Social worker stabbing: council brings in psychotherapist to support staff and reviews lone working policy

Practitioner returns home from hospital after being stabbed multiple times during home visit

Group therapy session
Photo: fizkes/Adobe Stock

A council has brought in a psychotherapist to support staff and is reviewing its lone working policy, after one of its social workers was stabbed multiple times during a home visit last week.

The Haringey council social worker has now returned home from hospital following the attack, which took place while he was doing a welfare check on children in Wood Green, north London, last Friday. Two police officers were also hurt in the incident.

Sulai Bukhari, 33, of Noel Park Road, Wood Green, has been charged with one count of attempted murder and two counts of attempting to causing grievous bodily harm with intent. He appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Monday (9 August) and has been remanded in custody to appear at Wood Green Crown Court on 6 September.

Haringey said that, in the light of the incident, it was reviewing risk assessment procedures, along with its lone working policy. As well as support from a psychotherapist, staff were getting priority access to the Thinking Space programme to support mental wellbeing, run by Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

“This is a shocking incident and we have all been left appalled by what happened,” said Haringey’s chief executive, Zina Etheridge. “Following any serious incident, we will always look to see if there are lessons that can be learned including making sure that our processes and systems are as good as they can possibly be.

“We have already taken steps to ensure extra measures are put in place to protect our frontline staff and we will continue to work with the Health and Safety Executive to ensure this remains the case moving forward.”

13 Responses to Social worker stabbing: council brings in psychotherapist to support staff and reviews lone working policy

  1. Michael Isles August 13, 2021 at 6:23 pm #

    I remember the shocking death of Isabel Schwartz when I was qualifying as a social worker in the 1980s; in that case she was working alone in a psychiatric hospital when she was attacked and killed by a service user. During my time as an ASW (AMHP) and working in forensic mental health, lone working policies didn’t really exist, and I was very pleasantly surprised when in more recent years these became standard practice.

    Policies are no more than words, though, unless properly resourced and implemented into everyday working practices, and I fervently hope that all social work agencies will review their own lone working policies to ensure that they are fit for practice.

  2. Sabine August 13, 2021 at 6:41 pm #

    It would be great if lessons were learned. I think most visits should be made in pairs initially or if needed always. We do not know much about the background of this case, but I think it is paramount to make staff safety a priority at all times.

  3. Rose Thompson August 13, 2021 at 6:51 pm #

    I have being complaining about lone working within the Social Work Profession for more than a decade, my complaints have fell on deaf ears. This is the third SW have being assaulted on their job in family’s home sadly one of them died from his injuries…..I myself have being assaulted and ran down in the street after he threw a bucket of pee on me. My SW line manager at the time told me to grow thick skin plus I was made to work with that family until they were transferred to a long term team.

    • Jane Allison August 16, 2021 at 12:28 pm #

      Hi Rose
      I was shocked to hear about the response that you received from your line manager. Totally disgusting & then to make you continue working with the family to add insult to injury.

      Good local lone working policies need to be put in place to ensure the safety of practioners. Fortunately, our organisation has been very good in supporting their staff in this way. However, I agree that this should be common practice.

  4. Brian Littlechild August 15, 2021 at 10:00 am #

    Our thoughts and wholehearted best wishes as a profession will be with the social worker who has had to go through this.

    We know that social workers often face very real risks in these ways, and have done for many years.

    It is very welcome that the local authority has called in such skilled support for the worker, and expertise to review their policies. We know that the professional and personal effects, and the overlaps across these areas from such violence and aggression affects our colleagues in a variety of ways- not just in the short term, and are not just individually for them, but also for others involved in the team and authority, and indeed other agency staff they are working with. Others may well also be concerned about themselves and their ability to protect children in certain threatening and fear-inducing families.

    So whilst these responses are very much to be welcomed, it is also important to think about the wider and longer-term issues involved for everybody, to ensure that social workers and others feel confident in the support for the own safety and well-being, and therefore in their ability to protect the children they are working for.

    Brian Littlechild, Professor of Social Work, University of Hertfordshire

  5. Anne-Marie Marshall August 15, 2021 at 6:09 pm #

    I wonder what the so called ‘steps to ensure extra measures are put in place’ Etheridge mentions actually are? Is this just management speak in an attempt to deflect their impotence in actually having an effective working policy in which the safety of front line staff is treated with paramount importance [as it should be]?

    Seems to me to be another incompetent attempt by managers to close the gate after the proverbial horse has bolted.

    • theresa boyce August 19, 2021 at 11:16 am #

      I’m trying to work out what extra measures can be put in place? and finding myself stumped. with CP cases when you end up with failed attempts to gain entry to check on children it more or less standard practice that police either to do joint visit to get in or do a welfare check on our behalf in evening depending on assessed risk level. There were 2 police present and they got hurt too, going in two’s will not stop this type of occurrence if they couldn’t and they have pepper spray etc.

  6. Jane wylde August 15, 2021 at 8:16 pm #

    How very sad . I myself and fellow colleagues are solo workers both morning , noon, and night. As community care. In my case for social services. I have expressed my fears , but the pull of the £ , concerning wages , appear to be stronger than the pull of the safety of lives , and workers.

  7. Friendly Neighbourhood Social worker August 17, 2021 at 9:09 am #

    Why do I fear that this review of lone working practices will just become an exercise in blaming the staff, rather than looking at the system that has created these practices in the first place. that a history of systemic cuts to public sector services have left many social work departments underfunded and under resourced to meet raising levels of social need.

  8. tony lingiah August 17, 2021 at 10:21 am #

    NURSES AND SUPPORT WORKERS IN THE FRONTLINE OF DIRECT CARE DELIVERY ARE CONSTANTLY IN THE FIRING LINE …..WITH VERBAL INSULTS AND ASSAULTS ON A DAILY BASIS ….WITH LITTLE SUPPORT FOR REFLECTIVE PRACTICE IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT….THE SERVICE IS AT CRISIS LEVELS IN SOME AREAS DUE TO THE CHRONIC SHORTAGE OF SKILLED QUALIFIED PRACTITIONERS ….AND THE LEVELS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS IN SOME STAFF FORCES THEM TO LEAVE THE SERVICE FOR GOOD WITH ENSUING PTSD,

    • Aysha Islam August 18, 2021 at 4:20 pm #

      In my opinion, it is time to take ‘care’ of the caring profession and all the staff who continue to undertake home visits.
      Definitely, a thorough and robust review is needed.

  9. Adult SW August 25, 2021 at 9:05 am #

    This is yet another example of the vulnerability of front line staff. The ever on-going recruitment and retention problems of staff, leave colleagues exposed. It is often very difficult to do joint visits!

    Some authorities won’t even provide mobile phones, particularly to Locum SW’s!

  10. Sam James August 27, 2021 at 8:34 am #

    The Local authority that I work in have a policy around joint visits in specific situations (unannounced visits and s47 enquiries) to be standard practice. However it is becoming increasingly common with the staffing issues that some managers have been quietly sending out social workers alone. Sometimes even NQSWs in their ASYE year. Hopefully this can be changed and the priority is moved to staff safety over meeting timescales.