A £100,000 fine has been issued to UK Local Authority, Brent Council, following an assault on two social workers while carrying out a home visit.
The two female workers were visiting the home of a vulnerable child at the time of the attack, where they were to carry out a child safety plan assessment.
Whilst taking notes during the meeting, the mother of the child struck both women over the head with a metal object, knocking one of the women unconscious. As a result, both women acquired serious head injuries and the social worker knocked unconscious was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Following an investigation into the incident, the HSE found that the local authority had failed to follow its own corporate lone working policy and violence and aggression guidance. No risk assessment was carried out beforehand and the staff were not trained in dealing with aggression and violence.
The investigation also found that the mother was known to have a history of violence, yet the council failed to add an aggression marker to the client, leaving the social workers unaware of the hazards posed by the mother.
After a hearing into the incident, HSE inspector Neil Fry commented: “The local authority, in this case, failed to adhere to and implement its own systems and procedure for the management of lone working and violence and aggression against social workers.
“This risk could have been reduced in a number of ways including carrying out the visit in a controlled environment, such as the local social workers’ office.”
Consequently, London Borough of Brent of Brent Civic Centre, Wembley, were fined £100,000 with costs of £10,918.88 after pleading guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, section 2(1).
Social Care workers are exposed to many threats when working alone or in small numbers, as more often than not they are expected to undertake a number of visits to homes. The types of threats they could face range from verbal abuse, being threatened with weapons, being stabbed and even being held hostage.
HSE recorded that social care specialists have experienced higher than average risk rates of threats and assaults at work over the last few years, compared to other occupations.
“Violent and aggressive incidents are the third biggest cause of injuries reported to HSE from the health and social care sector.” – HSE Inspector Neil Fry
In this case, had thorough safety regulations and sufficient training been put in place beforehand, the Local Authorities would have identified that the home of the vulnerable child would have been potentially unsafe to visit, due to the mother’s documented history of violence. Therefore, a meeting with the family should have been arranged in a more controlled environment at the very least.
Evidence shows that staff in social care who have been subjected to violence and abuse has a long-lasting impact on workers. In order to support staff effectively, risk management and assessment should be on-going. Clear and consistent guidance should be put in place for staff to feel supported and build trust.
How can StaySafe help?
The StaySafe app is a user-friendly and discreet safety solution for lone workers operating in high-risk environments. Once a lone worker administers a timed session, staff at the hub can oversee exactly where they are on a GPS tracking map and monitor their safety status. If a social worker were to unsuccessfully check-out or raise an alert, a notification would be sent to staff with immediate effect.
A lone social worker is also able to check-in safely at any time, raise a panic alert or even a duress alert if they are faced with an aggressor. This is useful especially for social care workers undertaking one-to-one visits with potentially volatile individuals and need to trigger an alert
in a concealed and cautious manner to recover them from the situation as safely as possible.
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