Ivan Lewis defends government record on protecting social workers

The care services minister has defended the government’s record on protecting social care workers against violence amid growing calls for more action.

Speaking to Community Care, Ivan Lewis acknowledged that some in the sector felt the government could have done more, but argued that sentencing of people had been toughened up for those who committed attacks.

He said: “The law should come down on those who commit violence and intimidation against frontline staff, including police, firefighters, and social care workers, in the hardest possible way. If these laws are not good enough, then we need to look again at the legislation. Everything must be done to minimise the risks of these horrendous tragedies.”

Lewis said the government was examining best practice in the protection of frontline workers, but went on to emphasise the importance of employers implementing risk-management procedures for their own staff.

Fizzled out
In 2001, an expert taskforce produced an action plan to tackle the problem of violence against social care workers. But following the fatal stabbing of Lancashire support worker Philip Ellison last month, former members told Community Care that implementation “fizzled out” and called for the government to revisit the issue.

Lewis said he understood the criticisms, but added: “The government can ensure that the legal frameworks are in place, but in the end employers have to take responsibility for the protection of their staff. Allowing support workers to make unaccompanied visits to service users is a judgement that must be made by employers themselves, not by ministers in Whitehall.”

Revisit plan
Lewis’ comments came as a former top civil servant who supported the work of the taskforce backed calls for more action to tackle violence.

Lionel Took, previously social care workforce strategy manager at the DH, warned the recent death of Ellison was “the tip of the iceberg”.

He told Community Care it “would be reasonable” for the government to revisit the action plan. “This is not a vague and ephemeral policy issue. It is very, very serious and needs constant review,” he said.

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