Task force is formulated to tackle social worker abuse in Northern Ireland
A new task force has been set up to tackle the serious problem of threats and attacks on social workers in Northern Ireland.
A recent report by the British Association of Social Workers NI (BASW NI) revealed that almost nine out of 10 social workers here have experienced intimidation.
Three-quarters have received threats, with half subjected to physical violence, the report said.
Physical attacks, such as being kicked in the head or attacked with knives or items like fire extinguishers, are also documented.
Several social workers described needing hospital treatment. Two women said they were assaulted while pregnant.
The Department of Health said it had established the task force to improve the safety and wellbeing of social work staff. It will also consider the arrangements employers should put in place to support their staff.
Chief social worker Sean Holland will chair the group, which will have representatives from trade unions, human resource directors, trusts and senior leaders in social work on it.
Speaking after the task force's first meeting, Mr Holland said attacks will not be tolerated.
He said: "I often talk with pride about the state of social work in Northern Ireland. I am not proud of these statistics on threats and violence and quite simply they are not acceptable.
"The culture that nothing can be done and abuse goes with the territory for social workers doing their jobs has been challenged.
"It is not okay and something can and will be done."