The BBC reported in August on the widespread failure by councils to tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB). The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman – who investigate cases of ASB that are escalated to them following unsatisfactory responses from the council – have published a report stating that three-quarters of the cases they investigated in the past year were upheld.
The BBC pointed to consistent failure to act by the council and also a lack of awareness and understanding by councils of the tools they have that should be used to respond to these incidents.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has for the first time partnered up with the Housing Ombudsman to investigate a serious and persistent case of ASB in Nottingham and again, condemned inaction by the council.
The Housing Ombudsman have shared similar results this year, reporting an increase in recommendations to social landlords to improve the support they’re offering, with ASB being one of the highest sources of complaint.
This is an incredibly disappointing picture on a nationwide scale and shows a lack of coherent collaboration between councils and police forces. However, it’s also worth noting that this narrative approaches ASB from a perspective consistent with the current government, who released an ASB Action Plan rather short of ideas earlier this year. While it shows some understanding for the structural causes of ASB, it still presents this societal issue has something perpetrated by bad people that good citizens suffer as victims.
The policies mentioned in the ASB Action Plan focus on, for example, the ‘uncomfortable’ experience of homeowners witnessing begging, as opposed to the trauma and instability felt by those experiencing homelessness. This ‘them and us’ mentality is consistent through the document and is in line with the rhetoric used by the current government. This is why the current focus for tackling ASB appears to be one of ‘tough on crime’, increasing police enforcement and the use of various injunctions and ‘agreements’ by councils.
However, at Resolve West, we’ve consistently observed that a different method of intervention is essential for issues including neighbourhood conflict and other forms of antisocial behaviour. As well as targetted support to help address the systemic issues and root causes of this behaviour and tackling poverty, there’s a need for interventions that support genuine understanding and reconciliation.
We have seen the impact on people’s health and wellbeing and the frustration for parties involved. Additionally, we have seen the impact on professionals (housing officers, police officers etc) trying to tackle ASB with blunt, ineffective tools and we know it doesn’t work.
However, when we’re able to support people who have been through persistent and complex conflict to access support and be given the opportunity to communicate in a safe and supported way, to have the space and the time to have a voice and to feel heard, this is when we see real change.
Punishment and ‘orders’ might be a sticking plaster, but for deeper and lasting resolution, processes such as conflict resolution and Restorative Justice are far more effective.
BBC article detailing failures of Councils to tackle ASB:
ASB inaction in Nottingham: