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October 15, 2015

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Comment: Housing associations and lone workers

By Ian Johannessen, managing director of Peoplesafe

A few weeks ago my colleagues and I at Peoplesafe attended the National Housing Federation’s Annual Conference and Exhibition at The ICC in Birmingham, where we met and talked to dozens of people who work for housing associations.

There were expert speakers from a variety of backgrounds, including the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark; the political commentator and writer, Jonathan Dimbleby, and former head of the Civil Service, Lord Bob Kerslake. It certainly was an inspiring line-up!

We did our bit by joining forces with one of our clients, Aspire Housing, for a seminar called, ‘Frontline in housing – taking the safety zone with you’.

Housing associations provide a vital service, but their frontline staff can face challenging situations. Worryingly research published in Inside Housing shows that the average number of physical assaults on social housing workers has increased six-fold since 2008. The survey found that they had increased from 1.3 per organisation in 2007/08 to 7.9 in 2013/14.

And according to Unison latest research there were 891 incidents recorded by social landlords in the first three months of 2015 alone – which is shocking. Many of those attacked work in specific roles, however the risks are so impossibly varied that as a result housing association managers need to maintain the safety of all staff as a high priority, and I am glad to say that most do.

The best leaders and managers take their responsibilities seriously and do not see lone worker safety as just another box-ticking exercise. That’s why when we work with our clients, we really get into the details of processes, skills and communication, as well as equipment and monitoring. We provide consultancy and training and work alongside organisations to get the most out of our systems.

Lone workers can be safer when using equipment with discreet alarms, like our Identicom badges or fall detection built into rugged mobile. But it is not just about personal alarms and monitoring equipment; the most effective response to the risk is that the whole culture of the organisation is tuned in to lone worker safety.

After all one attack or one accident is one too many.

Ian Johannessen - PeoplesafesmallerIan Johannessen is managing director of Peoplesafe

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