Social Care Workers Are Assaulted

Social care workers have been subjected to a catalogue of assaults and abuse in the course of their duties across Oxfordshire. Files obtained by the Oxford Mail using the Freedom of Information Act show that frontline staff – including occupational therapists and social care workers – have been punched, kicked, bitten – and even head-butted in the course of their work in the past two years.

Oxfordshire County Council’s social services department provides many elderly and vulnerable people with valuable support. Some are given help having a bath or getting dressed and fed during short home visits.

But figures show the county council-employed care workers were punched a staggering 146 times, kicked 40 times and verbally abused 30 times. They also had objects thrown at them, were bitten, scratched and had their hair pulled.

Chris Brough, of Banbury, was close to committing suicide after giving up work to look after her disabled daughter Kerry-Anne, who contracted meningococcal meningitis at 13 months.

In 2003, when Kerry-Anne turned 18, she was reassessed as an adult and her care package cut, so Mrs Brough had to provide 154 hours of care a week and was unable to return to work.

She said: “I can’t say I’m surprised, far too many people are frustrated by the fact there is an awful lot of unmet need – and to keep being told the resource isn’t there just gets you frustrated. There’s a lot of negativity, especially when we are led to believe the service is needs led.”

In August, we reported that the average weekly cost of looking after an adult in the care of social services in Oxfordshire was among the highest in the country – £679 a week. The county was placed near the top of a league table showing the cost per person of intensive social care services.

Since April last year, 350 – or 17.5 per cent – of the 2,000 people who receive high-level domiciliary care, which costs £14.73 an hour, have seen their bills rise by 12 per cent. Clients with more than £20,500 savings (excluding property) now pay about £20 a week more for services.

Paul Purnell, the county council’s head of adult social care, said: “Social care workers provide support for thousands of clients each year, including some of the most vulnerable people in society, many of whom have behavioural problems. These can include aggressive behav- iour.

“The council takes such incidents very seriously and does everything it can to keep them to an absolute minimum.”