How to manage fear in social work

By Kate Snowdon

There are, sadly, many reasons why social workers may feel frightened at work, both for themselves and the people they support. Working with the most vulnerable members of society, under great economic and political pressure, social workers manage risk on a daily basis.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, more practitioners than ever have cause to feel fear, from worries about new ways of working to increased concerns about their safety, and the safety of their service users. In recognition of these acute challenges – and to thank all social workers for their incredible work – Community Care is making a number of specialist subscription resources freely available.

As of today, all social workers have access to Community Care Inform’s guide to managing fear, written by Brian Littlechild, professor of social work at the University of Hertfordshire, exclusively for Inform Children and Inform Adults. The guide is available as a free, downloadable PDF to help practitioners identify and manage fear in their working lives.

The guide discusses common reasons to feel fear and the personal or organisational factors that can influence fear. It contains case examples, reflective questions and practice tips that may help you.

What’s in the guide?

The guide includes:

  • tips on dealing with the most common sources of fear in social work: violence or harassment from service users; overwhelming workloads and something ‘going wrong’; and being aware of unsafe practice in your own and other agencies.
  • the legal protections available to social workers against harassment and discrimination, and in cases of whistleblowing.
  • exercises and case examples to help social workers and their managers consider responses to different fear-inducing situations and ensure appropriate procedures and policies are in place to ensure workers feel safe.

The guide considers key aspects of fear that affect individuals personally and professionally and uses evidence, policy, guidance and law to inform social workers on identifying and managing fear.

More from Community Care Inform

Community Care Inform Children and Community Care Inform Adults provide online resources for subscribing social workers and social care professionals. If you have a licence through your employer or institution, you might also find the links below particularly useful at this time.

Self-care and Covid-19: podcast and transcript

Use of self and emotional intelligence: quick guide for practice educators

Managing fear in social work

Fear and social work: podcast and transcript

Loneliness and isolation during the pandemic: podcast and transcript

Not sure if you have a licence?

A large number of local authorities and universities work with us so do ask your manager, principal social worker or learning and development team if you have access, or contact our helpdesk by email or phone (0203 915 9444). You can also enquire about new subscriptions.

You can read extracts from other Community Care Inform resources here.