Rob Harris from SoloProtect recently wrote this article exploring some of the worrying findings from a recent survey carried out by Inside Housing.
It seems that aggression and violence in the housing sector is on the increase and yet the survey may not tell the whole story. With some members of staff not reporting incidents, it begs the question “Just how big is the problem?”
Rob explains, the challenges and how organisations can tackle them.
The latest assaults survey flags several issues for the Housing Sector, and beyond.
Recently Inside Housing  released the findings from its 2019 Assaults Survey; a study involving feedback taken from over 25,000 housing professionals in the UK. The figures taken are part of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Housing Associations and Local Authorities, and they made for some uncomfortable reading –
• 1636 abuse incidents, up 11.3% on the previous year, equating to over seven in every hundred workers.
• 208 physical assaults reported, up from 161 the previous year, one assault for every 123 workers.
The reasons for this are many and complex. And whilst not seeking to make a political point – it’s clear from articles and commentators within the housing media, that some believe many of the flashpoints are either caused or exacerbated by tense conversations around issues arising from welfare policy, Universal Credit roll-out, and the bedroom tax.
Clearly, whatever the reasons for tension – directing verbal abuse or physical aggression at a worker, lone or otherwise, is not acceptable.
There is another worrying trend within the report.
Of the respondents who were the victim of an attack, one in three people didn’t report the incident – with nearly 70% of that group citing the failure to report based upon believing “incidents are just part of the job”.
In 2019, it is worrying that such a high proportion of any group would accept this as the norm. At least a decade ago, many in the industry were targeting this belief as something that needed to change – through better risk assessing, dialogue across a business, education and support. A lot of progress has been made, but clearly a belief is still widely held, and perhaps some feel reporting is not worth the time spent when you have one individual’s word against another.
So, what can we all do to help ensure reporting of incidents takes place, and is acted upon?
Links to wellness
Wellness, or the optimizing of a person’s wellbeing, is increasingly a factor in the decisions made by an employer. A direct link between safety and a wellness is difficult to quantify in terms of return on investment, but most would accept the assertion that if an employer shows little regard or care for staff safety, then employee morale will suffer. This has a clear bearing on motivation, wellbeing, stress and absenteeism.
In fact, Mental Health Charity, Mind , states that over a quarter of people suffering a mental health problem will link their workplace as a contributing factor. All employers, big or small, need to have the mental wellbeing of their staff as a central consideration within their business.
Clear dialogue, and a listening employer
Open dialogue needs to exist across an organisation – and it shouldn’t only be peer to peer. Those implementing policy need to speak to colleagues across the breadth of a business. If there is a disconnect between senior personnel and front-line workers, and no mechanism for two-way communication, and a voicing of opinion – one group may have no appreciation of what the other is facing day to day.
Culture and Policy
The culture and values need to be lived out daily, at all levels of an organisation. Like a policy that only lives on a shelf – company values that only exist in large type on a boardroom wall, don’t add value if they aren’t embraced in a behavioural sense. The tone for this is often set at the top of an organisation, but encouragement and mentoring across teams can help widespread adoption by all.
Support and Training
Risks continually need to be assessed, and workers need to be equipped to dynamically assess and reduce any risks to their personal safety at work. Supporting mechanisms such as training, feedback and evidence of any incidents should be used to continually assess and improve how an organisation approaches risk and supports its personnel.
The changing role of technology
We all need to stay in touch with the latest developments in technology, as this is a key part of helping mobile or community-based workers to stay safe. It can also be used to support the reporting of a genuine lone worker incident, through valuable evidence capture.
Whether it’s taking proactive measures to use risk messaging based on a worker’s current location, using indoor location technology to locate someone at room level should they need help in a tower block, or by utilising body worn video to help the Police react to a live incident as it unfolds – all of these advancements are giving employers the opportunity to better understand, classify and respond to the different risks being faced across a workforce.
Rob Harris and the rest of the Team from SoloProtect will be at the Lone Worker Safety Expo Conference as one of our Key Sponsors. Why not register for the event and secure your place now while there are still places.
Sources: Inside Housing – Assaults on frontline staff rise 10% in a year, survey reveals.
 Mind – Workplace Wellbeing Index 2016/17.