Council staff refuse to be silent victims and will report attacks

AROUND 500 council staff have been physically and verbally abused over a 12-month period, the Paisley Daily Express can reveal today.

Workers at Renfrewshire Council have reported being victims of physical harm, verbal aggression and threats.

They have also had their property and equipment damaged by members of the public while simply trying to do their jobs and have witnessed frightening violence between the very people they are trying to help.

Council wardens, animal wardens social workers, teachers and leisure centre staff are among 540 workers who have been on the receiving end of some type of abuse.

Details on the troubles faced by council staff as they go about their duties were obtained by the Paisley Daily Express through the Freedom of Information Act.

We found that, between April 2009 and March 2010, 297 people working in the Social Work Services department alone reported incidents.

These included employees working in child care, community care, residential care and those out doing field work.

In Education and Leisure Services there were 233 reports from staff working in primary and secondary schools, special educational needs schools, pre-five centres, sports centres and special units.

The Environmental Services department received reports of nine cases of violence and aggression to its health and safety coordinator. These ranged from physical harm to threatening behaviour, and eight reports were from wardens and one from an animal warden.

One complaint was made to Finance and Corporate Services when a staff member was on the receiving end of an abusive phone call, and this was reported to Strathclyde Police.

Both Renfrewshire Council and the UNISON union – which represents frontline workers in the public sector – have condemned the terrifying treatment some staff face.

A council spokesman said: “We do all we can to minimise attacks and to protect and support our staff. This means we encourage the reporting of all types of incidents.

“These don’t always mean physical attacks – in the majority of cases these figures refer to verbal aggression or confrontation. However, we take all incidents extremely seriously.

“We’ve worked hard to reduce the number of violent incidents against staff.

“In terms of incidents of pupils being aggressive towards teachers in particular, we try to tackle these in two ways. Where the incident merits an exclusion we use that option as a last resort.

“Equally, we put a lot of work into supporting youngsters to change their behaviour and helping parents in that process where necessary.”