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Monday 2 June 2003

Attacks on public service workers should all be treated as 'serious assaults' - poll

UNISON, the public service union, today released the results of an opinion poll showing that almost all Scots think that violence against staff delivering public services should be treated as serious assault.

The poll, carried out by NFO System 3 shows that 99% agreed that these violent attacks should be treated as serious assaults. The Executive has only promised to treat attacks on 'emergency workers' as assaults.

Jim Devine, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Health said "We are calling on the Scottish Executive to abandon their complacency on violence against staff and to strengthen their Anti-Social Behaviour legislation. The Scottish public are clearly saying that attacks on any staff delivering public services must be treated as serious assaults. Under the current proposals you could have two public service workers on the same job receiving different levels of back up if they were attacked, for example a porter and an ambulance worker dealing with a violent patient. It will also, be very difficult to determine when emargency work stops and other work starts"

The union points to the huge range of public services and the difficulty of defining an 'emergency' worker. "Social workers, nursery nurses, planners, environmental health officers, health visitors and many, many more would not be considered to be 'traditional' emergency workers.

Said Jim Devine "Yet all of these staff have been attacked in the past." UNISON will also be releasing further survey evidence of the increasing problem of violence against public service staff at the union's Scottish Health and Safety conference on Stirling on Thursday 5 June.

Jim Devine said: "UNISON will be asking why there are no standard forms to record and report physical and verbal abuse and no standard back up, even within the Health Service, let alone across the public services as a whole. Good Practice in some areas is being dissipated by bad practice in others. It is time the Executive dealt with the increasing problem of violence against people who are delivering our public services."


NOTE for Editors [Note to Editors: The Opinion Poll was carried out between 23-29 April. 956 adults from across Scotland were asked to agree or disagree with the statement "Violent attacks on staff delivering public services should be treated as serious assault" The results were Strongly Agree 94% Agree 5% UNISONScotland will be announcing the results of a survey of NHS Trusts at its Health & Safety Conference in Stirling Royal Infirmary on Thursday 5 June.

For Further Information Please Contact: Jim Devine (Scottish Organiser - Health) - 0845 355 0845(o) 07876 441 239(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

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