Social care workers are being kicked, punched, and spat at, with a culture developing where violence is accepted as part of the job.

Denise Lyons, a social care lecturer in the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (ITB) and a former president of Social Care Ireland, made the claims yesterday.

She interviewed many social care professionals on the topic as part of a PhD she has completed, as well as in her capacity as a lecturer.

“People were talking about being a total wreck, they’re drinking a lot more, that they are afraid to go into work,” she said.

“They’re still afraid when they leave work because they have to go in the next day, they don’t know what’s going to happen to them. The challenging behaviour is escalating, just generally describing what’s happening to them — being punched, kicked, spat at, beaten up.”

Ms Lyons was speaking at a Social Care Ireland conference in Kildare yesterday.

Care workers get kicked, punched, and spat at on job

Other feedback included incidences of isolation and workers “feeling like a failure” due to being violently assaulted.

“People in their comments were saying, ‘nobody listens’, ‘I feel like it’s my fault’, ‘it’s just part of the job’, ‘I knew I was going to get decked’,” Ms Lyons told the conference.

Aside from the violence, she referred to a culture developing where a rise in assaults had become an accepted part of the profession.

She recalled a story she was told where a staff member of a care centre left their position. The subsequent manager’s response was, ‘If she can’t take a few slaps she shouldn’t be in the job’.

“One of the supervisors wrote this, and it was done in a scenario story, and centre to that story was a line where a staff member had left because they were being assaulted and they were being unsupported, but the manager came into the office and said [it] to the rest of the staff team in the debriefing.”

She noted: “Are we allowing a culture to develop where we believe this [assaults of social workers] is okay?”

Ms Lyons also highlighted the fact that social care workers cannot run away from the assault nor can they fight back.

“We need to start speaking up for what we do and saying some things should just not be tolerated, and violence against people is not just good enough,” she said.

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