"I know where you live" : Statutory social work, client violence, and dilemmas for safety and practice

Sammanfattning: Violence from service users towards social workers (client violence) has been a growing concern over the last decades. Statutory social work is among the occupations with a high risk of client violence. Sweden has a long history of legislation on workplace safety, yet client violence in social work is perpetual. Few studies have investigated the qualitative experiences of statutory social workers regarding client violence. This dissertation aims to increase understanding of statutory social workers’ experiences of client violence with a focus on social workers’ descriptions of the manifestations of client violence, circumstances that make client violence stressful, coping methods used to deal with client violence and proposed countermeasures to prevent the recurrence of client violence and injuries.The dissertation compiles four papers based on two studies. Study I (papers I-III) involves thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with social workers. Study II (paper IV) utilises content analysis of occupational injury reports by social workers (Paper IV).The results show that client violence involves continuous encounters in client-social worker interactions that result in hostility. Violent encounters transcending workplace boundaries (usually the agency office) are often perceived as more stressful than encounters in the workplace. When dealing with violent clients, social workers strived to balance helping and controlling the clients. However, they sometimes experience powerlessness that compromised their ability to act according to professional requirements. To deal with client violence, social workers mainly propose countermeasures related to the psychosocial work environment and the organization of work. Over the years, psychosocial and organizational countermeasures have become more predominant than individualization of responsibility.This dissertation provides insight into spatial influences when appraising client violence and the limits to social workers’ perceived power and control when dealing with clients. The dissertation adds to the literature positing that client violence should not be studied as one-off encounters. These aspects further suggest the need to rethink the concept of the workplace and how to conduct systematic work environment management.