Staff at a housing association have been warned against wearing their uniforms outside working hours for fear of being attacked by anti-bedroom tax protesters.
Almost 500 staff working in Merseyside have been told their uniforms and name badges could make them targets. Protestors have already held demonstrations outside the offices of housing associations because they are deemed to be supporting the new tax regime by collecting rents from tenants.
The staff of First Ark, the parent company of the Knowsley Housing Trust which owns 14,000 homes, have now been warned in an internal newsletter that they should avoid wearing uniforms outside work.
Protests against the bedroom tax in which tenants are expected to pay more for unused bedrooms, effectively forcing them to take in lodgers, have been held in Merseyside and many other parts of the country in recent months.
The Knowsley Housing Trust has about 3,000 tenants who are affected by the change in benefits. A spokesman was reported by the Inside Housing website as saying: “Due to the number of protests there have been in the region about the bedroom tax and the intensity of feeling around evictions, we have advised staff to take extra precautions to minimise risk if they are wearing KHT uniforms or badges outside work hours.”
Frontline staff have, he said, been trained in how to deal with “confrontational situations” but that office staff have not.
Riverside, another housing asspciation in the region, has no plans to warn staff against wearing uniform. Hugh Owen, the director of policy and communications, said: “I know employees are finding encounters with tenants more difficult because of the distressing circumstances people are finding themselves in.”