FRONT-LINE council staff across Yorkshire were kicked, punched, bitten, assaulted and verbally abused more than 7,250 times in the last two years, an investigation by The Yorkshire Post has revealed.
Unions have called for greater protection and support for workers, after councils across the region revealed thousands of incidents of assaults on staff who were “simply doing their jobs”.
They include the attempted strangle of a worker in Doncaster; a pregnant teacher being forced to go to A&E after being bitten in North Lincolnshire and a school crossing patrol worker being assaulted in Calderdale.
Other incidents include staff receiving breaks, bruising and fractures in assaults, racial abuse, people being spat at and verbally abused at work.
Of the 21 local authorities that responded to a Freedom of Information request by the Yorkshire Post, only Selby and Ryedale district councils were without incident, with even affluent and rural areas such as Craven, Hambleton and Richmondshire recording incidents, including a housing support officer being verbally abused at a council house in Richmond. A member of North Yorkshire County Council staff was even assaulted at Harrogate Library.
The largest number of assaults were in Leeds, where there were 1,411 incidents, of which 407 were physical. They took place in departments including adult social care, libraries and museums, schools, and transport, with bites, kicks, slaps and punches recorded.
Worryingly, of the 1,233 incidents in Rotherham, of which 1,126 were physically violent, 1,127 were in schools. Two incidents recorded by the authority were classed as sexual harassment.
Kirklees recorded 1,080 incidents, of which 999 were violent, including staff at primary schools having their hair pulled, head butted, slapped, bitten, kicked and punched.
In Doncaster, 84 per cent of the 756 incidents were physically violent.
The GMB’s senior organiser for public services for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, Desiree Wilburn, said: “Nobody should go to work to be abused or attacked. Employers have a duty of care and should have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to any form or abuse in the workplace.”
Leeds Council’s executive member for resources and strategy, Coun James Lewis, said it was “fully committed” to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of its staff and it promoted a culture where any incidences of assault, abuse or aggression were reported.
Most incidents, he said, related to staff who work with and support children or adults with challenging behaviour, and specialist training can include dispute resolution and wearing body cameras.
“This is an area we keep under regular review to allow us to continually look for alternative ways to protect our staff in consultation with trade unions,” he added.
Doncaster Council’s director of regeneration and environment, Peter Dale, said the safety of its employees is “vitally important” and it takes a number of measures to protect those who work in “what can be difficult circumstances”, including training and encouraging all incidents to be reported “big or small”.
At Kirklees Council, procedures are in place to ensure the victims of assault “are given the support they need to recover both mentally and if relevant physically” and it will take further action against the perpetrator, a spokesperson said.
“The council records all incidents of violence against staff, and managers carry out a review of each case in order to learn from the situation and see if anything could be changed to reduce the chance of a similar incident taking place in future,” she added.
7,254 - the number of assaults recorded by 21 councils across Yorkshire in the last two years
1,411 - the number of assaults in Leeds
1,127 - the number of incidents in schools in Rotherham
999 - the number of physically violent incidents in Kirklees
0 - the number of incidents in Ryedale and Selby
84% - the percentage of incidents in Doncaster that were violent