Welsh social workers fear wearing ID badges, BASW says after ‘appalling’ assault

Abuse of practitioners commonplace, warn professional body and unions as woman jailed for 14 months for attack on social work assistant

man holding blank name tag
Photo: Adobe Stock/Brian Jackson

Some Welsh social workers will no longer wear ID badges outside of work for fear of being targeted and assaulted, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has said.

The comments came after a woman was jailed for 14 months last week on a charge of wounding and inflicting grievous bodily harm, after assaulting a social work assistant at Bridgend council’s offices in June.

Rayelizabeth Lloyd threatened to push social work assistant Gail Cotton down a flight of steps, then shoved her backwards, causing her to hit her head on the concrete, WalesOnline reported.

The prosecution told the court that Ms Lloyd “did not like the way that meeting was going” and she became “aggressive and obstructive”. When the meeting ended, Lloyd went outside but refused to leave the area of the offices. She was then warned police would be called. 

Lloyd then threatened Cotton, who had walked to her car in an attempt to defuse the situation. But Lloyd followed her and then forcefully shoved Cotton, who struck her head. 

‘Abuse normalised’

BASW Cymru national director, Allison Hulmes called the incident “utterly appalling”. 

“The right course of action was followed in this instance, resulting in a prosecution that will hopefully send out the right message that this behaviour must not be tolerated,” she said.

“Part of the reason for this is that social workers have normalised abuse and threats as part of their daily working conditions,” Hulmes said, adding that the full extent of the problem is unknown. 

She continued: “Social workers in Wales have said this to me directly and some will not wear ID badges outside of work for fear of being targeted”. 

Hulmes, who spoke about the issue on BBC Wales last year, said she had been raising it “along with the wider one of the lack of respect and value that social workers in Wales feel they have”.

She urged the Welsh Government to address the issue of social worker stress relating to poor working conditions.

Need for training to spot ‘warning signs’

Unison head of local government Jon Richards said: “Tensions often run high when social workers are helping vulnerable individuals and families deal with distressing situations.

 “When decisions go against them, people take their frustrations out on social workers. Physical assaults are rare, but abuse and threats aren’t.

“Social workers should report all incidents, even if they were near misses, and keep factual notes of any behaviour they think is intimidating,” Richards said. 

He stressed the need for councils to ensure frontline staff regularly receive thorough and regular training, so they can spot warning signs and protect themselves. 

In a statement, a Bridgend council spokesman said Cotton was receiving full support in light of the incident. 

“This case sends out the clear message that assaults upon staff who are trying to support vulnerable members of the community will never be tolerated, and that such actions carry harsh consequences,” the spokesman said.

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10 Responses to Welsh social workers fear wearing ID badges, BASW says after ‘appalling’ assault

  1. Karana September 30, 2019 at 4:28 pm #

    I’m not sure why anyone would wear an ID badge outside work anyway. If an ID badge is obvious it can be oppressive for families if their neighbours see someone rocking up with a local council ID badge. I always keep mine in my pocket and show families discreetly when I first meet them.

    • Anne-Marie October 6, 2019 at 12:00 pm #

      I work for a mental health trust that have a policy stating that staff must wear id badges when conducting home visits. Suffice to say that the policy is widely ignored but its still a reason why some workers do wear badges.

  2. Carol September 30, 2019 at 4:42 pm #

    Does not help when managers turn around and say the abuse is the SW’s ‘fault’ because they are not giving the person what they want. I personally observed this, I was shocked and when I expressed concerned was just ‘dismissed’. All very common unfortunately. Yet NHS staff are ‘protected’ by Central Government. Social Workers are not valued from top to bottom of society, why would anyone want to come into the profession.

    • Erin September 30, 2019 at 11:31 pm #

      My thoughts exactly. I’ve been threatened with physical abuse and told to watch my back as “I know where you live”, by parents. Colleagues have been attacked in court These experiences are normalised. Managers are unsupportive some say it goes with the territory. We done lone assessment visits as going out in pairs took manpower away from recording work! We never knew what we would walk into. It’s not worth the anxiety and the feeling of being under valued. Self preservation is key so I left and can’t envisage there being any change.

    • Anne-Marie October 6, 2019 at 12:22 pm #

      My experience is that whilst local authorities & NHS Trust’s have not tolerance policies regarding abuse of staff, unless these bodies action them they are not worth the paper they are written on. A major part of putting these policies into action is manager’s knowing what the policies say and centralising them in practice. Managers however seem more inclined to side with end users and carers rather than their own staff. Having worked for many organisations over the past 15 years, I have come to the conclusion that good managers are a rare breed indeed. I would go so far as to say that most managers are more a part of the problem that part of the solution.

  3. Sandra Robert October 1, 2019 at 7:59 am #

    I too wondered why a SW would wear their ID out of work, I am assuming the report means out of the office. I would wear mine if attending courts, meetings ect. When visiting clients at home or contacts with children I never wore it on show.

  4. Oxford SW October 3, 2019 at 9:34 pm #

    The worker was in her place of work where I am very sure it is mandatory to wear your ID badge.

    • Mark Wales October 4, 2019 at 7:13 pm #

      I have never worn my ID badge around my neck but carry it in my wallet. In five years as a CP Social Worker I’ve only been asked to show it about five times. I dress casually as I’m very conscious about visiting people’s homes and don’t want to add any more stress to the family from nosey neighbours.
      I know several social workers who have had CCTV fitted to their homes by Police/LA following threats which I think demonstrates how serious things can get.

    • Anne-Marie October 6, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

      Irrespective of policy, the only time most practitioners I’ve worked with wear id (in the office) is when there is to be a CQC inspection. I find it mildly amusing watching them scurrying round, handing out new lanyards when normally its easier to extract teeth than get a new lanyard!!!

  5. Eco-Social Worker October 4, 2019 at 4:05 pm #

    “This case sends out the clear message that assaults upon staff who are trying to support vulnerable members of the community will never be tolerated, and that such actions carry harsh consequences”

    I suspect that statement will draw wry laughter from most practitioners who read it.