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Violence against social workers


This is a curious little article in Community Care, based on a national survey done of social work/social care staff around the country. It covers an important topic of the violence that workers in social care encounter during their work.

It gives a useful colour coded map, in which one can use sliders to look at the number of the  incidents of violence against social work / social care staff over the last four years.

The grey areas show that none of those surveyed in that area reported any incidents of violence, and then the colours go from yellow, dark yellow, orange through to reds and dark reds. Each colour represents around 150 incidents, and you can click on any individual area to see the total number of reports.


Given what social care professionals have to do in their work, I am slightly surprised that it is not higher – not that I am condoning any of these incidents far from it, but there’s a context of having to make very challenging and emotionally charged decisions and interventions in people’s lives.  When you consider the number of people employed in social care and the number of interactions that each of them has with people very single day, even the high end is just a tiny tiny proportion of those interactions. That obviously doesn’t lessen the unpleasantness of any single one.

 In nearly 20 years of doing a pretty challenging job in legal, I’ve had one person take a bad swing at me and miss, one throw a table over in court, one massive steroid-assisted bloke with pecs like halved watermelons inform me that if I didn’t get out of his way he would “destroy me”, a delightful chap walk behind me in a corridor at Court and tell me that “If I had a knife in my pocket right now, I could stick it right in your kidneys”.  

I can understand the context of why all of those people felt that way about the horrible mess I was making of their lives, but it didn’t stop any of it being very very unpleasant to experience and I remember all of them pretty vividly. And I didn’t actually get struck in any of them.

So all of what follows is absolutely with the understanding that violence in the workplace is a really horrible and potentially traumatising event and that it can’t be acceptable.

Caveats over.

All of the gray areas are presumably no reported incidents at all, and that probably represents around a third of the map. The majority of what is left is somewhere between 1 and 300 incidents per year.

 But what I found rather intriguing was that there were bands or geographical pockets of the higher end, the orange and red areas that seem to be around 500-1000 reported incidents per year.  And some of these cropped up over and over. And they weren’t necessarily the ones that a lazy stereotype might pick out.


The ones for 2012 show  those hotspots as being :-


The very North of England – Durham, Cumbria, Northumberland (hold off on your stereotypes for a moment), Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham (leave those stereotypes) and the South East of England, particularly West Sussex.  People working around Worthing and Bognor were much more likely to experience violence than those around Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, inner-city London in 2012.


2011 shows North of England, Leeds, a teardrop shape around Sheffield and Nottingham, bits of London and again West Sussex.


2010 show North East of England, the Sheffield/Nottingham teardrop again, bits of London and again West Sussex.


2009 – no red or orange in north of England, or Sheffield/Nottingham, or London. Norfolk is bad, Dorset is bad, and yet again, West Sussex is bad.


Of course, the number of incidents doesn’t tell anything about the seriousness of them. Perhaps the red/orange authorities are more rigorous about reporting and logging incidents that some of the other areas brush off and don’t record.  


Maybe not, maybe West Sussex workers should be asking for some danger money.

 Another portion on the Community Care story on this shows an infographic illustrating the violence inflicted on such workers – the larger the word, the more frequently it came up in the survey×900.jpg

 The heading being “knife throwing” and the sub-heading being “workers tell us what they have been attacked with”

 Then you look at the visual image and wince.

 When you first look at this, just as I did, the words that leap out at you are Chair, Knife, Thrown, Knives, Hammer, Face, Head,  Needle, Glass, Hit, Heavy, Objects Threatened.  

 Again, without wanting to trivialise this – nobody ought to be physically threatened or harmed when they are doing their job, even in the context of the very emotive nature of the job; when you look a bit closer at the infographic, you see words like


Etc, various, manager, parent, ready , another, support, number


Albeit much smaller. So clearly the graphic is not showing “things that workers have been attacked with” and how frequently such objects were used, but rather the frequency with which certain WORDS were used in the description of events.

 Unless it is that social care staff in West Sussex are being hit by another manager for not being ready.

 It is an important and serious issue, and for any worker who has gone out to do a difficult job and in the course of a day was threatened or hit with a stick, or a snooker cue, or a knife, that’s absolutely unacceptable and dreadful. I just think one needs to be careful about juxtaposing information like 712 incidents of violence in 2012 in Northumberland with a graphic highlighting the very most serious of such events.

 Nonetheless, I think it is an important issue;  to look at why these things happen and how they can be reduced and why there are such regional disparities; and I applaud Community Care for highlighting the issue and bringing it to life.

About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

14 responses

  1. Toni aka Stella

    I know its extremely childish and perhaps even more so inappropriate but when i just received this post via email and browsed numerous points the one that created an immense smirk/smile/warm fuzzy feeling more than most of the post which in fairness made me smile just at the thought of karma and rough justice being served its the point when you mentioned that in 155 incidents in the north east social workers were victims …..
    perhaps an explanation is justified for everyone else of that warm fuzzy feeling so just to make all the parents out there smile heres the other side (in rough format) the parents diary of the alleged violence and you can decide whether it justifies the violence ticky box mark (although i do accept some of them do deserve it but i will say every single one of them got it !! complete with harassment warning injunctions (even to include not mentioning the local authority area judge guardian social workers contact staff and all management or their home address or the kids’s names !) and arrests with attempted criminal charges brought all failed however ! ) all noted and recorded as individual violent incidents in the ‘north east area’

    * recorded the social workers laughing at me in my home posting the beasts on you tube
    * recorded the social workers caught out lying and his acting like a arrogant twat posted it on facebook and youtube
    * named and shamed the social workers
    * posted all the professionals involved home addresses and pictures on the internet
    * told the social workers during a meeting when they threatened to call the police on me for calling them c**ts that it would take them 15 mins to arrive i knocked 12 coppers out in their own police station what the f*** do they think i could do with them in the time it takes the police to arrive
    * threatened to do a protest outside LA building
    * blocked all the phone lines to the ss office called in a fair few friends to help ring and email and txt all their mobs to do so
    * posed with a ak47 in a anonymous mask and posted the picture publicly on facebook saying expect me child stealing bleeps or summit similar
    * did a protest outside the LA building
    * got onto the media and exposed my case
    * followed a few different social workers involved in my case to their home addresses also paid for a few friends to do the same to the others that were aware of me doing it to the others ( one moved house the other wouldnt let his kids play out incase i kidnapped them from his garden and the other went to stay with her parents……got those addresses too )
    * took pictures of the car regs and called in a few friends in high places to track there details and also asked to get them pulled frequently when ever they were seen out driving or to ram up there asses
    * called the judge and other parties various names to there faces
    * stated loud enough to be heard that the child stealing c**s should watch there backs
    * told the social worker i was going to knock him & her out
    * got the social worker followed round ireland to freak them out while they were trying to pester n lie against me after following me over there (she got a armed escort away)
    * threatened to poison the guardians cats
    * let the tyres down on the social workers car
    * scratched the social workers car
    * wrote child stealing c**s all over the contact centre
    * spray painted all the cameras covering the contact centre
    * sent copious amounts of sarcastic crappy antagonistic emails every sunday night/early hours of the morning to make sure they hated monday mornings and knew to expect to find me in their inboxes every week without fail
    * constantly bombarded them with emails and calls all day every day
    * recorded every thing they did and said
    * posted court docs on line
    * various threats made to all professionals every opportunity
    * made sure to catch the lift with one of the professionals and made a point of saying how much like her her son looked and made a point of showing her a picture of her own kid on my phone camera gallery
    * told the social worker the name age and school there kids attended
    * told the social worker the day my child appeared on be my parent page like a stray dog was the day id murder the twat and call in all favours to get it done if i was locked up
    * impersonated a social worker on the phone to get more details on my kids and case (bloody worked and still does !! )
    * impersonated the LA barrister to get more information on a case
    * befriended the volunteer driver to get details of where the kids were
    * followed the social worker into there local pub and fished for dirt from the locals
    * named durham cc as child stealing twats all over the internet
    * edited the ss logo to say numerous different slogons all derogative of course
    * covered the town and courts with posters and leaflets informing everyone that ss were child stealing twats

    and many more those are just the ones that stick in my memory the most ……
    of course i did none of the above and shall always stick by that 😉 but just cause they say its a violent incident they arent always that violent not once has a single social worker or professional every accused me of actual violence however all are marked down as violence and aggression against social work staff go figure …..

    but of course as you say when you take someones world you should expect to reap what you sow and karma always does have a way of catching up with you !!!!! and us parents are starting to stand as a united front and fight back against what in our opinion is corruption however i will personally say some kids do need to be saved however we rarely see those kids saved as they are ‘damaged goods’ but we DO need a child protection system in this country just sadly its failing very badly presently in my opinion ….. xx

    • You really should have an email address that doesn’t give your name, Toni. Will snip that out, to avoid the possibility of this comment surfacing in a case…. By allowing Toni’s comment, I in no way condone any of the stuff she says here; but I didn’t want to censor the points she was making.

      • Toni Macleod aka Stella

        as usual i have nothing to hide so it doesnt bother me what so ever all the above has already been alleged and dealt with previously i do actually have a decent working relationship with the LA at present and appear (touch wood) to have a team of social workers involved that seem genuine and honest ( again touch wood ! )

        but totally understand why many parents react aggressively to social workers and other professionals but wanted to highlight people’s stance on ‘violence’ isnt always violent incidents naming and shaming the social workers was the one that caused the most grief out of the above list !

        it is entirely down to how the social worker handles the case and deals with the family no professional should go into proceedings acting ‘gods gift’ because regardless of who they are involved with they will be met with a normal human reaction to an abnormal situation which when you go back down to basics is always fight flight or freeze

        so when a parent/family decides to fight with every thing they have to protect their family it should be expected the famous case law of Re: D [2010] ECWA Civ 1000 LJ Thorpe case law i think covers it just because a parent views the social work team and deals with them aggressively it doesnt make them a bad parent its a natural innate need to protect ones family from perceived threat which when thinking of it logically having a child removed against your will is the biggest threat of all

        perhaps if social work teams had a bit more empathy for the families they were tearing apart the ‘violence’ would go down but far to many lack that much needed empathy which is why myself and many parents like me do get that warm fuzzy feeling when we read of rough justice being served to those who enjoy it look how many stories you read about inappropriate actions and horrific comments made by them after destroying families i read one just the other day about a social worker who bragged about removing kids and tearing the parent to shreds in court and then bragged about how good it felt doing so then the LA had to apologise and cover her ass and these aren’t rare occurrences unfortunately i dont know if they are getting more common or maybe just the internet and media are making us more aware of them but either way poke a angry lion with a stick you expect a reaction so why should it be any different to a parent protecting their babies ??

        there is no easy way to remove children or criticise a parents care of their child but when you laugh and mock them while doing so and lack empathy of what exactly they must be going through you can only expect one reaction and that surely isnt going to be a thank you card and cuddles ! its not all one sided against the professionals the same goes for the parents too we dont deserve some of the abuse we suffer and our children certainly dont ! xx

  2. Ashamed to be British

    Just maybe, West Sussex Social Workers are bigger, better and more corrupt liars, could that be the case as to why they are the ones who regularly get a battering? If you try to take a cub from a tiger, expect to get hurt, she ain’t gonna roll over to ave her tummy tickled, just sayin’ like …

  3. I also have doubts about the veracity of the data as collected and collated. I was a social worker of nearly 40 years standing before being forced into retirement last year. In that time I was physically assaulted on 3 occasions, with the responses from my managers that it’s an “occupational hazard”. However I developed a rule of thumb as to whether any violence, aggression and threat emanated from situational circumstances, i.e that it was a display of aggression arising out of circumstances that would tax most of us, or whether it was instrumental aggression i.e deliberately designed to create fear in the recipient.

    In the former category frequently the service user would apologise for their behaviour when they had calmed down. In the latter category, I would not turn my back on the service user or place myself in any form of risk with those who I had identified as presenting a credible threat.

    Common sense really, or an uncommon sense that social workers need to develop before they are thrown into the cauldron of practice.

    What exacerbates the situation is the approach taken by managers and organisations when incidents are reported. I recall being a manager of a children’s home in a local authority, and was sent on a 2day course in health and safety where the course leader impressed upon us the need to use the formal reporting procedures regarding aggressive and threatening behaviours from service users and how this was mandatory under H & S law.

    Some time later the home went through a period of extreme turbulence due to inappropriate admissions where we didn’t posses the resources to deal with an extremely volatile group of young people, some of whom also brought extremely undesirable and criminal adults to our door. We recorded and reported numerous incidents in a short space of time, leading to a visit by a senior manager who questioned our “overuse” of this process, and said that none of the other residential homes had submitted the number of incident reports they had received from us, which amounted to over a hundred separate incidents in a 3 month period.

    I replied that either they were havens of peace and collaboration, (which I knew to be not the case) or that the other managers were in breach of health and safety legislation and L.A. reporting procedures, and we were not. This manager, who had made all the important decisions in creating this incendiary mix of young people, made me aware that he was not happy with the amount of reports he had received and that it must cease. He also indicated that he regarded me as an incompetent manager, for proving unable to restore order in the home…..a salutary lesson which told me very clearly we were on our own when it came to asking for support in the face of considerable risk. Behind the scenes I suspect these attitudes still prevail and pervade social work, and that is why I would treat surveys like these with deep scepticism.

    • Ashamed to be British

      Did it ever occur to you that these “extremely volatile group of young people, some of whom also brought extremely undesirable and criminal adults” were actually very pissed off kids and parents who knew they’d been removed from perfectly good homes on crystal ball predictions from over zealous social workers, writing their fantasy reports that would have made the Moor’s Murderers look like saints?
      I do not undervalue the critical need for Social Workers or care proceedings, however I am in full understanding of the anger and frustration of the kids and parents who have their children snatched away on a ‘maybe’ !! It does not make one a criminal or undesirable because they are absolutely heart broken that their children have been stolen by the state & knowing their lives will never be the same again.

    • If only more people were prepared to whistleblow against the system they work in- you are indeed a unique person. But it seems integrity is rare in those social work, especially as the ladder up is climbed. The problem is the poltical system mirrors this as does much of the upper echelons of society where businesses conduct their work in ways harmful to all of society, because profits to individuals already rich matter more.

      I do not think the future of British society is safe, because there does come a time when the majority fail to accept what is imposed upon them by people exterting unfounded control in every area of their life, especially if they need help from a system with power it does not deserve.

      I too doubt the statisics reflect more than what some social care workers find exposes their attitudes as percieved by others. This is obvious psychology- no one wants their dirt washed in public.

  4. Hello. I hope it’s ok to leave a comment here. I am a journalist at the BBC doing a story on this and really interested in some of the points here. I suppose you naturally don’t think about the other side – about social workers dealing with people who are possibly fighting to keep their kids etc etc. If anyone could and would be happy to talk to me – that would be great. We are doing the story tomorrow on these stats.

    With Kindest regards

    • Hello, am quite happy to talk to you about this, and for any of the other commentators to get in touch with you or vice versa. I think there’s a good cross-section of views here.

      • Thanks very much. Much appreciated. Boxer Dog, Edna Fletcher, Ashamed to British. If any of you would be happy to chat to me – that would be great. Best Wishes.

      • Toni Macleod aka Stella

        I have replied back to you via email hope that helps xx

    • Ashamed to be British

      I am the only person I know who’s family have faced FOUR generations of social services, I am happy to talk to you on this matter as a child of an adoptee, a child in care, someone who has fought social services lies for their own children, and stopped them removing her grandchild. I have also fostered myself for a short time when it suited ss, but wasn’t good enough when it didn’t, so I have been on several sides of the fence

  5. I am also happy to talk…..could you ask for my e-mail address if you wish to contact me. I give consent for you to be given this. Thank you.

  6. I am willing to be contacted but may have very few moments to chat a present, but you can try- I too give permission for my e-mail to be given to you.

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