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Issue:- 19 January  2012

Usdaw says increase in abuse and threats against shopworkers is extremely worrying

THE shopworkers union Usdaw says it is extremely worried by the increase in reported incidents of abuse and threats against shop staff recorded by the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC’s) annual survey of retail crime which has been published recently.

The BRC says that, excluding the August riots, the total number of reported incidents of verbal abuse, threats and violence against shopworkers rose by 83% in 2011, driven by a more than three-fold increase in threats and a five-fold increase in incidents of verbal abuse.

On a more positive note, the total number of physical assaults against shopworkers reduced by 62.8% in 2011 and the total number of incidents remains on a downward trend. Despite this year’s increase, the BRC says the total number of incidents against shopworkers has reduced by a compound annual rate of 30% in the past 7 years.

The BRC attributes part of the this year’s overall increase to staff being encouraged to report all threats and incidents of verbal abuse, although the report also highlights the fact that retailers themselves still continue to report less than half of all incidents of shoplifting (46.9%) to the police.

The BRC’s survey also details the human cost of the riots and the appalling levels of violence and fear of violence faced by shopworkers in August. In total over more than 5,000 crimes were committed, including 1,860 incidents of arson and criminal damage, 1,649 burglaries, 141 incidents of disorder, 366 incidents of violence against the person and 5 fatalities. The vast majority of employers (81.5%) said their staff were fearful of violence with around 33% reporting incidents of physical and verbal violence against staff.

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:- “The huge leap in reported incidents of verbal abuse and threats against shopworkers is extremely worrying and shows why we need to continue to work closely with the BRC, employers, police and other agencies to reduce all incidents of shop crime, create safer workplaces and ensure offenders are brought to justice.  While the reduction in the number of assaults and continuing downward trend in the total number of incidents is welcome news, our own survey figures indicate there continues to be a significant problem of under-reporting and that these figures remain the tip of a very large iceberg.  Failure to report incidents is driven by the myth that shop crime is ‘victimless’ and a belief shared by many shopworkers and their employers that little if any effective action will be taken against perpetrators. Shop crime is never victimless and suffering abuse, threats and violence should never be regarded as part of the job. Shopworkers need to have real confidence that their employers, the police and the courts will support them, particularly when so many incidents result from staff themselves having to uphold the law by for example refusing under-age sales or tackling shoplifters. The government must also ensure the police and courts have the resources to treat retail crime seriously. The Tory-led coalition’s 20% cut to police budgets and the predicted loss of 16,000 frontline police officers and 1,800 PCSOs represent a real threat to the safety of shopworkers and Usdaw will continue to campaign for these swingeing and dangerous cuts to be reversed.”

New mental health support plan

PLANS have been unveiled to improve mental health support in Liverpool.  A report to the city council’s Cabinet on Friday 20 January is recommending spending almost £250,000 upgrading and refurbishing day centres at Crown Street near the city centre and Unicorn Road in Croxteth, which between them support around 150 people.

It is part of a wider series of changes which will see them turned into ‘hubs’ providing wider community services which will be open for a longer period of time.  Intense periods of up to 3 months of ‘reablement’ support will be introduced to help people return to mental wellbeing as soon as possible, rather than becoming dependent upon services in the longer term.

A 3rd centre at South Drive in Wavertree which does not comply with the Disability Discrimination Act will close and staff and the 47 people who use it will transfer to the 2 other hubs. Informal consultation has already taken place with people affected by the proposed change, and support groups have been established to make sure they are involved at every stage. 

The changes are part of the council’s ‘Transformation’ plan for day care services, which will also see another 6 Health and Wellbeing ‘hubs’ created to provide help and support for people.

Councillor Roz Gladden, cabinet member for adult social care, said:- “This is part of a wider plan to modernise services for people who need mental health support.  We are going to be putting more of an emphasis on getting people well again so that they don’t become dependent upon services in the longer term.  We are moving to a system where we have social care hubs around the city which will offer a wide range of drop in services providing the type of support which will mean people can live independently.  This is a significant investment in a new kind of care facility which is completely changing the way in which we deliver services.  We are moving to a system where we are focused on meeting people’s individual needs, rather than having to choose from a fixed menu of social care services.”

The other 6 centres being created as part of the day services transformation are:-

Lime Court in Kensington; the Lancaster Centre in Walton and Speke Resource Centre – all open 12 hours per day

A new dementia centre at Sedgemoor Care Home in Norris Green; stroke support at Venmore Care Home in Everton and a service for people who have suffered a fall at Granby Care Home in Toxteth – all open around the clock.

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