Council officers fitted with body cameras in attempt to tackle attacks on staff

The number of Leeds City Council staff being attacked while at work has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite fewer interactions between council staff and members of the public.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 4:45 pm
Leeds City Council has said it has already introduced changed to ensure its staff are safer, including fitting some of its enforcement staff with body cameras.

According to statistics gained from the authority following a freedom of information request, members of staff have suffered kickings, being punched and “hit with various objects” during the 2020/21 municipal year.

Leeds City Council has said it has already introduced changed to ensure its staff are safer, including fitting some of its enforcement staff with body cameras.

The statistics show that the number of council staff attacked while at work rose from 179 in 2019/20 to 182 the following year. This also follows a huge jump from 2018/19 from 111 total attacks.

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Interestingly, some departments saw more significant rises than others, with 107 recorded assaults on those working for the Children and Families department (up from 79 in 19/20), and 23 attacks on Resources and Housing staff (up from 10 in 19/20).

A short statement which came with the statistics read: “As you can see there has been many physical assaults and the type of assaults are wide ranging from staff being kicked, punched, nipped, pushed and hit with various objects.”

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “Ensuring our staff are safe at work is a priority for us and we are determined to reduce the number of assaults through a range of strategies.

“Across the council we are implementing changes in practice, improvements in training and awareness for staff along with a proactive approach to looking at new technology to further protect our staff (such as body cameras for enforcement officers and improved security measures at public facing buildings).

“We are also committed to continuing work with trade unions to further improve employee health, safety and wellbeing.

“Any member of council staff, whether employed in schools or elsewhere, is offered professional support if they are subjected to any type of assault or witness it taking place.”

Richard Whiskin, an officer with the Unison trade union, which represents public sector workers, said: “Leeds City Council runs a number of residential homes – a couple are for young people with learning disabilities.

“There are quite a number of areas where physicality becomes a thing. One is that they got better at reporting (attacks).

“I have had to drill it into (members) that it is not part of the job to be physically assaulted and that they should report it. Young people have also been stuck inside these places for longer with nowhere to go, so that adds to their frustration.

“I wouldn’t say Leeds City Council don’t try – everytime there is an incident, they will look at it and do the risk assessment. But unfortunately, this is what comes with these jobs – it shouldn’t be, but that’s the reality in children and families.

“We do hold the council to account – we go through all the reports, so we do have input for members. Sometimes things do stand out, but on the whole the last year has been tough on everyone. There is a lot of frustration and anger out there

“Some people are suffering from lockdown.”

Mr Whiskin added that pay needed to increase for people doing tough jobs on the ground for local authorities.

“All local government pay has gone down by a fifth over 15 years,” he added. “The people doing these jobs have seen their wages deflate. Wages have been going down for people doing these tough jobs, and they wonder why they can’t recruit anybody – why would you put yourself in that position when you can stack shelves in Lidl for the same amount of money?”

Directorate

Adults & Health

Children & Families

City Development

Civic Enterprise Leeds

Communities & Environments

Resources & Housing

Total

2018/2019

12

49

7

9

22

12

111

2019/2020

37

79

1

47

5

10

179

2020/2021

21

107

1

19

11

23

182