Matt Jones, Managing Director of City West Housing Trust and Villages Housing Association, explains why...

As we edge towards another year of failed resolutions, I have been reflecting on 20 years in housing.

I started out as an Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) specialist and was drawn to this traditionally unpopular area of work because I found it relevant and inspiring when I could affect positive change in communities.

However, there were always certain circuitous and entrenched cases which made me wonder whether we could really make an impact. And there have been number of ASB situations in the past few months that have left me with that familiar feeling.

I recently read a story about members of a violent criminal gang who were on the run from the police. Two of the individuals had been subject to early ASBOs, then aged 15, applications that I had led on as an officer. This was at a time when I argued hard with partners that the ASBO had the potential to put restrictions in place and divert them away from involvement in criminal behaviour. Clearly, it hadn’t had the desired impact in the long run!

Another recent case related to a nasty incident perpetrated by the teenage children of two people who had also been subject to early ASBOs, in the very same neighbourhood, albeit 15 years later.

On a similar theme, we are increasingly hearing partners referring to certain neighbourhoods “slipping back to what they were like ten years ago”, and seen streets appearing in hot spot updates that had previously been stable for long periods.

So, what does all this tell us and what can we learn from it? Well, we knew a long time ago that the ASBO wasn’t a silver bullet intervention. Yet the communities who experienced some respite as a result of the action taken all those years ago welcomed it at the time, even if it wasn’t a long-term solution.

But it’s clear something about current approaches is fundamentally not working and an overhaul of the existing system is needed.

It’s also highly likely that increases in anti-social behaviour are, at least in part, a result of cuts to the police and public services.

In this context, the role of the Registered Provider in tackling anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods for which we are responsible is more important than ever.

Not only is our ability to respond to customers’ concerns vital to the success of our businesses, it can enable us to play a key role in mobilising agencies to tackle anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods. We have expertise in effective case management and a range of tools to bring to the table.

We must not overstep our remit as we may have been inclined to in the past and we should remember that criminal behaviour is primarily the responsibility of the police irrespective of tenure. We must also be willing look to partners for some of the solutions, working collaboratively and innovatively to maximise our limited resources whilst recognising that in many instances we will be well placed to take quick, effective and decisive action.

The risks for Registered Providers who don’t take their role in tackling ASB seriously, or who fail to prioritise the training and upskilling of their staff, are potentially huge. We have learnt that this needs to be refreshed as new people join the organisation and others move on.

This investment in an area that’s a key priority for customers, underpinned by the value placed on our core business despite a more complex and diverse operating environment, is very important to us.

Is it depressing to be dealing with the effects of cyclical and deeply entrenched ASB years later? Of course it is. Will we stop trying and responding to issues that arise? Of course we won’t.

Alongside our own efforts, we will also continue to be a willing partner that pushes for wider system change and a greater national focus on positive parenting to break that cycle.

If we can influence positive whole system change, who knows where we might be in 20 years. I live in hope as an eternal optimist!

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