Families 'being bullied' in Offaly housing estates where there are 'serious problems'
A local councillor told a recent meeting that there are housing estates in the county where people are being bullied and intimidated.
Cllr Seán O'Brien raised the issue of problems in two estates in Tullamore, pointing out that vandalism and name-calling are taking place.
While some councillors don't like to talk about anti-social behaviour in the county's estates, because they rightly point out most residents are lawabiding, there has been a large increase in anti-social behaviour complaints received by the Council this year.
In 2018 there were 27 complaints in Tullamore Municipal District, 12 in the Edenderry Municipal District and eleven in Birr Municipal District.
This year the figure has jumped dramatically. Up to the end of October the figure had increased by 50%, with 80 complaints in Tullamore MD, 25 in Edenderry MD and 20 in Birr MD.
Cllr Seán O'Brien told the recent meeting of the County Council that unfortunately there are serious problems in Church Hill and Chancery Close housing estates in Tullamore.
"The bullying is bad in these estates," he said, "where people are trying to force families out by making life very difficult for them. Rubbish is being thrown into their gardens, there's loud music at night, there's damage being caused to fences, kids are being called names. At Church Hill an illegal encampment has completely taken over the green."
Cllrs John Carroll and John Leahy sympathised with the residents of Church Hill and Chancery Close, the majority of whom are lawabiding they said, adding that thankfully there are no problems of a similar level in the estates in the south of the county.
Cllr O'Brien pointed out that the only solution is for the Council to move out the troublesome people from the two Tullamore estates.
Cllr Leahy said the three social housing agencies, Cluid, Respond and Oakley, have all become more prominent in the last few years but unfortunately they don't have the same nuanced approach to housing as the Council.
"The problem is Cluid, Respond and Oakley don't have the background knowledge we councillors would have, therefore they are housing families beside each other who simply do not get on. We would know beforehand that certain families or people don't like each other and wouldn't put them near each other. We would know the families and people with addiction issues, who would need wraparound services."
He said wraparound services entail calling on the tenants every few weeks and ensuring that the daily details of their lives are on course and not falling apart.
"With some families you can't just give them the key and disappear. They need shepherding and nurturing after that."
Cllr Leahy praised the Council's response to the problem of the social housing agencies' approach.
"The Council has been talking to Cluid and Respond and Oakley and advising them as to the best way to house people."
Cllr Leahy pointed out that perhaps 15 out of the 20 complaints in the Birr Municipal District could be about a relatively minor thing like playing loud music at night. However, he did admit that it is evident that in the county as a whole, anti-social behaviour has spiked during Covid-19, for the obvious reason that people are in more prolonged close proximity and don't have the usual escape valves. Cllr Carroll said there has been an increase in house parties, which has led as well to an increase in complaints.
Cllr Carroll said that in all these problems, including the two estates in Tullamore, it is always a small number of people causing the issues.
"95% of the tenants are very well behaved and they hate seeing their estates going through this." He reminded people that there have been many success stories over the years where estates have been turned around for the better. "In my homeplace of Crinkle there was bullying and intimidation taking place in Grove Street housing estate but that was sorted out long ago and it is now thankfully an excellent estate. Also in Crinkle we had a problem for years with the illegal parking of caravans in Corran housing estate. That too has been dealt with."
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