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Date Wednesday 13 Sept

22,000 assaults on public service staff need broader response - UNISON

UNISON - Scotland's public service union - today said that new figures reveal that assaults on Scotland's health and local government staff over the last three years show no evidence of decline and require a better co-ordinated approach.

The union has obtained figures from Scotland's Local Authorities and Health Boards that show that the level of violent attacks on Scotland's public servants has remained more or less constant over the last three years - running between around 20,000 (2003), 22,500 (2004) and 21,500(2005).

The union's survey is probably the most comprehensive that has yet been compiled, and was released at a Health and Safety Conference at Stirling Royal infirmary today. The union attacked the inconsistency in the reporting of these figures, and monitoring incidents, which it said was particularly bad in local government.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser Policy said "These figures show that until we can get employers to take the threat of violence to their staff seriously, all the positive advertising campaigns in the world cannot have the impact they should. The quality of the information is inconsistent especially in local government, but also in health. This means that it is difficult to monitor attacks and to compare like with like. In some cases they did not even appear to add up the numbers of incidents. If no-one is adding up the numbers, authorities can have no idea how many assaults are taking place in any area.

UNISON requested the figures and copies of any policies that authorities had in a Freedom of Information request, earlier this year. The union is clear that the Executive needs to remind councils and health boards that they should adopt effective monitoring and share information on violent clients between departments, and between authorities and boards.

Dave Watson said "UNISON is calling for the following plan of action to address these problems:

1. Maintain awareness campaigns. This includes the Scottish Executive campaign supplemented by employer level training and communication.

2. Ensure policy implementation in the workplace. This means ensuring that every employer has a policy, that it has been recently reviewed and, most importantly, implemented in practice.

3. Effective monitoring of violence. Ensuring that employers don't just collect statistics but that they are used to inform safety strategies. That statistics should be collated in a common format to ensure that wider lessons can be learned.

4. Maintain civil and Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (CICA) remedies. Resisting the Home Office/SE proposals to remove large numbers of claims from the CICA. To maximise the use other civil remedies as a further deterrent.

5. Strengthen criminal law. Extend the scope of the Emergency Workers Act and maintain its effectiveness.


Notes for editors: the report - Violent Assaults on Public service staff in Scotland is available on the UNISONScotland website

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser - Policy) 07958 122 409(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)