Our Statement on the Government’s New ‘Action Plan’ to Tackle Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB)
By Jacqueline Parkes, SHAC Disability Visibility Group Lead
In January, we held our first DVG meeting for 2023. During this session, we stated our intention this year to focus on disabled residents’ experiences of ASB in social housing, and to raise the profile of this issue. This is a widespread and complex matter compounded by social landlord failure to recognise the substantial disadvantages faced by disabled ASB victims and to respond accordingly.
On Monday, 27 March the government announced the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, a range of measures purporting to ensure that ‘perpetrators of anti-social behaviour will face swift and visible justice.’ The press release focused on two key elements of the plan. One is the new ‘hotspot’ police and enforcement patrols to be set in areas with high levels of ASB. The other is a trial of the Immediate Justice scheme, which will require perpetrators (in high-vis clothing) to repair damage to victims and communities. These schemes will be trialled in 16 designated areas across England and South Wales. Several other schemes and projects were mentioned as part of the plan.
One Million Households
Upon review, it is our position that the action plan’s approach to tackling ASB suffered by social housing residents is wanting. The plan states that in a 2022 survey, one million social households (equal to one in four social housing residents) experienced ASB in the previous year.
However, 40% did not report the ASB because they had no confidence that their landlord would take action. Of those who did report, 55% stated that they were dissatisfied with the outcome. This means that a staggering 95% of polled residents believe that social landlord intervention was either ineffective or would be ineffective. Remarkably, the government’s action plan does nothing to explore these statistics.
The action plan correctly outlines that ‘social landlords already have powers to tackle anti-social behaviour’, which were proffered to them back in 2014 under the ASB Crime and Policing Act. However, the plan fails to examine or address the apparent underuse of these powers which seems evident based on the above statistics. The action plan offers no sanctions, fines or legislative enforcement against social landlords who fail to respond to ASB appropriately. Instead, it states that the government –
- Will set ‘clear expectations’ to ensure that these powers are used in a ‘timely fashion’
- Will update social housing allocations policy to ensure that ASB perpetrators are deprioritised for housing
- Will explore a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ expectation for social landlords following 3 proven incidents of ASB and 3 landlord warnings
- Has already launched a ‘new expert panel’ to help social housing landlords tackle ASB
Our strong view is that these are tepid ‘solutions’ at best. The government appears to operate on the incorrect assumption that landlords do and will always exercise the powers afforded to them despite that its own evidence above indicates otherwise.
It is illogical to expect positive outcomes from this plan without addressing the grave and pervasive problem of ASB inaction from social landlords and other relevant agencies, i.e., the police, local authorities, etc. This has not been lost on others who have reviewed the government’s plan. As stated in the Local Government Chronicle, the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan is missing a ‘duty’ on various agencies to cooperate with each other in the implementation of afforded powers. (Professional guidance for action plan implementation can be found here.)
It is particularly noteworthy that this action plan was released a week to the day after the publication of the Casey Report, a damning and depressing independent review of extremely poor and disturbing standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police – the largest police force in Europe. Police are pivotal to the management of ASB.
If police staff are commonly ASB perpetrators against each other, as the report indicates, it is hard to believe that the police by and large have the professional integrity or even the desire to protect the public from ASB.
Many ASB sufferers have told SHAC that the police are often completely indifferent to reports of ASB, no matter how serious. This sentiment was echoed in the government’s research and analysis data released on the same day of its ASB action plan. The Anti-Social Behaviour: Impacts on Individuals and Local Communities publication states that –
Frustration and a lack of faith in the police and council in particular were cited by participants who were unhappy with the response to their report of ASB.’The Anti-Social Behaviour: Impacts on Individuals and Local Communities
As part of this new action plan the government also announced the Anti-Social Behaviour Case Review, which it admits is nothing more than a new name for the Community Trigger process launched back in 2014 under the ASB Crime and Policing Act.
The plan refers to the Anti-Social Behaviour Case Review as a ‘recourse to challenge where a local response is currently underused.’ According to the government’s own research, Community Trigger itself is underused; 94% of people surveyed had never even heard of it. This appears to be further indication of failure from landlords and agencies to engage with victims and the public about ASB resources.
If engagement was occurring since the launch of Community Trigger almost 10 years ago, surely the public would have greater knowledge of it. The government’s decision to ignore this apparent lack of engagement and to simply rename Community Trigger to presumably increase awareness and uptake of this service is concerning.
The aspect most relevant to us at the SHAC Disability Visibility Group is that the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan does not require social landlords and other relevant parties to prioritise swift and robust interventions on behalf of disabled ASB victims. This is a glaring omission considering the data from the government’s own research and analysis publication, which states that –
“Those with a pre-existing physical or mental health condition were significantly more likely to experience a significant impact from ASB compared with overall (24% compared with 21% overall). Additionally, those who said that this condition causes them to have a reduced ability to conduct their daily lives were significantly more likely to have experienced a significant impact from ASB on their quality of life (26% of those who had a condition that reduced their ability compared to 21% overall). These existing vulnerabilities appeared to increase these individuals’ risk of experiencing more severe ASB impacts…
“Qualitative participants with mental health conditions said that ASB could act as a trigger for the escalation of their mental health conditions. This was further intensified when physical health conditions were also present. For example, physical health conditions that made participants less mobile reduced their ability to respond to ASB happening around their homes. This included reducing their ability to report ASB to relevant agencies while it is occurring, taking part in monitoring and investigation, and in some instances trying to stop incidents while they were occurring.“
It is deeply misguided of the government to be confidently promoting a policy which ignores the serious implications of poor social landlord response on behalf of disabled ASB victims. Michael Gilbert, David Askew, Lee Irving and Mark Smith were disabled ASB victims who were murdered in 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2018 respectively following poor landlord and/or agency intervention. While their stories received media coverage, there are no doubt innumerable other stories like these that go unreported.
As the famous quote says, ‘One of the measures of a civilised society is how well it looks after the most vulnerable members of society.’ The government’s failure to set out an ASB plan that is founded on this principle, and its failure to require social landlords to operate on this principle, is abjectly neglectful of disabled residents and a gaping hole in the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan.
Our response to the new action plan is that anti-ASB initiatives will be rendered utterly ineffective if the government fails to take strong action against those who fail to protect ASB victims, particularly disabled victims.
The plan does nothing to ensure the compliance of social landlords and other relevant agencies to their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty when dealing with ASB.
We want the government to understand – and agree – that social housing providers and others who ignore the impact of ASB on disabled residents are themselves antisocial and should be penalised as such. It remains incumbent upon us at SHAC, whenever and wherever possible, to declare this until we are heard.
Download the statement here.
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