Debate on aggressive and violent clients

We asked people to share their experiences of aggressive
and violent clients. These are the comments we

In 25 years’ practice in both children and families and
adults’ services I have come across one service user who was
aggressive towards me. Now if you were to ask about aggressive


Looking back over the years, especially in
Islington, I was punched several times; punched down a flight of
stairs; had a shotgun pointed at me (twice); was chased round a
darkened room by a man with a machete; slapped round the
face; cornered in a basement by a youth with a kitchen knife; and
karate kicked on the knee by another young man. I hope support and
advice to staff nowadays is much better!


I was stalked by an ex-user of a family centre
where I had worked. She spent many hours in the neighbourhood of my
flat ( having traced where I lived); rang me persistently in the
early hours of the morning; sent me unwanted letters and gifts at
my new place of work, and tried to make contact with me there.

To varying degrees this went on for about 10 years. I am never
sure if it is really over. At the time the term ‘stalking’ was not
used, there was no redress against nuisance phone calls (BT
personnel were singularly unhelpful). The organisation which had
employed me when I worked at the family centre agreed, under some
pressure, to pay half the costs of a six-week course of
counselling. Needless to say this was hardly sufficient to enable
me to deal with the distress, fear and anxiety.

I am very pleased that there are now more constructive and
humane ways of preventing this kind of behaviour and safeguarding
people. My point is that ex-employers also have a responsibility.
Dealing practically with these issues can be expensive and this
needs to be recognised.


I am a social worker based in a long-term team in
Hertfordshire. Last week, I had to move offices and go ‘into
hiding’ due to deaths threats made to me by a father of children I
am involved with. Earlier in the year he assaulted me and my
manager in court on the final day of care proceeedings in respect
of his children. Prior to the assault he had made several threats
to me and I had been subjected to verbal abuse.

Moving offices has affected my work as I am now without the
everyday support of colleagues I have worked with for the last 2.5
years. I am constantly looking over my shoulder. Last week, I was
unable to effectively deal with a crisis on another case as I was
so tearful and shaken over these death threats.

This man is being sentenced for the assaults. Due to the death
threats it is possible he may receive a short custodial sentence.
However he has already said he will ‘get me’ on his release.

I am unable to switch off outside working hours. My sleep is
disturbed and I have nightmares. Luckily I live a considerable
distance from where I work, but I am angry that he is affecting my
ability to do my job so much. Even though it is the court which
made the decision to remove the children and grant a full care
order to the local authority, all of this man’s anger has been
directed at me.


Since I have been a social worker ( formerly
with adults with learning disabilities) in a rural area, I have had
at least eight incidents with clients and their families in five

I was attacked once, by a client’s stepmother with a mobile
phone on my back, in front of the police, whilst trying to place a
man in a place of safety after he had run away. I was chased around
the supermarket twice by the same man’s father. He was shouting at
me and at one point was telling the crowd how bad I was. I got the
police involved and they had a word with him. I had to make a video
about my actions because the family could not read and write. It
took me eight weeks to get the local authority to write to this man
to tell him to stop him harrassing me.

I have been sworn at and threatened by a client’s brother-in
law whilst at a review. The same guy threatened me after I had
managed to get some money ( a giro) for his sister-in -law and I
took the money to the family.

The sister of my client once stopped me in the street on the
weekend, and then shouted and accused me of being a liar in front
of my six-year-old daughter. When this client eventually moved with
the family’s blessing, they wrote a letter of complaint to a
voluntary organisation about how unprofessional my conduct had
been.This is after I had supported the family in getting a

I had another client who was extremely aggressive and had a
penchant for smashing windows. Social services could not
accommadate him so on three consecutive he came down to my office
and twice I had to get him out of the building and telephone the
police. On the second occasion my line manager locked himself in my
room whilst I dodged the blows and escorted my client outside the
building. On the third occasion he knew he could not come into the
building (a day centre) so he kicked all the metal panels in on my
car and social services refused to pay for the damage. Previously,
this client also followed me home and knew where I lived. His
mother then made a complaint against me after I refused to discuss
her son’s case regarding damage and repairs of my car in the school
playground, again this incident happened in front of my

I was off sick as a result of these incidents and lack of
support from my previous employers. I changed my job to the adult
primary care team and I have been much happier. I have learned not
to work and live on your patch be very careful what you say, and
don’t expect support from your bosses when there is a violent
incident because they are only interested in covering their own

I am not naive and expect differences of opinion with clients,
families and carers, but I don’t expect my family to suffer because
of my job.


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