Headlines: October 24th, 2007

New research has shown overwhelming public backing for tough action against anyone who assaults social care staff. More than half the people questioned would support benefit cuts and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders for those responsible. At the same time figures show there were more than 4,000 assaults on care staff in just 12 local authority areas in a single year.

The Local Government Association says that if that pattern were to be replicated across England it would put attacks on care workers at more than 50,000 a year. It is calling for more to be done to protect staff.

The strength of public feeling on the issue is shown in an Ipsos MORI poll which offered respondents a range of options for measures they would consider the most effective in dealing with perpetrators of assaults on staff. David Rogers, Chairman of the Community Wellbeing Board, at the LGA said, “Clearly there is overwhelming public support for a package of measures to be put in place to protect the very people who work tirelessly to ensure others lead a fulfilling life. Whether a more stringent prosecution process is implemented or benefits are cut, the time for action is now and the time for violence never.”

The LGA says local councils already operate a number of initiatives to protect care staff from assaults, including self defence training and policies to help defuse potentially dangerous situations. Some also provide mobile phone and panic alarm loan services but, says the LGA, many social service departments are having to balance other demands on their budgets.

Authorities have a legal duty to assess potentially hazardous situations but workers are still subjected to assaults and Councillor Rogers said this was unacceptable. “Social care staff should not be treated as the public sector pariahs they are so often depicted as. Only last month the secretary of state awarded nearly 100 million pounds to NHS community nurses providing them with personal safety alarms and a promise to ‘get tough’ on their assailants . It is high time this token was extended to social care staff to stamp out this unwanted menace and equip workers with the confidence to go about their work without fear of intimidation,” he added.