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special report: hostile and intimidating parents

EXCLUSIVE

Two out of three social workers t

More than half of children’s social workers received no training in how to deal with hostile parents

judy.cooper@rbi.co.uk

Nearly two-thirds of children’s social workers have been threat- ened by hostile or intimidating parents in the past six months, a survey by Community Care and Reconstruct of more than 600 workers has found. Many had received multiple threats. The survey paints a picture of frontline workers battling weekly with a constant barrage of threats and abuse and worried that children are being put at greater risk because they are getting little supervision or support in this area. The survey of 614 frontline workers, the majority of whom were qualified social workers with more than 10 years experience working in children’s services, also revealed that two-thirds felt dealing with such parents was having a massive impact on themselves, their work and their families. More than 300 workers gave

details including an inability to sleep, panic attacks, fears about the safety of their own children, lack of self-confidence, mental exhaustion and fears they were taking the stress and anxiety it caused them out on other family members at home. Numerous workers said they were nervous about going to cer- tain places with their children on the weekend or out of work hours because they feared encounter- ing parents who had threatened, attacked or intimidated them. Most respondents (77%) had received threats to make a complaint but more than

two-thirds had also had direct threats against their person and more than a quarter had received threats to their family. Only 22% had reported such threats to the police. Most felt confident or quite confident when dealing with such parents but nearly half (49%) had received no training in this. Of those who had had training, most said it was “on the job” or during a continuing professional development course. Only 10% had had such training on their course.

see pages 18-20

‘I worry abouT pIckIng up The Telephone aT work’

“i often dream about them at night and i cannot switch off when i get home. i’m worried when out in the

local area with my own family in case

i bump into some of these families.

i worry about picking up the

telephone at work, because i always expect it to be hostile parents.”

“Most of the time i can handle the situation. when other situations are arising with my other cases i feel

overloaded and less able to remain unaffected by the hostility.”

“it raises my anxiety about doing

simple things such as home visits,

core group meetings and making phone calls.”

“i have high anxiety levels and feelings of being stressed and isolated. it has affected my sleep and motivation for work.”

Social workers demand managers take a ‘zero tolerance’approach to abuse

Children’s social workers want national guidelines to help them cope with hostile and intimidating parents, according to a survey carried out by Community Care and Reconstruct. The survey of more than 600 frontline workers revealed 73% felt national guidelines would be of use while two-thirds felt the issue was not taken seriously enough by either local or national government. When asked why they thought national guidelines would be useful most workers felt it was the only way managers would be forced to deal with issues and clarify what was acceptable behav- iour by parents. “It feels like parents are allowed

to abuse us,” said one worker. Many pointed out that other agencies such as the NHS oper- ated a “zero tolerance” approach to threatening behaviour to staff and felt social workers should be

“It feels parents are allowed to abuse us”

Children’s soCial worker

granted the same respect. They survey revealed that more than half (51%) of all respondents did not have or did not know of any protocols in their organisation on dealing with hostile parents. While 59% highly rated the

rex features
rex features

Staff expected to tolerate aggression

rated the rex features Staff expected to tolerate aggression support their team leader gave them when

support their team leader gave them when dealing with hostile parents, more than a third said the support their organisation gave them was poor or very poor. “Something needs to be done. Local authorities do not prioritise this because managers do not face up to the problems directly. Instead there is a general attitude that social workers need to ‘toughen up’ and ‘get on with it’,” one respondent stated. Another added: “There is an unspoken expectation that social worker’s should tolerate aggressive behaviour from service users and that somehow it is our fault if threats spill over into actual physi- cal violence or if we feel affected by such behaviour.

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www.communitycare.co.uk 17 November 2011

b e h a v i o u r . ” COM_171111_004 005 4 www.communitycare.co.uk ❘
b e h a v i o u r . ” COM_171111_004 005 4 www.communitycare.co.uk ❘

14/11/11

16:12:56