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Merthyr Tydfil Politics South Wales

Online abuse on Merthyr Tydfil council housing staff revealed

Merthyr Tydfil Council

SOCIAL media groups have had a negative impact on Merthyr Tydfil Council housing staff with “extremely 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 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 he thought it was “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 the council should be doing all it can to deal with that and protect staff.

He said staff have to build up a hardened skin if they’re there for any length of time but said the adverse criticism from people not prepared to identify themselves is something that should not be happening.

Cllr Jones said councillors and officers are responsible and should be concerned with the welfare of staff wherever they work and said staff in housing are on the front line all the time.

A council officer said 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.

They 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.

The officer said it’s difficult for them to do anything about it when no actual threats are being made.

They said they are supporting staff all they can and some had been very distressed by the posts.

They also said they think 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.

Committee member Councillor Declan Sammon said: “Social media is terrible to be honest. Especially since Covid came in and it’s really disappointing that staff are having to live with this as well.”

He passed on his thanks for the work they do and said he hopes things get better for them.

The leader of the council Councillor Geraint Thomas offered his thanks to housing staff and officers, saying “we all know they do a terrific job fulfilling the council’s statutory duties for homelessness”.

He said they won a national award last year for their work at the neighbourhood learning centre in the Gurnos.

Councillor Lee Davies, chair of the committee, also thanked staff, saying they’re punching way above their weight, they do a great job and they’re always on the phone when he needs advice.

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