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December 13, 2010 permalink
Hamilton CAS can no longer afford to send social workers in pairs, so they are outfitting them with communicators to beam them up in case a bullied family member decides to act insubmissively. Not being considered — using a level of common courtesy that avoids provoking the urge to kill.
CAS to issue high-tech safety gadgets
The Hamilton Children’s Aid Society is introducing hand-held devices equipped with panic buttons and GPS locators, connected to a 24-hour monitoring centre, to strengthen security for child-protection workers confronting danger.
“Our staff sometimes are in volatile situations and we worry about their safety,” said Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the first children’s aid in Ontario to take advantage of high-tech tracking technology for lone workers in potentially dangerous, emotionally explosive circumstances.
“They may go out in the middle of the night,” Verticchio said. “You never know what you’re going to find out there.”
The CAS has issued a request for proposals from companies to supply a lone-worker safety monitoring and emergency response system to lower the risks of harm for its approximately 185 front-line child protection workers.
“This technology will not only raise an alarm, meaning someone will be notified, but there’s also the GPS, so we know exactly where they are,” Verticchio said.
“There are not a lot of incidents, but we’ve had some staff assaulted in a client’s own home, we’re dealing with high emotions, and a lot of times with mental health issues. We’re just being proactive, now that the technology is available.”
Kathy Johnson, social services coordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents CAS workers, said the move is “a pretty significant step.”
“We hope it will be something that is looked at for CASes across the province,” she said.
Although only a small percentage of visits presents problems, workers can find themselves in the same personally threatening circumstances faced by police.
“If a worker goes out to a family they have never met before, there may be anger management issues, substance abuse, the child is at risk and the family is really not happy about CAS showing up on their doorstep.”
Johnson, a former CAS worker, said she’s had “knives flashed at me, then had to leave, call the police, and get back in.”
“The problem is, what if you’re already in the house and the door is locked behind you? How do you get out then? If this is going to be implemented 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s going to be important for workers and for families.”
CUPE says chronic underfunding has made it impossible for societies to send workers out in teams, although police can be called to accompany workers going into situations known to be potentially dangerous.
“Technology should never replace appropriate staffing,” Johnson said. “But this is a good tool for workers who may walk into situations that could jeopardize safety.”
Source: Hamilton Spectator