Punched, spat on and intimidated - huge rise in violence against council staff with 200 cases in Hartlepool

Punching, swearing, spitting and screaming – just part of the shocking treatment council staff have had to endure in face of an ‘unprecedented rise’ in violence and aggression.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 12:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 4:46 pm
Picture c/o Pixabay

There were 193 cases of violence and aggression towards Hartlepool council staff, both verbal and physical, in 2018/19 – more than four times higher than the 46 incidents reported in 2015/16.

And there have been 166 cases already in 2019/20, with council chiefs expecting the number to reach 222 by the end of the period.

The statistics, which come from the safety incident reporting process, also show there were 100 reports in 2016/17 and 80 in 2017/18.

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The reports of violence and aggression are towards staff of every department of the council: refuse crews, enforcement officers, contact centre officers, social workers, to name a few.

Types of violence and aggression are also varied including shouting, swearing, screaming, spitting, threatening violence, punching, pushing and intimidating behaviour.

The horrendous abuse facing staff going about their daily business is detailed in a report to go before Hartlepool Borough Council Finance and Policy Committee next week

The report, from council assistant director for corporate services Claire McLaren, states the level of violence is unacceptable and steps are being put in place to crackdown on it.

This includes plans to launch a ‘Respect: Everyone Deserves it’ campaign.

She said: “The level of violence and aggression towards staff cannot be tolerated any longer.

“It is important that the council is proactive in reducing the level of violence and aggression towards staff.

“In August 2019, the Chief Executive issued a clear communication to staff demonstrating CMT’s (corporate management team) commitment to improving staff safety.

“This very clearly set out that Hartlepool Borough Council were adopting a ‘zero tolerance’ approach towards dealing with violence and aggression towards employees.”

The respect campaign is to be launched next month and messages will be displayed at key council buildings and on social media.

Training will be given to staff on de-escalation and diffusion techniques, and where appropriate additional CCTV and security guards will be used.

Reporting tools and techniques will also be improved and a clear policy statement on what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour produced.

The report states a staff safety forum has already been set up, and a series of task and finish groups established to guide the work.

A workforce health survey carried out in November by the council said 30% of those who completed it had experienced aggression on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, with 27% having experienced ‘conflict’.

The increase is in line with national trends which sees public sector workers facing more violence and aggression towards them.

It comes just weeks after worrying findings from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) showed 1,413 reports of assaults on staff over the past two financial years, which includes verbal and physical offences.

The report on the subject is to go before Hartlepool Borough Council Finance and Policy Committee on Monday, February 10, at the Civic Centre from 10am.