On 27 March 2023, the Government’s new “Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan” was launched, setting out a number of plans and commitments to tackle ASB and ‘restore pride in communities’.
We were pleased to see that our continual lobbying over the last decade has proven fruitful, with many of the things we’ve been pushing for on behalf of our members included within the Plan. There are still areas of the Plan that require further detail and clarification, but this is certainly a positive step in the right direction.
We consider some of the key proposals from the Action Plan here.
We know that ASB is drastically under-reported. YouGov research commissioned by RESOLVE shows that over half of anti-social behaviour victims do not report the ASB at all and 15% of victims do not know how to report ASB or where to turn to do so. Under-reporting hides the true scale of the problem, makes it harder for victims to obtain justice and hinders our efforts to tackle ASB and make communities safer. Therefore, it’s essential that victims and witnesses feel confident reporting ASB.
As part of our YouGov research, we asked over 2,000 UK adults “which, if any, of the following would make you more likely to report future incidents of ASB?” The most common responses were as follows:
- A more visible police presence in my area (43%)
- Clear communication about who and/or how to make a complaint (32%)
- An option for anonymous reporting (31%)
We’ve been talking about this a lot in our meetings with Ministers and policy makers over the last year, so we are pleased to see that hotspot policing will be introduced to target the worst affected areas. This will start with ten trailblazing places, before rolling out across England and Wales next year. It means there will be more police and more uniformed officers tackling the most prolific offenders. We are delighted that 2 of our PCC Members (Lancashire and Northumbria) have been selected as trailblazers and very much look forward to supporting them over the coming year with this work.
We also welcome plans to establish a central anti-social behaviour hub on GOV.UK, which will act as the central source of the latest information on ASB. The hub will bring together guidance and tools available at a local level to tackle ASB, and also offer clear information on what action you should expect if you report an incident.
Additionally, there is an ‘aim’ to develop a digital one-stop-shop where people can report ASB to local responders and get feedback on the response. “This will include ensuring the public have easy and flexible ways of reporting anti-social behaviour and will receive an update on what has happened as result.” We think there is clarification needed for how this will work (e.g. who will be responsible for providing updates), but we would very much welcome this tool if it made reporting ASB and tracking your case easier - especially if there was the option to report anonymously or with one’s identity protected.
In terms of measuring the effectiveness of these initiatives (and the others), the Plan states, “We will assess the impact of our proposals on both communities’ experience and perceptions of anti-social behaviour and their effectiveness in tackling it.” This could prove challenging and we will need more data to know if, for example, having more uniformed police on the streets actually does increase reporting of ASB and, crucially, whether it really does make people feel safer in their community or not.
Community Trigger ASB Case Review
All of our research over the past few years has consistently shown that people do not know what the Community Trigger is; in fact, in our most recent survey of over 2,000 people, just 2% said they fully understand what the Community Trigger is and how to activate it. There have also been issues around partner agencies not taking the Community Trigger seriously enough and/or not fulfilling their duties from the agreed-upon plan.
This is why, for years, we have been pushing to tweak and relaunch the Community Trigger, and we are delighted to see this included within the Action Plan. It has now been ‘re-branded’ as the ‘Anti-Social Behaviour Case Review’ (which should carry more weight with practitioners and officers) and will be relaunched, with the aim of “providing greater clarity on how and when it can be used, and encouraging agencies to automatically conduct reviews once the threshold has been hit (as opposed to waiting for victims to request).” We fully support this proposal and look forward to seeing it in practice.
Community Safety Partnerships
As part of the action plan, the Home Office has launched a consultation addressing Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs).
The purpose of the consultation is to:
- seek views on the relationship between CSPs and PCCs, with the aim of enhancing the accountability model of CSPs
- consider how CSPs and PCCs work together to tackle antisocial behaviour, with the aim of strengthening this co-operative working.
The consultation considers the expansion of antisocial behaviour powers, and whether amendments are required to ensure they are being used effectively. Ultimately, the consultation seeks to ascertain whether CSPs should be required to report to Police and Crime Commissioners on local ASB data/strategy and whether PCCs should oversee the ASB Case Review process.
We think this is a good idea and will be submitting our own report to the Home Office in due course. We would, however, strongly encourage you to also complete the consultation, which closes on 22nd May 2023: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/community-safety-partnerships-review-and-antisocial-behaviour-powers
Responding to ASB as a landlord
We know that ASB affects all communities and residents - whether they live in Social Housing or in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). Historically, while Social Landlords have had to foot the bill for dealing with their ASB cases, it is council tax funding that has generally been used to deal with ASB in the PRS. This is one of the reasons we have had many discussions with policy makers about how PRS landlords can respond to ASB.
We note the following points from the plan, some of which seem very effective and much-needed, some perhaps need further consideration:
- Pushing to ensure that private tenancy agreements include clauses specifically around ASB
- Notice period for all ASB evictions halved to 2 weeks
- Making ASB easier to prove in court by expanding the discretionary grounds for possession
- Collaborating with the courts to try and prioritise ASB cases in Possession Lists, to speed up the process of evicting an anti-social tenant
- Bringing forward legislation which outlines the principles that judges must consider when making their decision, (e.g. impact on landlords and neighbours)
We welcome these plans and expect it will make it easier for landlords to tackle anti-social behaviour and protect their communities. One concern we would have centres around the already significant delays in civil courts. There is a worry that allowing PRS landlords across the country to try and quickly get into court, without dramatically increasing the capacity of the courts, will cause major issues. We will continue to work with the Ministry of Justice to ensure there is priority give to all ASB cases while pushing for extra resource to deal with the problem, such as a specialist housing or problem solving court.
Furthermore, there are plans to extend the power arrest for all breaches of injunctions. It’s worth noting that, at present, powers of arrestare available for limited, specific cases of breaches only (e.g. if the perpetrator has used or threatened violence), and we know from our members that even now it is still difficult to get police to do an arrest even for these limited - but more serious - breaches of injunctions. As such, we wonder where the extra police resources will come from to deal with all of the extra breaches of injunctions.
Other proposals include:
- Introducing a “3 strikes and you’re out” eviction expectation
- De-prioritising anti-social behaviour perpetrators to be at the back of the queue for social housing
We would be glad to see some clarification about how these plans might work in reality and what the legislation will look like. For instance, what counts as a ‘strike’? Who makes the judgement? What will the impact be on homelessness? How will people be ‘de-prioritised’? We’d welcome further information here.
One of the major successes from our lobbying can be seen with the announced consultation on the expansion of Closure Powers. Having had countless discussions with our members who have told us about the challenges faced when trying to obtain closures, this is something we have long been pushing for and we’re delighted to see this consultation included in the Plan. We await further information about the consultation.
CPNs, on-the-spot fines, nitrous oxide and reparative justice
A large portion of this action plan is aimed at young people. This is understandable, since 50% of people think that “Youths/groups hanging about on the streets” is the biggest ASB issue in their local area, but it is crucial to remember that Youths are not the main perpetrators of ASB - adults are. In fact, young people are very often the silent victims of anti-social behaviour.
The Plan includes proposals, such as:
- Lowering the age limit of community protection notices to include younger perpetrators.
- Increasing the use and size of on-the-spot fines for littering, graffiti, and fly-tipping. We know that our members would welcome a larger focus on prevention here - especially around fly-tipping.
- More powers to the police to test for more drugs, and a crack down on the use of nitrous oxide, which has been classed as a Class C drug with potential prison sentences and unlimited fines for unlawful supply and possession (which does go gainst the advice of multiple drug charities and experts).
The plan also claims that perpetrators of anti-social behaviour will be made to repair the damage they inflicted on victims and communities, with the ambition of reparative work starting within 48 hours of them being given a disposal by the police. “Offenders will wear hi-vis vests and be working under supervision – as they face the consequences of their actions and work to pay back their community.” We would like to see more information around how this might work, considering the police and courts are already struggling at maximum capacity. We would also welcome evidence for the idea that forcing offenders to wear hi-vis supports rehabilitation and reduces offending, as it may be that this type of punishment actually further isolates individuals, pushing them further away from their community and making it more likely that they will re-offend in the future.
Early intervention and prevention is something we feel very strongly about at RESOLVE. We know that it works well and if we prevent ASB it saves money from the public purse, prevents suffering and helps communities to thrive. So we welcome the announcement of £11 million in new funding to fund one million extra hours of youth support in ASB hotspots and that there are plans to “invest more to intervene early with at risk young people via 1-1 support.” We would like more consideration for hard-to-reach young people though. The plan mentions, “this is the equivalent of up to 200 local youth clubs opening an extra night a week for young people for two years, supporting them where they need it most”, and, ”the £16.5 million Uniformed Youth Fund will support organisations such as the Scouts and Police Cadets to reach around 20,000 more teenagers across England” - however, we know that the young people who are going to youth cubs, scouts or cadets are not the people we need to be targeting. The young people who are going to these clubs are already safeguarded, demonstrating pro-social behaviour and with adults who are positive role models. The issue and challenge is to engage with those young people who are not at youth clubs or cadets. We would like to see far more and much better ways of reaching these children/teenagers.
We are pleased to see that the Action Plan recognises what we have been talking about for years; the very lack of reporting data means ASB is not tackled as a priority, and even fewer people report it as a result – only exacerbating the negative impacts of anti-social behaviour, increasing feelings of helplessness and reducing trust in agencies. It’s a viscous cycle that can be broken, in part, with better data. As such, we are delighted to see a commitment to work with Local Authorities, Housing Providers and Police to expand data collection. Without the data, including data on the tools and powers used to tackle ASB, we don’t know what is working, where it’s working or where we should focus our efforts.
The plan seeks to “provide additional guidance to agencies on data sharing, to make sure key information does not fall through the cracks between agencies when responding to anti-social behaviour incidents.” We very much welcome this and would like to see further details here. We know that agencies already have a statutory right to information for the purposes of reducing or preventing crime and ASB (Crime and Disorder Act 1998: Section 115) but we also know from our members that many housing providers have immense difficulties getting the information they need from the Police, GPs, and mental health services.
We would like to see one policy, one form, signed off by all national stakeholders, that would enable Housing Providers, Social Landlords and Local Authorities to get the information they need when they need it, to improve outcomes for both victims and perpetrators.
Rebecca Bryant OBE, RESOLVE’s Chief Executive, said:
“RESOLVE has long called for anti-social behaviour to be treated as a national priority, and the launch of the plan from the Home Office shows how far the issue has moved up the political agenda.
“There are a number of significant announcements within the plan which will bring huge benefits to victims of ASB, support prevention and signal a welcomed change in approach across the country.
"It is welcomed that our lobbying, our research and the views of our members have been effective in informing the action plan. We look forward to working with Government to implement the plan and will continue to work with local authorities and housing providers to make communities safer."
The plan is available here.