Family of carer murdered with fire extinguisher say rise in attacks ‘horrifying’
Funding cuts have led to 6,000 serious assaults on overworked and underpaid care workers as they try to help the most vulnerable people.
Three staff a day – often earning the minimum wage – have been attacked in the past five years as the sector “crumbles” due to cuts, the GMB union warned.
Only serious injuries such as fractures, loss of sight, brain damage and asphyxia are recorded, so the union says its figures might just be the tip of the iceberg.
But it includes those who lost their lives – like newly qualified social worker Jenny Foote.
She was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher by paranoid schizophrenic Michael Meanza. Jenny had asked him to turn down the TV at a mental illness hostel.
Her brother, retired Det Supt Mick Foote, 53, said: “The figures are completely horrifying. They highlight what a dangerous environment it can be and how vulnerable care staff are.”
Jenny , 37, was working alone when she was killed at Collette House hostel, Acton, West London, in July 2015.
“There was one sleeping carer and one working carer,” Mick said. “The arrangement was dangerous.
“If there’d been a second person awake on duty, Jenny might still be here. She was an inspiring, hard-working young woman. It should never have happened.”
Meanza – who had a long history of violence and had threatened staff earlier – was jailed for at least 24 years. Mick added: “You hear ‘lessons have been learned’ but the same mistakes are still made, the same failings still happen.”
One carer told GMB she was badly beaten by a dementia patient in a private care home and needed two weeks off work and lost £400 earnings because she was only entitled to statutory sick pay.
The 34-year-old mum-of-one said: “I was in the office when a quite large patient walked in and rugby tackled me into a filing cabinet then beat me.
“You get hurt by residents on a daily basis – whether it’s a kick in the face while you’re putting on their shoes, or a scratch or a bite. Often you’re spat at.
“The violence made me consider quitting but I love helping patients. I don’t blame them, they’re ill.”
GMB National Officer Rachel Harrison said: “We’re hearing about these kind of attacks more and more.
“Violence suffered by our carers shows the care system is not in crisis – it is crumbling beneath us.”
The union – meeting in Brighton this week – also wants care workers to get professional recognition.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Care workers perform an essential job and it’s vital employers protect them.”
They said a recruitment drive had been launched and councils now had “access to” over £4billion more funding this year.
And they insisted social care system reforms due to be published would “ensure it is sustainable for the future, including proposals to boost recruitment, retention and workforce development”.
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