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Petition Add social workers to the professions it is an additional offence to assault

Amend the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 using the current Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill to include social workers as a profession that it is an additional offence to assault whilst on duty.

More details

Social workers work in incredibly delicate and volatile circumstances, and are often assaulted on duty. In a survey of social workers carried out by Community Care, social workers reported being threatened with weapons, verbally abused, stabbed, held hostage, harassed in the street and having hot drinks thrown on them. Some had to move house or leave their jobs due to persistent abuse. Social workers are on the frontline and are often needed to work in emergency situations.

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Government responded

This response was given on 4 June 2021

Any form of assault on a social worker is unacceptable. Where assault is committed against any worker providing a service to the public, this is an aggravation which will be reflected in sentencing.

Firstly, we want to express our thanks to all social workers for their commitment and hard work helping and supporting the most vulnerable people in society, often in highly pressurised environments. Social workers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and we are grateful to the British Association of Social Workers for bringing this issue to the fore.

Any form of assault on a social worker, or indeed any worker providing a service to the general public, is completely unacceptable and is of course an offence. Under current sentencing guidelines, which the courts are required to follow, any offence against a person working in the public sector or providing a service to the public will be considered an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing. In effect, this could mean that an offender could be given a higher sentence, including in cases where an assault of a social worker has occurred.

The issue raised by the petition seeks to add social workers to the list of professions currently covered by the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 (the 2018 Act). The 2018 Act was introduced in response to a significant increase in the number of assaults against the front-line emergency workers included in that legislation.

Having observed the mixed response to this petition, the Government notes that there are differing views within the social care sector. Some take the view that implementation of this petition could put further division between social workers and the vulnerable children, families and adults they seek to support. Given this, the Government considers it important to understand all the factors involved before deciding what action could best support social workers.

As you know, our colleagues at the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care are keen to work with you and others to consider the most effective action to ensure that all social workers can do their jobs safely and are protected from violence and aggressive behaviour at work.

Ministry of Justice

At 100,000 signatures...

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Other parliamentary business

Petitions Committee requests a revised response from the Government

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) have considered the Government’s response to this petition. They felt that the response did not directly address the request of petition and have therefore written back to the Government to ask them to provide a revised response.

When the Committee have received a revised response from the Government, this will be published on the website and you will receive an email.

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