Is violence unavoidable in social care?


Susan Smith argues third sector social care bodies that believe violence is unavoidable are taking a big risk 

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26th October 2016 by Susan Smith 1 Comment

Nobody ever said front-line working in social care organisations was an easy job – the hours are bad, the pay is poor (albeit slightly less so now the Scottish Living Wage has kicked in) and burnout is a common problem.

Fortunately for social care providers, there’s also a high-level of job satisfaction and people who go into this line of work generally get a lot out of supporting people to live fulfilling lives. That could all change easily enough, however, if the sector fails to address the issues public service union Unison has highlighted in its Violence at Work report this week.

While it is commendable that most voluntary organisations encourage the reporting of violent incidents, just 56% of staff who did make a report said it had been followed up and only 44% felt it had been taken seriously.

Social care cannot afford to become the new focus of growing media scrutiny of the charity sector now that fundraising has cleaned up its act

There are risks associated with working with people who through ill health or disability struggle to control emotional outbursts, and violent incidents are a problem across all sectors. However, it is incredibly disappointing that 83% of third sector staff said they feel their bosses believe kicking, scratching, biting, punching, kicking and throwing things are “part of their job”.

It isn’t part of the job. Good managers will have strategies in place to deal with violent outbursts that protect the health and wellbeing of staff and service users, while ensuring the organisation isn’t leaving itself open to grievances, employment disputes or other legal challenges.

If the sector is to be considered an equal partner professionally it must adhere to these high standards of delivery and staff welfare. Public expectations of the third sector is higher than other sectors, and social care cannot afford to become the new focus of growing media scrutiny of the charity sector now that fundraising has cleaned up its act.

Clearly responses to a survey entitled Violence at Work risks a self-selecting bias, but Unison is concerned enough to be embarking on a more serious piece of research into the issue of work place violence in the third sector. Hopefully, it will reveal a more balanced picture, but in the meantime third sector employers with any concerns should address this issue directly with staff and managers to ensure the safety of everyone.

Susan Smith is editor of Third Force News.

1st November 2016 by Susan hart

I am a social care worker with over 30 year's experience. I am very pleased that an article has been written highlighting the violence that many workers face on a daily basis . However there are some points I would like to make. No not all care workers are on the Scottish living wage nor are they being paid the hourly rate for sleepovers. Organisations will tell you that this is because they now have to renegotiate with local authorities for the extra money needed through contracts. So care work is still extremely poorly paid. It's a bit sad/wrong when somebody stacking shelves in tescos earns way over that of someone looking after a person! A tin of beans has a higher value than a person! ! I do not believe there is a high rate of job satisfaction. The care sector is the biggest employer in the country and growing all the time. You therefore get a lot of people who simply want a job and to be able to pay their bills. The DWP also forces people to apply for jobs in the care sector. You therefore end up with people who don't actually want to work in this sector or are simply not suitable for this type of work or burn out very quickly due to lack of knowledge /experience. Yes you will always have clients who can resort to violence but in my experience a lot of it happens for a variety of reasons which come down to poor/bad management, not putting enough staff in place, people having to work one to one, no risk assessments in place and/or strategies, clients placed in services not suitable for them, no consequences for clients for their actions, staff tired due to working way over their hours. I could go on!!!!! If ,as you put it, the sector is to be considered an equal partner professionally then you must pay staff at a level that reflects that and the training and career opportunities that go with it.