Social worker Philip Ellison’s tragic death last week reminds us never to underestimate the dangers of the job. Support worker Ashleigh Ewing, in Newcastle and care worker Sarah Merritt, in Southampton, suffered the same fate last year.
All social care professionals need to be prepared for such rare, unpredictable events. Progressive employers are investing in training that encourages their staff to stay calm and confident, read the signs of agitation and have clear exit strategies. They ensure that detailed records on clients are kept and shared, and risks assessed. All incidents are reviewed and approaches planned. Staff have access to technology such as alarms and monitoring systems.
The government recognised the issue’s importance in 2001, launching a £2m campaign to reduce by 25% the violence against social care workers by 2005. It followed social worker Jenny Morrison’s murder in south London. Unfortunately, in 2005, the government couldn’t confirm whether the target had been met because it had no central records on incidents.
Unison’s call for a register of incidents is a good one. Only by building a clear picture will we be able to develop a more effective response.
But, also, don’t Philip, Ashleigh, Sarah and Jenny deserve more recognition for their sacrifice? It should also be a priority to create a national memorial dedicated to all those social care professionals who have lost their lives at work. They’re heroes – and should be remembered as such.
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