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Client violence towards workers in the child, family and community welfare sector

Posted on March 12, 2020


This paper explores the prevalence and presentation of client violence towards workers, considering any violent or aggressive behaviour from clients, direct associates of clients, and friends or family members of clients. It compares current research on client violence towards workers to official data reports, and considers why there might be a discrepancy between the two sets of data. It details the effects that client violence has on workers personally and the implications for their practice. Finally, it outlines strategies for improving responses to client violence towards workers, including practical responses that can be implemented at an organisational, educational and policy level.

Key messages

  • Physical violence, threats of violence, verbal abuse and intimidation from clients of child, family and community welfare sector workers are a frequent occurrence according to all studies reviewed.
  • Workers experience psychological effects from client violence, which can lead to diminished quality of care for clients, burnout and high staff turnover.
  • There is a lack of official data reporting on violence from clients. The data that does exist under-represents the scope of the problem identified in studies.
  • Client violence towards workers is often seen as ‘part of the job’, contributing to a culture of under-reporting.
  • Workers largely remain committed to the profession despite experiences of violence and aggression from clients.
  • More up-to-date Australian primary research, and improved official data collection and reporting, could help inform education, training and organisational support.

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