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Date: 12 October 2007

Assaults on public service staff increase to 25,000 - UNISON

UNISON - Scotland's public service union - today released new figures that reveal that assaults on Scotland's health and local government staff over the last year have increased and require a better co-ordinated approach.

In an update to the most comprehensive survey of violence against public service workers in Scotland, the union has obtained figures from Scotland's Local Authorities and Health Boards that show that the level of violent attacks increased over the last year by over 2,000 bringing the figure to 25,157 compared with last years total of 23,272.

The union's survey was released at a Health and Safety Conference at Stirling Royal infirmary today. UNISON also attacked the inconsistency in the reporting of figures, and monitoring incidents, which it said if anything had got worse in local government. UNISON requested the figures through Freedom of Information.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser Policy said "These figures show that - particularly in local government - employers are still not taking the threat of violence to their staff seriously. All the positive advertising campaigns in the world cannot have the impact they should unless employers encourage reporting, collect and monitor information on violent incidents. We highlighted this problem last year, but if anything it seems to have got worse! - in one case a local authority who could not provide figures from the Education Department last year, could only provide figures from the Education Department this year!! If no-one is adding up the numbers, authorities can have no idea how many assaults are taking place in any area."

In addition, UNISON is calling for the Emergency Workers Act to be extended to cover other public service workers at risk, including social workers, housing staff, traffic wardens, community safety officers, community health and mental health workers.

Dave Watson said "The Government must extend the scope of the Emergency Workers Act and maintain its effectiveness. We will be making further representations to parliament, and if necessary, a private members bill will be introduced to either amend the 2006 Act, or introduce a further bill."

The union is clear that the Government also 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 "From this conference UNISON is saying this level of violence is unacceptable. Employers must: introduce preventative measures; carry out risk assessments for all tasks; encourage reporting; and collate the relevant statistics"


Notes for editors: the report - Violent Assaults on Public service staff in Scotland and its follow-up survey is available on the UNISONScotland website. www.unison-scotland.org.uk/safety/violencesurvey.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser - Policy) 07958 122 409(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m) For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser - Policy) 07958 122409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)