Note for editors: The survey was carried out during March/April 2009 by sending 286 Questionnaires to members’ home addresses. 55 were received back. Glasgow City Council currently has 17 Children’s Units with 113 young people looked after in them. Copies of the results can be obtained from Chris Bartter (below)