In “Is Social Care Work Safe?” I was reading the comments of fellow social care workers responding to the death of Philip Ellison:
Lins: “When is something going to be done to protect workers? In Children Services we are told not to go out alone if there is a potential for violence, but how many times, due to staff shortages, have we taken the chance? If it was a police officer would they go out alone?”
Well said Lins. As a former cop I would most certainly confirm that we wouldn’t go to a violent situation alone.
Anne: “Managing conflict is essential training for any isolated worker. As is appropriate lone working policies and procedures. The real danger is when a violent/aggressive incident arises out of the blue.”
As they too often do. Which is why we ought not to be having social workers out there alone if it can be helped. The real danger is always there, even if it only seems to be coming “out of the blue”. The fact is it rarely does. Too often the clues are there to warn us but we don’t attend to them.
Preeta: “The people who you see on doubled up visits have usually done or said something to warrant joint visits, it is sometimes impossible to gauge that you are walking into a high risk situation if you have had no warning that a service user is relapsing (for example).”
Most of the time there is a clue to warn you. Safety awareness is an ongoing reassessment of your situation. Safety is about 75 % attitude, 15 % skill, 5 % physical, and only 5 % luck.
Brian: “It is long past the time for society to acknowledge that those of us who work in the social care profession have the right to go about our duties without the fear of abuse and assault.”
I totally agree with Brian’s assessment. I came to that conclusion eleven years ago and went on to try to do something about safety for my colleagues in the helping professions.
A study cited in Brody’s article support’s Brian’s view. This study, which estimated that 50,000 social care staff are attacked in Britain each year, showed that two thirds of social workers wanted some sort of self defence training. There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, but it requires an enormous investment in time and money to make a large group of social workers competent enough in self defence that they can rely upon this skill. You can’t become a martial artist in a weekend workshop. I point this out in the hold-release section of my book The Safe Approach. Brody admits that he once argued that “self-defence training could do more harm than good, if it increased confidence without developing skills to a level where they would be useful in real life.” There you go. However most of the safety problem can be dealt with by recognizing the escalating situation and getting out before it turns to violence. Basic principle from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: The best general is the one who wins without fighing.