Unison has demanded tougher penalties for people who assault council staff after a man in Wales threatened to kill a social worker and burn down his office.
Jamie Lee Gubbins, 23, of Troedyrhiw, Llandrindod Wells, pleaded guilty to threatening or abusive behaviour towards the social worker and was sentenced last week to an 18-month community order.
Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work, said she was shocked by the case and called for a review of the sanctions in cases of violence against council staff.
“Sadly violence is a danger that many social workers face during their working lives,” she said. “Unison would like to see tougher penalties for people who assault public sector workers.”
A Community Care investigation revealed in February that nine out of 10 social workers have suffered abuse, assaults and threats.
In October, a mother of four who attacked two social workers at their Edinburgh Council office and ripped their hair was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and told to pay her victims £150 each in compensation.
Another case, involving a Londonderry man accused of threatening to kill a social worker he allegedly blamed for creating problems in his relationship, is ongoing, the BBC reports.
Ni Holmes, violence and aggression consultant at Fife Council, said a zero tolerance approach to violence against social care staff would not work.
“Social workers need to remember that people might find certain situations disturbing and distressing,” he said. “We have to say violence is unacceptable, but say it with a degree of tolerance.”
He said policy makers should work instead on improving the public image of social workers, so people are less likely to see them as the enemy.
Unison, Aspect and the British Association of Social Workers have previously called for more funding and a national system for monitoring the number of attacks on social care staff. But council leaders rejected the proposal, arguing local reporting systems are the most effective solution.
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