Two-thirds of social workers want self-defence training

Almost two thirds of voters in a poll believe social workers should receive self-defence training.

The poll, which attracted 400 votes, was held in response to Local Government Association research which estimated that 50,000 social care staff are attacked each year.

The issue also prompted opposition from many respondents and the organisation Violence at Work, which suggested that a major Health and Safety Executive report into violence at work had found self-defence training would not be effective.

Read a selection of your comments below.

Self-defence training would give false confidence

I’m a manager in Adult Services, with thirty-two years service in social care and have worked with many violent and aggressive service users in that time. I’m also a Karate Black Belt so am qualified to support your view, that self-defence training for social workers, would be a waste of time. Even worse, basic skills can give a false sense of confidence and encourage people to ‘have a go’.

Effective defence demands more than knowing the right move. It demands a level of speed and more importantly, a level of aggression, which is beyond most people.

Tony Metcalf

More important to diffuse

“We should be in the business of pro-social modelling and it is much more important that we use methods to diffuse the situation. I strongly believe that training in self-defense would lead to a more physical response, which would be counter productive.”


Self-defence training reduced violence

“Some years back the Director of Rampton Hospital put all staff through a 9 day self-defence class because of the levels of violence experienced in the workplace. The effect of this was a startling reduction in violent incidents – 40-50%. The reason for this was felt to be that staff actually felt more confident in being able to protect themselves and therefore more able to confidently use de-escalation techniques. I would therefore support a comprehensive self-defence course.”


Even black belts get beaten up

“I think that there is a serious misunderstanding about the value of self-defence courses.  The problem is, as you say, that they do not actually prepare you to deal with a serious threat and therefore could make things a lot worse.  Even black belts in martial arts get beaten up by untrained street brawlers! 

It is entirely different from containing and physical restraint in institutional or children’s home settings.  What are you going to do once you have your drunken DV candidate in a head lock in their own home?  What level of skill will then be required to make a phone call to the police (continuing to restrain with one hand)?  Or will the social worker need to deliver a swift punch to the kidneys to temporarily disable while tapping in that number so as not to be further interrupted?  Absolutely more serious training in negotiation is needed (something that both authorities I have worked for have never emphasised).”

Nick Reeve

More support needed from employers

Social care staff have been in the firing line for far too long and employers have singularly failed to equip staff with the skills they need to manage the situations they find themselves faced with, sometimes on a daily basis. A couple of days training once every three years is never going to be enough.

Self defence is often more about not getting into the situation than getting out of it. Though martial arts skills are probably best left for the individual to undertake themselves, but it would be nice to see employers supporting staff to take care of themselves as well as keep fit. Financial support may be too much to expect but a positive approach from employers would be welcome.

Doug Dando

Clients should visit social workers in office

“Self defence is not the answer. The world we live in has changed tremendously and it is about time that social work practices change with time. Visiting able bodied individuals should be stopped and replaced by client visiting the Social Worker at his/her office.  The interview office should have a screen which protects the Social Worker. Home visits should only be carried out in special circumstances and the social worker should be accompanied by a security.

Bus drivers were once upon a time exposed to physical assault, hence the reasons why buses are now fitted with shatter prove screens, benefit offices, and post offices are other examples.

Teaching social workers self defence techniques is not the answer because they are caring people. They did not enter the profession to be in physical battle with their clients.”


Prosecuting more violent service users is the answer

“Why is it that social workers always think they are first with everything? Take a quick peep at an accident and emergency department of your local hospital if you think self defence is an effective skill to tackle agressive and violent behaviour. Health staff can not start in their posts until they have undertaken control and restraint training yet more of them are assaulted and murdered than social workers.

Embracing what seems the latest trend is the scourge of social work and to think that this will help us is the latest dispiriting bilge. Why not have a survey to find out how many employers actually prosecute or deny services to violent service users? Surely, a better protection for us would be the trepidation our employers would feel if they took proper responsibility for our safety and both they and clients faced up to the consequences of their behaviour.”

Nihat Erol

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