Cardiff Council: Councillor safety - lone working devices

Cardiff Council reviewed the relevant safety arrangements and implemented a new system to improve support to councillors during their council business.

In response to recent incidents relating to violence and aggression towards councillors, Cardiff Council reviewed the relevant safety arrangements and implemented a new system to improve support to councillors during their council business.

The challenge:

Cardiff Council has 75 councillors who represent the large metropolitan area of Cardiff City. The nature of the councillor role can mean that councillors often carry out activities alone and in environments that may be unfamiliar to them. Sometimes this means they are separated from the support of CCTV, security, police, council officers and other councillor colleagues.

Working alone can make a councillor vulnerable to, and increase the likelihood of, violent or aggressive incidents. Many councillors felt they were unable to call for help under these circumstances. The council identified this as a gap in the support for councillors and that, without additional support, councillors weren't always comfortable engaging within community environments.

The solution:

Cardiff Council developed a range of lone working solutions for councillors in collaboration with a commercial organisation. There are two solutions to choose from depending on the risk profile of the councillor. Both solutions are supplemented with a bespoke suite of training.

The first solution is a smartphone app that registers the councillor's location, estimated meeting time and provides a notification either to the councillor's selected contact or to the police in an emergency. When activated, the app also records the conversation making the transcript readily available to the authorities, allowing the emergency services to assess what level of response is needed. In addition, the recording can provide valuable evidence if further action is required.

The second solution is a discreet physical lone working device, which is easier to access in an emergency than the smartphone app. The device is installed behind an ID card on a lanyard. The device acts similarly to the app and sends a location to a security monitoring station when activated. Officers at the monitoring station can listen in and mobilise a response if appropriate. Councillors receive training on how to use the lone working devices to ensure they have the core competencies to use them effectively.

Cardiff Council identified that the devices in isolation would not provide the required level of cover needed to support councillors during their day-to-day activities. All councillors were offered a suite of training to raise awareness of personal safety measures and suggest preventative actions to avoid confrontational situations, including tactics for de-escalation.

The impact:

The complete package of training and personal safety devices, alongside an understanding of the expected level of response from the council, means that councillors feel confident in managing the risks of working with the public and what to do in the event of an emergency.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The council has gained cabinet member support for councillor safety measures which ensure that adequate resources are available to sustain the current levels of support. This includes delivering training both upon induction and on an ongoing basis to avoid skill fade. In addition, the council has a dedicated support team available to councillors, providing a support network and better communication between the council and councillors.

Lessons learned:

The council has learnt how critical recurrent training is and identified that although technology can provide a great safety net, preventative training is essential to avoid or de-escalate difficult situations.