Councils have been accused of breaching their duty of care to social workers following the results of a Community Care and children’s services consultancy Reconstruct survey of more than 600 frontline workers about dealing with hostile and intimidating parents.
The survey found that, although the majority (72%) of social workers felt quite confident dealing with such families, it was taking a severe toll on social workers on their work, their emotional and mental health and on their families. Three-quarters (73%) wanted national guidelines to force employers into action on the issue.
“Management do not acknowledge how draining working in hostile situations can be. If you manage the situation and achieve the best outcome for the child while still maintaining relationships then they tend to just let you get on with it. But this comes at a price for the worker,” one survey respondent wrote.
Many said social workers had to organise their own support and back-up on visits they thought might be difficult and there was no time allowed for de-briefing or learning following such visits.
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) (pictured) said the survey highlighted “a serious state of affairs that has for too long not been addressed appropriately by social work employers and which is clearly a breach of their duty of care”.
“Threats to social workers from parents should not be a given. Training, supervision, clear guidelines and staff care must be consistently available to the workforce. In situations where individuals are experiencing longer term trauma as a result of this, they should be offered appropriate support such as counselling and time off work, or at least a diversion from frontline duties.”
More on hostile parents
Claire Barcham, Professional Practice Development Advisor for The College of Social Work, said the survey confirmed anecdotal evidence that social workers were facing unacceptable levels of intimidation and violence.
She said providing a safe working environment was part of the new voluntary Employers Standards and the College intended to use the standards to hold councils to account.
However Colin Green, chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, families, communities and young people committee, said he did not think national guidance could play any useful role.
However, he agreed it was very important that social workers felt supported by their managers and employers through supervision and good local practice. It should also play a bigger role in social worker training and continuing professional development, he added.
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