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BASW Cymru statement on social worker assaulted in Bridgend

BASW Cymru is deeply concerned by and condemns the news of violence towards a social worker by a client in Bridgend. Social worker Gail Cotten was assaulted in the car park of the Bridgend council offices in June.

As an association we are troubled by the apparent trend of violence and intimidation and the long term physical and mental health effects this will be having on social workers.

BASW Cymru National Director, Allison Hulmes, said:”It is utterly appalling and unacceptable that a social worker was assaulted whilst undertaking her job. 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.”

“Sadly, we don’t know the full extent of the problem and part of the reason is that social workers have normalised abuse and threats as part of their daily working conditions. 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.”

“I spoke about this on BBC Wales last year and have been raising this issue along with the wider one of the lack of respect and value that social workers in Wales feel they have.”

“This also speaks to the management culture, why is this not challenged? Supervision is focused on case-management – essentially accountability, so the opportunity doesn’t arise for social workers to discuss these incidents and how it leaves them feeling. In Wales the available posts to social workers employed by children services has decreased by 0.1%, but recruitment is difficult, as in actuality there has been a decrease in children’s services social workers employed by 2.1%. Turnover is 15% in children services, 12% of posts are vacant, with agency staff usage at 4%. Some authorities are using agency staff for over 30% of vacant posts. Social worker stress related to poor working conditions must be addressed by Welsh Government and social workers doing and incredibly difficult job need to be afforded the respect, value and safety they deserve.”

“All employers will have policies around safety at work which social workers must follow. Ensure your manager and colleagues know where you are, If you think a visit could be difficult, it may be an idea to take a colleague along and let your manager and colleagues know you’ve safely left a difficult visit.”

“If you are verbally abused or assaulted, remove yourself to safety and contact the Police and your line manager. Assault is a criminal offence. Seek support from your workplace wellbeing/occupational health team.”

“Advice, support and representation is also available through the Association and Social Work union.”

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