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Saturday 20 January 2018

Welfare recipient threatened to burn down office

CCTV cameras have been installed at Department of Social Protection offices.
CCTV cameras have been installed at Department of Social Protection offices.

Brian Byrne

A welfare recipient threatened to burn down two Department of Social Protection offices and another punched and bit a civil servant, it has emerged.

The vicious incidents were among more than 100 verbal and physical attacks to take place at social welfare offices last year.

Records released to the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act raise fresh concerns about the safety of staff and the increasingly violent behaviour perpetrated by some customers.

One of the most serious incidents took place on October 23 on D'Olier Street in Dublin, when a customer threatened to burn down two departmental buildings, Oisin House and Gandon House, unless he was paid.

Earlier on August 19 in Ballyfermot, an ambulance and gardaí were called after a customer bit and punched a member of staff.

On February 4 in Finglas, an aggrieved customer was arrested after they approached an employee who was sitting in her car outside a local social welfare office and attempted to attack her, while in Dun Laoghaire on July 14, gardaí were called after a device was left on a staff member's car.

While more than 50 of these incidents took place at offices in the Dublin area, the records show that staff members at offices in every corner of the country have endured violence and threats.

Abusive

In Carlow on February 18, gardaí were notified of an incident involving a customer who became abusive and damaged glass at a hatch window, before breaking four windows as they exited the building.

In Longford on May 26, an employee became sick with stress after they were subjected to a customer's aggressive behaviour, while in Cork on August 11 gardaí were called after a customer verbally abused a staff member, smashed a hatch window and threw a chair.

A department spokeswoman said it "conducts ongoing and regular health and safety reviews at all offices and all relevant risk assessments and safety statements are regularly updated in line with the general principles of prevention, also taking into account any particular risks".

She added: "In Intreo offices, the department provides security features including fire safety alarms, panic buttons, CCTV and the provision of on-site security resources in some offices based on risk assessment."

Irish Independent

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