Violence towards support staff

Back to all Motions

2018 Community Service Group Conference
31 October 2017

Care and support staff in both the Community & Voluntary Sector and Housing Associations should not accept incidents of violent or aggressive behaviour as a normal part of their role. All support staff have a right to expect a safe and secure workplace.

Violent and aggressive incidents are the third biggest cause of injuries reported under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). Employers and employees should work together to establish systems to prevent or reduce aggressive behaviour from individuals supported in whatever the setting.

Work related violence is defined as ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’

Examples of violent and aggressive behaviour include:

a. A support worker bitten by an individual with learning disabilities in the course of the support duties that the individual receives.

b. An angry visitor who considers that his/her relative has not been properly treated verbally abuses a manager of the support organisation.

c. A carer verbally abused and threatened by an individual who is unwilling to take prescribed medication.

d. Domiciliary staff providing refreshments is struck by a confused elderly patient.

In the Community & Housing Associations UNISON members make up a significant part of the care and support environment, most care and support staff who were surveyed said that the organisations encouraged staff to report any violent incidents, but struck a worrying chord by saying that employers regarded the violence “as part of the job”

The main risk is the verbal abuse or physical assault of a staff member or other person. There is a high level of under-reporting of incidents of violence and aggression within the health and social care sector.

Care and support staff, visitors, and service users are all at potential risk. Incidents arise primarily because the work involves contact with a wide range of individuals who have varying degrees of requirements and live in circumstances which may be difficult. People receiving care and their relatives may be anxious and worried; some may be inclined towards violence.

Care and support staff that are involved in the following activities are at increased risk of violence and aggressive behaviour:

i Lone working

ii Working additional hours

iii Support in the community requiring travel

iv Administering medication or handling valuables

v Supporting individuals with learning disabilities

vi Drink or drug induced individuals that require the services of support staff

vii Individuals with stress related illnesses

Recently in a review on violence against social care and support staff in the UK, 93% of support staff said that they had been verbally abused at some point during their employment. 71% had been threatened or intimidated and 56% had reported a physical assault. These statistics are far too high, support staff are employed to improve the quality of life of the individuals supported whether they are disabled, aged, suffering from health issues such as dementia or have learning disabilities, support staff should be protected and supported themselves when violence becomes part of a daily routine.

We call on the Community Service Group Executive to:

1. Speak to Health & Safety reps in the Community & Voluntary Sector and Housing Associations and generate reports why the prevalence of violence is rising and the reasons behind it.

2. Develop a strategy in the Community & Voluntary Sector and Housing Associations that will provide guidance and support to all support staff.

3. Establish relationships with all UNISON Health and Safety reps in branches in the Community & Voluntary Sector and Housing Associations to share best practice and help each area promote the issue of violence in the workplace as having no place in the health and social care environment.