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Professional working conditions

BASW NI is campaigning to ensure social workers are protected from intimidation, threats and violence

Early in 2018 BASW NI became aware of increasing numbers of reports from members about abuse and violence experienced by social workers. In response, the Association implemented a campaign to improve working conditions for its members.

To ensure its recommendations were correctly focused to deliver change where it is needed, in March 2018 BASW NI launched a research questionnaire. The questionnaire examined social workers’ experiences of violence and abuse, identified the service areas where they are most at risk, and explored the impact of incidents experienced. The survey was open to all social workers in Northern Ireland and was distributed by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council.

Responses to the survey indicated eighty-six per cent of the social workers who took part had experienced intimidation, seventy-five per cent had received threats, and fifty per cent had been subjected to violence.

The full report—Insult and Injury—which includes BASW NI’s recommendations for change can be accessed here.

The reported was launched on 6 June, gaining significant media attention, including front page coverage in the Belfast Telegraph.

Campaign Milestones

  • In the months following publication, BASW NI met with spokespeople from each of the main political parties in Northern Ireland to outline the report’s key findings. The politicians were encouraged to highlight support for implementation of the report’s findings to the Department of Health and social work employers.
  • On 13 September the Association met with Sean Holland, the Chief Social Work Officer at the Northern Ireland Department of Health, and explained how social workers could be better protected by their employers.
  • BASW NI warmly welcomed the Chief Social Work Officer’s announcement, made during his speech at the BASW UK Standing Conference on 30 October, to establish a Task Force responsible for delivering change to ensure staff are kept safe. The Association will play a key role in the Task Force which will develop a professional governance framework for all HSC employers of social work and social care staff. This guidance will ensure good practice in employers’ professional and organisational arrangements for supporting the safety and wellbeing of staff affected by violence, aggression, or intimidating behaviours.
  • The first meeting of the Task Force took place on 2 November and the professional governance framework is scheduled to be published by April 2019.
  • At the BASW NI National Standing Committee meeting on 7 November members agreed the Association would campaign in Northern Ireland for the creation, in legislation, of an offence of assault of a social worker. Lobbying in preparation for this goal, which can only be realised once the region has a functioning Assembly and Executive, will begin in the new year.