Public sector union Unison has launched a campaign to give Scotland’s social workers and care staff more protection from violence and abuse.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the Association of Directors of Social Work conference that the “culture of violence as a normal part of life in social work” must be tackled.
Unison has submitted a request to the Scottish executive under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to find out how many social work staff are victims of assault and verbal abuse.
Prentis told delegates at Crieff that there needed to be better quality information on assaults and violent incidents against social care staff, particularly those working in residential care.
He wants the executive to publish annual figures on the number of assaults and abuse cases against employees of social work departments – as it does for NHS staff – instead of relying on figures from individual councils, as is now the case.
“We want to know the extent of the problem and figures should be publicly available to everyone,” he said.
“Until now it’s just been left to individual councils to have their own monitoring procedures and that shouldn’t be the case as it’s a national issue.”
The union is also calling for more social care workers to be covered by the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005. It offers greater protection to some public sector staff, including social workers enforcing child protection orders, by making it a specific offence to assault, obstruct or hinder them.
Prentis said: “It’s the employers’ responsibility to ensure staff are protected, whether they are nurses, social workers or residential care workers.
“We want to talk directly to government and associations to ensure employers carry out their responsibilities.”
Prentis also said proposals to raise the age of retirement for local authority employees from 60 to 65 were particularly unfair on Scottish workers because pension deficits in Scotland were much lower than in England.
“The fact you’ve got to go through the same heartache as those in England is unfair,” he said.