Nearly half of charity and housing association staff 'have experienced workplace violence'

Unison, which carried out the research, wants organisations to sign a charter to protect staff

Almost half of charity and housing association staff have experienced violence or aggression in the workplace, a survey from the union Unison has found.

The public services union said today that charities and housing associations should pledge to protect staff, and it has drawn up a charter it wants voluntary sector organisations to sign to demonstrate their commitment to complying with their duty of care towards their employees.

Unison conducted its community health and safety survey in June. It found that 47 per cent of the 249 charity and housing association employees surveyed said they had experienced violence or aggression from service users or from colleagues.

Staff reported a wide range of abuse, from verbal threats and having cars vandalised to physical attacks such as being slapped, hit, bitten, kicked and punched in the face.

More than a quarter (26 per cent) said they felt unsupported when working alone, and many said they felt they had been in danger because of a lack of training and managerial support.

Almost four out of five (79 per cent) respondents said they were experiencing stress because of work, and 47 per cent said they were regularly required to work beyond the ends of their shifts because of understaffing.

Gavin Edwards, head of communities at Unison, said the results indicated a "pervasive, dangerous culture" and urged voluntary organisations to commit to ending it.

The charter says those that sign it have committed to providing and implementing a written policy on violence and aggression at work, conducting risk assessments and providing training, support and ways to report violent incidents.

Six organisations have signed the pledge, including the learning disability charity Mencap, the sight-loss charity the RNIB and the nursing home provider Coverage Care.

The social housing providers Places For People, Incommunities, Apex Housing and the WM Housing Group have also signed the pledge.

Edwards said: "Charities and housing associations need to take more care of their staff.

"The bleak survey results show that too often charity and voluntary sector employees are faced with verbal and physical intimidation. This is made worse by a lack of support from their managers."

He said he hoped more organisations would sign the pledge in the coming weeks in order to prove their commitment to their employees’ wellbeing.

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