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by Kate Shannon
24 October 2014
Rise in number of public sector worker attacks

Rise in number of public sector worker attacks

Violence against public service workers in Scotland increased again last year and has nearly doubled over the past eight years.

37,052 incidents were reported to public service employers last year - up 3,363 - and almost double the 20,000 reported when the first survey was first conducted in 2006.

The figures were released by UNISON as part of their annual survey of violent incidents.

Scotland organiser Dave Watson said the figures were “entirely unacceptable” and that assaults were most common in services which had "suffered" staffing cuts. He will present the survey findings to Scotland's health and safety conference at Stirling University today.

He said: “It is entirely unacceptable for staff who serve the public to be assaulted for simply doing their job. These statistics record reported incidents and are therefore only the tip of the iceberg of misery faced by workers across Scotland’s public services.

"The biggest increase in violent incidents is happening in those services that have suffered staffing cuts. Workers are stretched too thinly, dealing with service users who are coping with cuts in the services they rely on. This is a toxic cocktail that is putting hard pressed workers at greater risk of violent assault."

However, he welcomed improvements in data recording, adding that although some public bodies are still failing to collate data properly. He said if they can’t collate data – they don’t know where to take the necessary action.

There were 330 convictions under the Emergency Workers Act last year but the union said due to the limited scope of the Act few violent incidents result in criminal action and “sadly”, efforts to address this were blocked by the Scottish Government when they opposed Hugh Henry MSP’s, Protection of Worker’s Bill.

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