Sir – The recent incident in London during which a bailiff and a housing association worker were left with gunshot wounds during an eviction allegedly over rent arrears, has highlighted the possible dangers faced by front-line workers sent to deal with unknown situations.
The two injured people during the London incident were a collections officer for Metropolitan Housing Association and a bailiff from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service. Thankfully, due to their partnership with Argyll, they were sent to the job with their safety at the fore due to a full risk assessment being in place as part of our lone worker solution.
The bailiff had both an SOS panic button and a GPS device with his co-ordinates keyed in so we knew his exact location at all times. One of the two Metropolitan Housing workers had an alarm and a mobile solution which told us what time he was going in and what time he expected to leave.
As things turned out, we got alerted by one worker’s personal alarm and then shortly afterwards by the other. As soon as the alerts reached our emergency centre, our system ensured police and ambulance services were immediately informed and despatched to the scene. They were there within minutes; the speed of their response may have saved lives.
The introduction of the bedroom tax and universal credit is likely to increase the number of evictions carried out by housing providers. If this does happen, then housing providers’ employees, council housing staff and bailiffs will face increasing numbers of unknown and potentially hazardous situations where emotions could run high and the chances of conflict could be increased.
If housing providers have not already done so, they should implement cost-effective risk solutions. If they have already done so then, like Metropolitan Housing, they must to resist the urge to compromise on safety in the face of financial pressures.