Housing providers must do more to protect their employees
Sound the alarm
Housing officers are frequently referred to as working on the front line - this week we publish two pieces of research which show just how dangerous this front line actually is.
That an average of one housing worker every day is physically assaulted is bad enough, but when you add in verbal abuse, this figure rises to a shocking eight incidents a day. If the trends in these figures from across the UK identified by our research continue, this year will see more than 500 physical assaults and almost 3,000 incidences of verbal abuse.
As a result housing staff have told us that some are resorting to wearing personal protection and, worse, are becoming so used to the threats and intimidation that they don’t report them as they feel they’re ‘just part of the job’. Housing officers who take this view - and our survey indicates that this is more than a third - are only storing up trouble for themselves and, more worryingly, for colleagues.
For several years now housing and neighbourhood officers have routinely worked alone when out covering their patches, relying on mobile phones to get support if things go wrong. They are able to do this with confidence due to previous abusive behaviour being logged on the appropriate tenancy file. If a tenant is deemed potentially risky then common practice is for housing officers to visit in pairs. If this information is not available then colleagues are being placed at unnecessary risk.
Individual housing professionals need to take responsibility here, but their employers can play a crucial role in ensuring abuse is reported. Although there are no national guidelines in this area, many landlords, such as Incommunities, Shoreline and Genesis, are already running staff awareness campaigns and streamlining their processes for registering abuse.
Sadly others are not so diligent, with almost half our respondents saying they felt their employer did not always do enough to protect them. Landlords need to do better as otherwise they face losing experienced staff to alternative, safer vocations. This is also a fact unlikely to be missed by those looking at housing as a potential career.