05 Jul 2023

How the current focus on anti-social behaviour empowers officers

If you work in anti-social behaviour (ASB), whether exclusively or as part of a portfolio of responsibilities, you are unlikely to have missed the resurgence of attention that is being placed on this important area of housing management. There are many legislative, policy and regulatory changes, coming in quick succession which are placing ASB firmly back on the agenda, both nationally and locally, including:

  • Changes to consumer standards with the regulator now carrying out more robust and proactive audits
  • Introducing tenant satisfaction measures, with two specifically focused on ASB
  • The increased role of the Housing Ombudsman Service, which includes publicly sharing good practice (and not so good practice!) including those into ASB matters
  • Publication of the government’s ASB Action Plan
  • Changes to the private renter sector (PRS), via the Renters (Reform) Bill, including the scrapping of the s21 ‘no fault’ eviction process.

Whilst some of the changes are positive, and the ASB Action Plan promise to expand some of the powers to housing providers is largely welcomed, it does create a level of expectation that these are then utilised and ASB is reduced.

In addition, the ASB Action Plan commits to bringing in requirements to provide ASB-related data (which inevitably brings accountability and judgement on performance) as well as a promise to increase awareness of the ASB Case Review (previously referred to as the Community Trigger). Whilst correct that residents know their rights; this brings increased external scrutiny and a need to ensure we are working in a way that reduces the chance of residents being unhappy and feeling it is necessary to request a review.

Focus brings positive change

A widening of the standards and the auditing process will mean that governance boards will likely wish to seek increased assurance about ASB performance. This may equate to more resources and funding being allocated.

The need to report on performance also helps focus our minds about the importance of the role we do and getting things right. It helps to drive us and ensure that residents and communities are receiving the best possible services and being protected from harm. Let’s be honest, we often work better to targets and deadlines.

Now is the time to start reflecting on our services and practices, to ensure that we are well-placed to weather these increased pressures and expectations.

Having the right tools

Dealing with ASB is hard. We do the job because we care and want to make a difference. When workloads are high, expectations unrealistic and job satisfaction low, we are likely to become lethargic and war wounded.

Through the work I do I have observed that the most effective services have officers that are confident and decisive, making informed, clear and consistent decisions that ensure cases don’t remain open for an unreasonably long period and that harm to residents isn’t prolonged.

These officers have an awareness of their own professional standards that gives a confidence in their knowledge, ability and skills. CIH’s professional standards tool kit helps to focusing employers' minds on what support teams need, as well as helping officers to understand what gaps they may have, providing user with the knowledge to identify areas for growth, and the confidence in their existing knowledge and skills. There is a helpful self-assessment on the CIH website which I would encourage everyone to check out.

In addition to the core professional standards here are some of the ASB frameworks and structures that build confidence and help to empower officers:

  • A clear ASB policy – we must make informed judgments about whether a report meets the definition of ASB, if there is enough evidence to take action and the type of action that is proportionate. Having a policy that gives us the knowledge and authority to make such decisions, and the evidence to justify it, is very helpful. It also helps manage workloads, so we aren’t dealing with matters that should not be classed as ASB.
  • A strong induction programmes that provide a foundation of knowledge on case management.
  • Ongoing continuous professional development, with a mix of classroom training when a need is identified and keeping up to date with research and best practice, attending sector webinars and learning from work by other organisations and areas.
  • Ensuring that peer support is available – often there is no set answer in an ASB matter. Having someone to share our ideas with, seek independent view and help us shape an action plan for case progression when we may have hit a brick wall, is crucial for feeling supported and confident.
  • The opportunity to reflect, learn and grow – increased data regarding satisfaction, ASB case reviews and findings from complaints and ombudsman enquiries all present a rich source of valuable intelligence. By reviewing and recognising themes, we can consider what changes we may need to make to our processes and approaches.

I hope the coming years, and increased spotlight on ASB, continues to highlight the difference ASB officers make and ensure that the right support is available.

Written by Janine Greeen

Janine is an award winning specialist in community safety and anti-social behaviour (ASB). You can find more of Janine's blogs, webinar recordings, and podcast episodes at www.janinegreenasb.co.uk/resources