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BASW urges protection for social workers following stabbing

BASW and SWU are continuing to work with relevant government departments in England to ensure the role of social workers in urgent and ‘emergency’ actions are well understood and supported after a social worker was stabbed in the line of duty.

The social worker, 61, was employed by Haringey Council and was stabbed at the property in Haringey in an incident where two police officers were also assaulted.

Sulai Bukhari has been charged with one count of attempted murder and two counts of attempting to causing grievous bodily harm with intent. He has been remanded in custody and will appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Monday 9 October. Two other men have been arrested in connection with the same incident and have been released under investigation.

A statement from BASW said: “We were shocked and horrified to hear of the recent knife attack on a social worker in the course of their duties in Haringey on 6th August.

“As reported in the press, the social worker was with police officers seeking entry to premises to assess the welfare of children. The police had to force entry. The social worker was attacked by a 33-year-old man and sustained several serious knife wounds. Two police officers were also attacked.  A man was arrested at the scene and has since been charged with attempted murder and grievous bodily harm,” added the statement.

According to BASW, the social worker is recovering and the professional association has reached out to offer support and assistance to the social worker and to Haringey Council.

BASW and SWU are continuing to work with relevant government departments in England to ensure the role of social workers is included in government policy and legislation.

A petition was launched in April by BASW and SWU asking the government to submit an amendment to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, to make it an additional offence to assault social workers when on duty. A letter to government asked for an amendment to the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act to include social workers.

Professions that it is an additional offence to assault include all frontline emergency workers – except social workers.

The letter to the Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Social workers as part of their statutory duties regularly work with people in situations of severe stress: for example, child safeguarding, domestic abuse, mental health and vulnerable young people. Occasionally, this stress spills over into violence against social workers themselves.

“Social workers are entitled to parity of esteem with other public sector professionals such as health workers in the NHS. This is not an attempt to penalise those individuals who use social work services and are genuinely vulnerable, but an important right for social workers knowing that they enjoy the same legal protections as other professionals in similar situations," the letter added.

The latest statement from BASW stated: “Social workers always try to work collaboratively with families and individuals. Yet there are times when an ethical and legal duty to protect means taking assertive, proportionate action. This can be at pace, in partnership with other agencies, and in unknown circumstances, as appears to have occurred at this incident in Haringey.”

 BASW Chair Gerry Nosowska said: “Every day, social workers open themselves to the unknown in order to help others. BASW will keep highlighting the incredible work that is done, and advocating for all the support social workers need.”

However, the statement said that lessons need to be learnt from this and all incidents and employers must understand and plan for the safety of staff first and foremost.

“Social workers – including agency and contracted staff - must know their rights to a safe working environment and effective risk management,” the statement concluded.

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