‘Disturbing’ number of council staff do not feel safe at work

Date published: 17 January 2020

A ‘disturbing’ number of council and health staff in Rochdale do not feel safe at work, a survey has revealed.

More than 100 council and CCG employees who responded to the questionnaire indicated they had fears over their safety and security.

The survey results had been fed into the development of a ‘workforce wellbeing strategy and action plan’ intended to boost staff engagement and satisfaction.

An overview of the results says it is ‘critical that the 103 respondents who do not feel that their place of work is safe and secure are recognised and the vulnerabilities are eliminated’.

It adds that meetings should be held with employees having input into the development and evaluation of health and safety policies.

Nearly a fifth of respondents worked in adult social care and children’s services.

The results of the survey were included in an update on workforce wellbeing presented to a meeting of the council’s corporate overview and scrutiny committee on Monday 13 January.

Members of the panel said it raised significant concerns.

Councillor Malcom Borris said: “I think it’s a serious thing – 103 respondents do not feel safe at work.

“Why do they not feel safe or do they feel vulnerable – and what departments are they from; is something stressing them?”

Committee chairman, Councillor Michael Holly, an ex-director of Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – said it was ‘disturbing’ that so many staff did not feel safe.

And he went on to raise concerns over the possibility of employees being subjected to physical attacks.

He said: “One thing that’s not mentioned here (in the report) – and is very relevant to integrated care in the NHS – is violence towards staff.

“We had it in spades – particularly on Friday evenings – at North Manchester General Hospital, and that is an issue. Whether or not we have that issue with the council I don’t know.”

Councillor Holly added that bullying was ‘a similar issue which can lead to mental health issues’ and questioned why there was no specific mention of it in the report.

The council and CCG have now produced a ‘workplace wellbeing framework’ summarising their priorities for the coming year.

This is supported by an action plan which is managed by a steering group chaired by the council’s director of public health and wellbeing.

The council and CCG have also been shortlisted for the ‘Active Workplace of the Year’ award by Greater Sport in recognition of the progress they have made in the area of wellbeing.

The trade union Unison – which represents public sector workers – says it hopes the council will continue to work with its to improve employee safety.

UNISON North West regional organiser Dan Smith said: “Council workers have had to bear the brunt of a decade of austerity cuts.

“This has affected their pay and conditions, but it has also affected the quality of the public services they provide.

 “As a result, many frontline staff are on the receiving end of anger from members of the public. This can manifest itself as abuse, and sometimes even violence.

“No council workers should have to put up with threats, abuse or violence in their job. We hope that Rochdale Borough Council will work with UNISON to improve safety and security at work for all of their employees.”

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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