Nearly two-thirds of children’s social workers have been threatened by hostile or intimidating parents in the past six months, a survey by Community Care and children’s services consultancy Reconstruct of more than 600 workers has found. Many had received multiple threats.
The survey paints a picture of frontline workers battling weekly with a constant barrage of threats and abuse and worried that children are being put at greater risk because they are getting little supervision or support in this area.
The survey of 614 frontline workers, the majority of whom were qualified social workers with more than 10 years experience working in children’s services, also revealed that two-thirds felt dealing with such parents was having a massive impact on themselves, their work and their families.
More than 300 workers gave details including an inability to sleep, panic attacks, fears about the safety of their own children, lack of self-confidence, mental exhaustion and fears they were taking the stress and anxiety it caused them out on other family members at home.
Numerous workers said they were nervous about going to certain places with their children on the weekend or out of work hours because they feared encountering parents who had threatened, attacked or intimidated them.
Most respondents (77%) had received threats to make a complaint but more than two-thirds had also had direct threats against their person and more than a quarter had received threats to their family. Only 22% had reported such threats to the police.
Most felt confident or quite confident when dealing with such parents but nearly half (49%) had received no training in this.
Of those who had had training, most said it was “on the job” or during a continuing professional development course. Only 10% had had such training on their course.
More on dealing with hostile parents:
Survey respondents said:
“I often dream about them at night and I cannot switch off when I get home. I’m worried when out in the local area with my own family in case I bump into some of these families. I worry about picking up the telephone at work, because I always expect it to be hostile parents.”
“Most of the time I can handle the situation. When other situations are arising with my other cases I feel overloaded and less able to remain unaffected by the hostility.”
“It raises my anxiety about doing simple things such as home visits, core group meetings and making phone calls.”
“I have high anxiety levels and feelings of being stressed and isolated. It has affected my sleep and motivation for work.”
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