Northern Ireland news

Stormont officials launch taskforce to tackle attacks on social workers

Chief social worker Sean Holland said attacks on social workers will not be tolerated

STORMONT'S health department has established a new taskforce to tackle threats and attacks on social workers.

Figures from the regional arm of British Association of Social Workers show almost nine out of 10 social workers in the north have experienced intimidation, while more than half have been subjected to physical violence.

The group will consider what measures social workers' employers can adopt to better safeguard staff safety.

It will include trade union representatives, human resources professionals and senior social workers, and will be chaired chief social worker Sean Holland.

Speaking after the first meeting of the taskforce, Mr Holland said: "Social workers in health, justice and all sectors face challenges including threats and violence with a rising problem being the use of social media to intimidate workers.

"These experiences have a hugely negative impact on their job performance, physical and mental health, and their personal and family relationships. Often social workers express an understanding as to why some people they work with may behave in certain ways but that does not make unacceptable behaviour any more acceptable."

He said employers needed to understand how to meet their responsibilities to staff under their duty of care.

The group will develop guidance for employers on training, steps to address intimidation and giving support to staff when dealing with the police.

Mr Holland stressed that attacks on social workers will not be tolerated.

"I am not proud of these statistics on threats and violence and quite simply they are not acceptable," he said.

"The culture that nothing can be done and abuse goes with the territory for social workers doing their jobs has been challenged. It is not okay and something can and will be done."

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