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BASW/SWU ‘Assaults on social workers’ petition: An update for members

Together, BASW and SWU will continue to campaign for social worker safety in the workplace

Social workers often work in delicate and volatile circumstances, alongside emergency workers such as police and ambulance services. Many social workers have experienced assault and abuse in the workplace, yet in England and Wales social workers are not protected from assault in the same way that other emergency workers are.

It is imperative that all social workers are safe at work. Ultimately, as a profession committed to high ethical standards, we want social workers to be safe in the workplace through investment in preventative work, building public trust, allocating more time and resources for social workers to do relationship-based work, and care by employers.

However, the harm experienced and reported by social workers – particularly those practicing alongside emergency workers – must be minimised, and different short-term solutions are worth exploring. While there are already legal remedies in place to help prevent assaults on social workers, these are not consistent across the UK.

Petition: ‘Add social workers to the professions it is an additional offence to assault’

In April, BASW and SWU launched a joint petition to Government: Add social workers to the professions it is an additional offence to assault’.

The aim of the petition was to raise awareness about the risks many social workers face when doing their jobs. In a short period of time, the petition gathered over 10,000 signatures, prompting a Government response.

The petition now has almost 14,000 signatures; but also sparked debate and conversations within our profession over how best to protect social workers while on duty. In May, BASW and SWU released a statement recognising the debate and the sensitive nature of the issue among members and social work more widely.

Engagement with Government and policymakers

On 4 June, the Government issued a response to the petition, which can be read online.

The Petitions Committee, which is made up of MPs and Lords, judged that the Government response did not answer the petition – and have asked Government to issue a revised response.

Moreover, the petition led to constructive conversations between BASW and the Department of Education (DfE). The discussions, which are ongoing and are being co-ordinated alongside SWU, are about working together to recognise that some social workers operate as 'emergency workers' and therefore can face serious risks to their safety when at work.

We hope to continue to develop these discussions with Government officials and influence Ministers in DfE, the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care – as well as engaging with the relevant departments and officials in the Welsh government - to explore practical, effective and appropriate ways to improve social worker safety and reduce assaults on social workers.

Share your views

Together, BASW and SWU will continue to campaign for social worker safety in the workplace. We will keep members up to date on further developments, including the Government’s revised response to the petition.

We would like to thank members for their engagement on this issue. If you would like to share your experiences and/or perspectives on the issue you can do so via our website.