We often talk in this blog about the challenges that lone workers face on a daily basis. For some roles, these challenges are extreme. Many lone workers operate in extreme physical situations, such as hazardous environments or outdoors in extreme weather. For many others, it’s the extreme behaviour of clients and service users which form the main challenges to the job.
Among the roles that fit firmly into the latter category are lone working social workers. And a shocking news report on the BBC website earlier this week highlights just how extreme the behaviour of social workers’ clients can be. The article provides detailed accounts of verbal and physical abuse from clients against social workers. In one instance, was beaten up by teenage clients in an office and then had to stay in hospital with their abusers.
Changing legislation aims to punish those who attack certain lone workers
The government introduced The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act in November 2018 to better protect emergency staff. These doubled the maximum prison term for common assault on emergency workers such as police officers and hospital workers from six months to a year. The Social Worker's Union (SWU) has called for social workers to be explicitly covered by these laws. While the Ministry of Justice says it condemns attacks on social workers as ‘completely unacceptable’, it has not extended the laws. Courts can treat attacks on social workers as aggravated offences when sentencing, but not under this specific law.
Even so, the SWU insists that social workers provide an emergency function, and a 24-hour service for children and vulnerable adults. Indeed, one social worker stated this starkly in the article. He said: ‘A manager of mine described our job as: we go into houses that police find too dangerous to go into - by ourselves. We talk about stuff that police don't talk about and we don't have any of the gear the police have or any of the back-up they have, and nobody seems to know about that.’
Protecting lone working social workers on the ground
One way of improving the situation for lone working social workers
when visiting difficult clients’ homes is by deploying Safe Hub. We have a number of features which are particularly relevant here. Before starting a shift, they can set up Safe Check, a feature which automatically gets them to respond to prompts, in order to confirm their welfare throughout the day. Before entering a home, they can leave a Yellow Alert voice memo with our Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), providing salient details which will help to locate them in an emergency.
If they then go on to trigger a Red Alert, lone working social workers can get emergency help more quickly than they would be able to by dialling 999. The ARC staff use the initial seconds of a Red Alert call for active listening, in case a vulnerable worker can't speak freely. Calls are recorded, and the recordings are admissible as evidence in court, for example in case of prosecution for an assault.
We believe that lone working social workers act in emergency functions, to protect vulnerable children and adults across the UK. When they face emergencies themselves, we’re on hand to help them out with Safe Hub.
You can read the full BBC News report here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49451745
You can find out more about how we protect lone working social workers among a multitude of different lone working roles by contacting Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today
Post by George Stavrinidis
George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.