….“Social Worker stabbed to Death,” “Workers and Patients Taken Hostage,” “Worker Making Home Visit Injured” These are headlines and whilst dramatic and sensational are extreme examples and not the daily experience of most community based direct care professionals and social workers.

Understandably many instructors delivering The Mandt System curriculum into their organizations will encounter participants in training who are lone working and they will naturally have questions and challenges that arise from this.

Is supporting an individual in their own home without risk? No, there are risks, but the greater risks are often associated with being alone rather than inherent risks from service users, patents or clients. That said many professionals as well as employers have recognized that taking a range of simple and non costly assessed measures can significantly reduce that risk and provide a safer working environment for all.

Some simple considerations

• Avoid, where possible scheduling home visit in evenings or at weekends

• When travelling by car, assess route and parking options ahead of time where possible and try using public and well lit areas whenever an option

• Consider carry alarm device or personal alert system to summon help

• Ensure colleagues and or supervisors back at base know your schedule and whereabouts and agree a protocol for call in on arrival at appointments and response strategy should you not call

• Always report concerns and recommendations for safety

• Proximity control is an import aspect to staying safe, when clients become agitated practitioners are often unsure how to deal with this anger. Preferred strategies should incorporate a slight withdraw from client allowing space, keeping verbal communication low key and calm and planning exit verbal as well as physical if required.

Many organizations will have policies that cover the above in one form or another. To ensure that the ‘Policy Theory’ makes it into reality practice, consider running simple role plays with colleagues based on situations that have actually occurred in the past and to allow yourself to practice your verbal de-escalation skills and proximity control measures.

Remember safety is as much about common sense and the intelligent risk assessment and dynamic application of a few key principles as expensive technologies for tracking staff and managing hostage situations described in the opening headlines. For thousands of lone workers these simple steps are keeping them safe on a daily basis.

Mandt Director of Communications