Coventry’s anti-abuse campaign is for the long run

By Cllr George Duggins | 29 June 2022

These days, it seems like everything is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic - and that is true for our anti-abuse campaign launched this year to protect colleagues. It is not that COVID made things worse, more that it highlighted that change was needed – a fresh start as we did in so many ways post-pandemic.

Also, sadly we saw the rise in cases in recent years was showing no signs of slowing, and we have this summer launched our One Coventry Plan, where we are calling on residents, firms and organisations to work with us as partners as we plan for the future.

Of course, the vast majority of people are polite, but others can become stressed and cross the line into being abusive – whether that is verbally or physically. People can deal with the council at times when emotions are high. Like any local authority, we handle areas such as bereavement, homelessness, safeguarding, and many other highly charged areas.

We appreciate the strains that puts on people, but that is no excuse for violent or intimidating behaviour.

We did not want to have to remind people how they should act, after all, we all know. Sadly though, figures showed something had to be done.

Since 2019-20 there has been a total of over 750 incidents, and the abuse has been widespread.

A large number of teams have been affected, from Adult Social Care to Libraries, Streetpride and Greenspaces and Fleet and waste Management. Even those who have volunteered to help at COVID testing or vaccination centres were targeted.

Over 300 cases involved verbal abuse, but 14 have seen colleagues forced to take time off after physical attacks. Weapons have been used in 29 incidents, ranging from walking sticks to kitchen utensils. Every single incident takes its toll on the colleague targeted.

Parking Services’ colleagues have been particularly hard hit, including having vehicles driven at them, being spat at, one was hit with a drinks bottle while another had his glasses ripped off and broken.

Library staff have been abused, bin crews assaulted and threatened and lots more.

So, like many public service bodies, we have had to take action to protect colleagues from this small minority of residents who resort to intimidation, abuse and violence.  Sadly we are not alone. Take a walk through your city  centre and you will see similar messages in health centres, stores, opticians and a range of other services.

I am sure that 99% of the city’s population know we are not talking to them, and that they support us in reminding that one per cent that their behaviour should not, and will not, be tolerated. However, we have to get the message out, and we also want to let our teams know we are there for them and that there is support available.

Externally, we have messages on social media, images on screens around the city, and posters in Council buildings, reminding residents that we will call police and we will take action if they abuse our workers.

Internally, we are highlighting the support and guidance available to colleagues and making sure they can talk to someone if needed.

It is a campaign for the long run. The posters and messages will be there for a while.

Hopefully we will see a fall in figures, but the main thing we want to see is colleagues happy and confident when they go out to serve the people of Coventry.

Our officers are proud of the city they serve and the work they do to help those who live here. We want to see them supported in that work and for them to know they are as valued by the public as they are by us.

We are One Coventry and we want everyone to work together for the common good.

Cllr George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council

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