Social workers should feel safe at work - petition launched
BASW and SWU launch petition calling on government to add social workers to the list of professions that it is an additional offence to assault.
BASW and SWU have together launched a petition, asking the Government and Opposition to back an amendment to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill which would give social workers in England and Wales the same protections from assault whilst on duty that other public sector professionals have. The situation is different in Scotland, where the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 extends protections to social workers enforcing child protection orders or carrying out mental health assessments.
The Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill (hereafter the Police Bill) currently going through Westminster contains a number of proposed changes to legislation that BASW and SWU are opposed to.
The impact that these proposals would have on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community, such as criminalising unauthorised encampments without providing sufficient authorised sites, would be a severe breach of their human rights and falls to recognise their identity and culture.
The Bill also strengthens police powers to tackle non-violent protests that are viewed to have a disruptive effect on the public or Parliament, both of which are a direct violation of the right to protest. Protesting is not supposed to be convenient or given with the permission of a Government, it is an action that all individuals, groups and communities are entitled to.
Buried within the text of the Bill are also some positive proposals, for example the Bill closes the legal loophole for a person in a position of trust to engage in sexual activity with under 18s who they are responsible for.
This Bill further enhances the Assaults on Emergency Workers (2018) Act which creates an additional offence to assault a number of frontline emergency workers including paramedics and those who work in the fire service. Social workers were not included in the 2018 Act, and this new Police Bill provides the opportunity for Parliament to right this wrong.
Social workers often face threats, verbal and physical harassment, and assault, and they deserve the same protections as other frontline emergency workers.
The Police Bill will be at Committee Stage in May, which is where MPs can submit amendments to the content of the Bill and those amendments are then debated and voted on. This amendment stage is an opportunity to use our voice to influence the contents of the legislation, and seek to improve it. This is why we want to add social workers to the list of professions that it is an additional offence to assault. Social workers are on the front line, and are often an emergency responder in incredibly sensitive and volatile circumstances.
Social workers are entitled to parity of esteem with other public sector professionals such as health workers in the NHS. This is not an attempt to penalise those individuals who are genuinely vulnerable but a protection for social workers knowing that they enjoy the same legal status as other professionals in similar situations.
While BASW remains opposed to many aspects of the Bill, we also think all social workers deserve to feel safe at work, and that is what we’re campaigning for.
As a result, we have launched a petition that we are asking people to sign in support of this campaign, so that we can stress to Members of Parliament that social workers are often at risk and need as much protection that can be offered.