“Violence and aggression although not acceptable will happen, can happen and does happen”: a study of staffs’ experience of violence in child and family services
Robson, Anna Marie
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Background: Since the 1980’s incidents of workplace violence have been recognised as a serious problem within social care. It has been found to be particularly rife within residential settings and children’s homes in particular have been found to be one of the most violence-prone settings. And yet, there is a lack of literature on the prevalence and psychosocial impact of workplace violence on staff in residential units for looked after and accommodated children (LAAC). Method: Given the limited literature on residential childcare workers a systematic review was conducted on research of violence towards social workers in child and family services to achieve a better understand of violence within child and family social care generally. An empirical study was also conducted with staff of Local Authority residential units within Central Scotland. The aim of the empirical study was to explore staffs’ experience of workplace violence perpetrated by LAAC in residential settings, using the qualitative methodology Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results: The systematic review showed that studies were mostly of medium methodological quality; verbal aggression towards social workers in child and family services was common place; physical violence was comparatively rare; and that all forms of violence impacted on wellbeing and practice. The empirical study had similar findings, but also provided new insights into how staff cope with workplace violence, particularly in the context of young peoples’ life experiences. Conclusion: Violence perpetrated by LAAC in residential units appeared to be lessening and a move towards more behaviour management was aiding staff to better understand the roots of violence. This in turn was found to help staff cope better with the emotional impact of violence. Management need to be mindful of the impact violence has on staff and continue providing training programs to better equip staff to understand violence and support LAAC to manage their aggression.