Fears of rise in antisocial behaviour

A chronic shortage of local authority housing officers in Cork City has sparked fears about an increase in serious antisocial behaviour.

It follows the revelation that the nine executive housing officers (EHOs) employed by Cork City Council are each managing almost twice the recommended caseload.

EHOs are responsible for managing council tenancies, including responding to complaints of antisocial behaviour. But figures released by City Hall this week show that each of its nine EHOs is responsible for almost 1,000 housing units despite recommendations the maximum should be 500.

The figures were contained in response to questions tabled by Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould about EHOs, their responsibilities, and if the council has invested resources to prevent or reduce incidents of antisocial behaviour in its housing stock. In her reply, the city’s head of housing, Valerie O’Sullivan, said each of the council’s nine EHOs is responsible for an average of 995 housing units.

“A study carried out by UCC in 2000 recommends a maximum of 500 housing units per EHO,” she said.

“Currently, it is not possible to recruit any additional resources to prevent, reduce, and address antisocial behaviour issues within council estates or properties. However, this will be kept under review and considered in the context of the annual budgeting process.”

She said the council has a number of safeguards in place for its staff including:

  • supervisors are always informed about the location of an EHO in particular properties;
  • EHOs can request the assistance of gardaí when deemed necessary;
  • They have “dog distractor” devices.

But Mr Gould said: “I am concerned for the over-stretched EHO staff who are already under considerable pressure and strain.

“I am dealing with two particular cases of serious antisocial behaviour, where the initial complaints date back almost four years. I am dealing with another four serious cases of recent antisocial behaviour, and with a further six cases that have the potential to escalate. These cases are in locations across the city — both northside and southside.”

He said as the council continues regeneration of its estates across the city, and begins buying social housing units in private estates, he has concerns that it does not have the resources to manage the increased volume of tenancies, and emerging cases of antisocial behaviour.

“If we don’t respond adequately to the initial complaints, it has been proven that they can escalate to a situation where individuals or individual families, can be responsible for terrorising entire estates and communities,” he said.

However, Ms O’Sullivan said she is satisfied that reports of antisocial behaviour are addressed to the best of her department’s ability, and as promptly as possible, within existing resources.

“The staff involved are very dedicated and are to be commended for their work,” she said.

The council is investigating 37 new cases of antisocial behaviour since January, with 35 tenants interviewed, 24 verbal warnings issued, and two cases closed following mediation.

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