Housing staff facing wave of online abuse
Anthony Lewis Local Democracy Reporter
Social media groups have had a negative impact on housing staff – with “upsetting” and “personal” comments and some about where staff live, a council report has said.
A report on housing and homelessness which went before the Merthyr Tydfil Council’s regeneration and public protection committee on Tuesday, January 23 said local social media sites such as Merthyr Tydfil Matters and Merthyr Council Truths have had a negative impact on many staff, with some “extremely upsetting” comments having been posted by members of the public.
It said some have been personal in nature and one post mentioned where some employees were living.
The report said: “Whilst we appreciate the frustration that members of the public feel when facing homelessness and that they have a right to voice their opinions, such behaviour has most definitely impacted staff morale and as a consequence of this, we have seen an increase in sickness absence in the service over the past few weeks.
“Housing managers continue to liaise with our corporate comms and legal team to ensure we can support staff as much as possible on this issue.”
At the meeting, Councillor Clive Jones said: “I think this is extremely concerning and worrying” and asked what the council is doing about it.
He said: “Our staff in this department are doing an extremely difficult and pressurised job and they should be protected.”
He said frustration is an issue but that it’s a cowardly act and that the council should be doing all it can to deal with that and protect staff.
Council officer Suzanne Stephens said that the person who posted about the area of Merthyr Tydfil where some employees live has an anonymous Facebook page which has been blocked from commenting on any council posts. She said it has been reported to the police but as no threats were made and it was only one isolated comment the matter isn’t being taken any further.
The council will keep monitoring the sites and if things do escalate then further action will be taken.
Cllr Stephens said it’s difficult for them to do anything about it when no actual threats are being made.
She said they are supporting staff all they can and that some had been very distressed by the posts. The councillor said it was unacceptable that members of the public are making those derogatory comments about staff.
She also said she thinks a lot of it is down to frustration as they’ve got a lot of people who’ve been in temporary accommodation for quite some time but that it’s not the forum to take it out.
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