24 Nov 2023

Safeguarding and ASB – let’s not forget the links

Housing didn’t get many mentions in the King’s Speech, but government did reiterate its pledge to crack down on anti-social behaviour. The government’s Anti-social behaviour (ASB) Action Plan aims to deliver a new focus and revised tools to address ASB. Whilst broadly welcomed by housing providers the impact of many of these measures will depend on the detail behind them and implementation.

However, one thing that concerns me is that apart from the actions on cuckooing, the action plan is largely silent on the important links between ASB and safeguarding. Whilst there are implicit links with ASB, I’d like to see this called out in more explicit terms.

I recently spoke on this topic at the Westminster Insights – Tackling ASB conference. My basic propositions were:

  • It’s all too easy to overlook safeguarding issues in ASB cases
  • People who might be perceived as perpetrators may be vulnerable or even victims themselves
  • Support can sometimes achieve better outcomes than enforcement
  • There are opportunities for easier reporting or ‘convening of the system’

We must not forget the lessons of tragic cases like that of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francesca or that of Stephen Hoskins. Whilst these cases contributed to systemic changes such as the Community Trigger (ASB Case Review) I still too regularly come across cases where the appropriate action has not been taken in the safeguarding space. The 448 references to ASB in the Safeguarding Adult Review library serves to underline this point.

In my opinion some of the primary questions our teams should be considering are:

  • Does the victim of the ASB have care and support needs?
  • Do we need to raise a safeguarding concern?
  • Is this one of many unconnected reports?
  • Are there children impacted that might require a safeguarding response?
  • Does the perpetrator of the ASB have unmet care and support needs?
  • Could a person seen as a perpetrator in fact be a victim themselves?
  • Could supportive interventions have an equal or better outcome than an enforcement approach? (or a blended approach)

Some of the questions leaders of those teams should be considering are – do our teams:

  • Know how to spot the issues?
  • Have adequate legal literacy e.g. around mental capacity, information sharing?
  • Know how to ‘convene the system’ around an individual?
  • Feel confident to escalate concerns?
  • Have adequate support?

Lastly, it feels like there are opportunities to be had in this space – for example:

  • On a national level the government could emphasize these links. They could also extend the proposed central ASB reporting hub to create a much needed single point of reporting for safeguarding issues
  • Locally there are opportunities to adopt successful multiagency creative solution approaches – convening the system around high complexity and high risk cases to achieve better outcomes., for example Plymouth’s creative solutions forum
  • On an agency level there are opportunities for staff training including - safeguarding, the mental capacity act and other legal frameworks, trauma informed approaches in addition to confidence and competence in proportionality assessment, professional challenge, critical thinking, and exercising professional curiosity.

Multiagency working is much like four people each looking at one of the four sides of a grandfather clock. The person at the front sees a solid clock in good condition – it just needs the time to be set correctly. The person to the left sees the clock and its polished walnut as perfect in need of no attention. The person to the right sees sun damage from the nearby window and understands a little work is needed. The person to the rear can see the mechanism is broken and substantial work is needed to repair the clock. They are all valid views but only when info is shared do we get the full picture and right action.

Written by Jon Cox

Jon Cox is the head of tenancy sustainment at Sovereign Network Group, chair of the Safeguarding and Housing Best Practice Group (National), and a DHLUC ASB Advisory Panel member