Protecting social workers from assault: Putting right an historic injustice
Kerri Prince, Public and Political Affairs Lead for the British Association of Social Workers, advocates for social workers to receive the same protection from assault and harassment as other public sector workers.
At the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) we regularly hear from members who have experienced abuse, verbal threats of assault and sometimes even actual physical assault.
Every day, like our public sector colleagues – the police, doctors, nurses and paramedics – social workers deal with some of the most complex situations with people who are most vulnerable.
Every day, the nature of these jobs puts all these workers in harm’s way. But there is a big injustice here.
The law recognises that if a police officer or a paramedic or other frontline emergency worker is assaulted in the line of duty, this is a more severe crime than a simple straightforward assault.
The law recognises that it puts these public sector professionals in harm’s way, but it also gives them additional protections in law.
But social workers are missing from this law. Although their work puts social workers in harm’s way, they do not enjoy the same protections as other front line emergency staff.
It cannot be right that if a child protection social worker arrives at a home along with a police officer and both get assaulted, the punishment for the attack on the social worker will be less than on the police officer.
It is time to right this wrong. Very shortly, there will be an opportunity to right this historic injustice.
In the Police Crime and Sentencing Bill currently going before Parliament, MPs will be able to add professions to this list.
It is a rare opportunity to add social workers to the list of public sector professionals to ensure they get the same protections as their colleagues in the police, health and emergency services.
This is not about criminalising the most vulnerable. It is about ensuring social workers get parity of esteem with their colleagues in the public sector.
This is why BASW and the Social Workers Union (SWU) have launched a joint campaign, calling on the Government to amend the law and to use this Bill to make it a crime to assault social workers.
Social workers deserve to have the same protections as other frontline emergency workers and deserving of the same rights and status that other emergency workers receive.
You can back this campaign by signing the petition -
Since the petition opened we’ve already had 8,750 signatures. Sign the petition, share the petition with colleagues, friends and families. Make your voice heard.
Once the petition receives 10,000 signatures, the Government must respond.
If you are a social worker, and you have a personal story of assault or abuse that you are happy to share with us, then please email it to and we will anonymise all contributions. Please let us know what constituency you live in if you submit a personal story, as we can use this information to directly lobby your MP – whilst keeping your identity anonymous. If you do not know what constituency you are in, you can use this link to find out:
Kerri Prince is Public and Political Affairs Lead for the British Association of Social Workers.
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