Earlier this week, it was reported by The Liverpool Echo that a lone working social worker was ‘racially abused and attacked’ during a home visit in Runcorn.
The social worker was visiting a client’s home in Halton Borough Council when the violent incident occurred. It was reported that the social worker was racially abused and attacked with weapons, including a carvery fork. Upon leaving the premises, he also found his car had been vandalised. The service user was later charged with racially aggravated offences.
According to the report, verbal attacks are also a concern in the area with the incident rate doubling throughout 2015 compared to 2014, which again had risen from 2013. Verbal attacks are equally as distressing for lone workers and shouldn’t go unheard.
Since the attack in Halton, it has been recommended that staff be involved in reviewing the council’s lone working systems in an effort to implement safer ways of working.
When is it ok to work alone?
It can be debated whether or not it was appropriate for the social worker in this case to have been operating alone. If so, was any form of lone worker protection involved? It can also be asked how knowledgeable the council were of the service user’s behaviour and the risks involved in visiting the premises.
If the risks were known, should the social workers safety have been jeopardised in such a way? If the risks were unknown, ideally a risk assessment should have been carried out beforehand in order to confirm the safest way of approaching the premises.
The use of lone worker protection in this case and instances alike, would act as a valuable buddy system. Lone workers can use an alarm to call for help and communicate with a respondent via two-way audio. Skyguard’s own lone worker devices record all alarm calls to help in prosecution. This may prevent repeat offenders and encourage them to think twice about their actions.
According the report, the number of days lost by Halton Borough Council workers due to workplace assault or injury was 166, a huge increase compared to the previous year’s 15 days. Although lone worker alarms may not act as a deterrent to threatening or aggressive behaviour, it will give workers confidence that help is just a button press away.