New Report Explores Safety Issues

— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff

"Social Workers at Work," a new report from the NASW Center for Workforce Studies, draws attention to the employment characteristics of social work professionals and examines the safety issues they face while at work. The report was compiled using data from a 2007 membership data survey.

Violence from adult clients is a major safety concern for 41 percent of respondents, while 35 percent worry about their vehicles being vandalized, 34 percent are concerned about car accidents while in the field, 32 percent fear physical assault from non-clients and 28 percent are afraid of the neighborhoods where they do work. Employers properly address these safety concerns, according to 58 percent of respondents. However, 25 percent said that their employers do not address their safety issues.

"A growing concern for social workers while on the job is the issue of their safety," the report states.

When asked to specify their primary practice area, 35 percent identified mental health, while 14 percent identified health care and 11 percent identified child welfare/family. Thirteen percent work in a mental health outpatient setting, 12 percent work in independent private practice and 10 percent work for a social services agency.

Forty-two percent of respondents practice with a private/nonprofit organization, 28 percent practice with a private/for-profit organization and another 28 percent practice with a public/government organization.

The majority of social workers — 68 percent - described the focus of their practice as "micro" since they provide direct intervention with individuals or practice in a clinical setting. A large number of respondents said they spend 51 percent of their time providing direct services to clients.

Eighty-one of respondents work full time in a social work capacity and 19 percent work part time. Regardless of their employment status, 83 percent have active social work licenses.

Of the social workers who work full time, 72 percent earn between $20,000 and $59,999 each year. The most popular benefits offered in social workers' employee compensation packages include health insurance, dental insurance and a retirement plan.

When it comes to payment of NASW membership dues, 92 percent of participants said they pay their own dues, while 6 percent indicated that their employers cover their membership dues.

reported violence and threats in the workplaceSixty-three percent of respondents said their employers fail to give incentives and/or rewards for successful job performance, as opposed to 37 percent who are more satisfied with the incentives and rewards offered by their employers.

The report concludes that safety is a growing concern for social workers. "Notably, violence from adult clients, vandalization of their vehicles, car accidents, physical assault from non-clients, and fear of the neighborhood in which they see clients are some safety issues social workers - particularly those providing direct services - face in their work environments," the report states.

The report comes from the NASW Membership Workforce Survey, which 3,653 NASW members completed. The survey was administered online between Aug. 30, 2007 and Nov. 30, 2007. Members were encouraged to participate through electronic Memberlink newsletters, Specialty Practice Section alerts, mailed copies of the News and the NASW Web site.