The Housing Management Network’s latest event on tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB) is set against a backdrop of landlords facing rising caseloads that are increasing in complexity.

Victims say complaints aren’t taken seriously and tenants don’t know their rights on community safety. Meanwhile, the Regulator is preparing to measure performance on ASB with new Tenant Satisfaction Measures on the way.

Our Chair, Yoric Irving-Clarke from Midland Heart, kicked the day off by explaining how Midland Heart, along with West Bromwich MP Shaun Bailey and Baroness Newlove of Warrington, has set up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on ASB.

Midland Heart is keen to see specialist housing courts with specialist housing judges set up to enable action against ASB to happen more quickly and effectively. It wants to see allocation processes improved to create more sustainable communities.

The APPG will look at how partners can work together more effectively to tackle ASB.

Rebecca Bryant OBE, chief executive of Resolve, gave the keynote speech providing a snapshot of the national landscape on ASB issues. She said that:

  • The scale of the ASB challenge is much bigger than official figures show. More than 50% of people don’t report ASB, meaning cases are much higher than reported. People don’t report it because they don’t think anything will be done about the problem. Mental health and substance misuse are some of the main causes of ASB and are driving up caseloads.
  • There is a national issue around data collection and ASB. A lack of data from the government meant it was impossible to measure the success of the ASB Crime and Policing Act (2014). At the moment, housing associations and councils don’t need to report the use of tools and powers – this needs to change.
  • Information sharing is still lacking. Rebecca dared landlords to share data and information! Useful guidance around this is on the way from the Advisory Panel. There is a call to evidence out just now on this and Rebecca urged landlords to contribute.
  • ASB is finally being taken seriously by the government. The development of the Department of Levelling Up Homes and Communities (DLUHC) ASB Advisory Panel has been a key step. The first meeting was held recently and there was a discussion of developing guiding principles to help ASB practitioners deal with complex cases.
  • She also highlighted that landlords need to sign up to the five ASB Principles, launched during ASB week by the Strategic ASB Board.
  • Professionalisation is a key consideration given impending regulation changes. The sector needs to consider how well-qualified staff are to deal with the multiple, complex challenges of the job.
  • While Rebecca feels the Tenant Satisfaction Measures on ASB could have been written differently, landlords can add in their own measures and ask tenants additional questions. She suggests landlords should be looking at people’s perception of how safe they feel their communities are as people can’t judge your ASB service if they haven’t used it.

Rebecca’s keynote speech was followed by a panel discussion with Foluke Ajayi, Head of Neighbourhood Management (London) at Network Homes, and Donna McCarthy Partner, Head of Housing Management & Property Litigation, Devonshires, on preparing for the Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs).

Key points from the discussion included:

  • The TSMs are trying to compare landlords of different sizes operating in different geographical areas – they are likely to be a blunt instrument when it comes to ASB.
  • The sector needs to encourage a culture where tenants can complain, particularly about ASB, and landlords need to listen and act.
  • There needs to be more education for Boards and Executives who may not understand the day-to-day operations of ASB – to show how cutting frontline and preventative services will impact on caseloads and satisfaction.
  • We need to manage the expectations of victims of ASB so they understand what landlords can offer in terms of resolution.
  • The recent Roseberry Housing Association case will be a watershed moment for ASB

After the panel discussion, Foluke Ajayi Head of Neighbourhood Management (London) at Network Homes discussed some of the innovative ways the landlord is tackling ASB.

She explained that at Network Homes:

  • Walkabouts with local councillors and other partners were increasing visibility and encouraging people to report genuine concerns, while their ASB toolkit was helping tenants understand what ASB is and what it isn’t. Their resident panel was involved in its development.
  • The use of a noise nuisance app has helped address a 50% increase in noise complaints during Covid.
  • A specialist mental health team had been set up to support people at risk of losing their tenancy and this was helping with complex cases.

The afternoon was packed with further best practice sessions with Julie Lister, Operations Manager at Gentoo, kicking things off with her presentation on partnership working.

She discussed the Hetton Aspirations Linking Opportunities (HALO) project, run in partnership with the police.

It was set up on the back of a similar successful multi-agency project in another part of Sunderland and allows for the effective sharing of real-time information to get better decision-making on cases and issues.

It sees agencies and the public working together to tackle community issues, not just ASB. Julie said it was a great chance for the community to get involved in making their area a great place to live.

Lee Martin-Scull, Housing Manager at SHAL, followed up with insights on complex cases involving children and families and the landlord’s trauma-informed approach.

He shared some hard-hitting case studies that brought out the important role landlords can play in safeguarding children who may be in the background of an ASB case but are impacted in a devastating way.

SHAL is on a journey to becoming a trauma-informed organisation – key principles of this include: safety, trustworthiness, collaboration, empowerment and choice. Housing officers don’t have target times for visits and play a very supportive role focused on active listening.

Lee said this more holistic and considered approach helps get to the bottom of issues and really understand them, but that one of the challenges is that partner organisations don’t always complement this way of working.

We then heard from two speakers on their successful partnership working to tackle ASB – Jo Sylvester, Community Resolution Officer at Ongo, and John Cram from Safer Neighbourhoods North Lincolnshire who have worked together on the Community Trigger initiative.

John gave an overview of the Community Trigger and explained it needs to be seen not as a forum for blame, but as a way to see where collectively services can be improved and satisfaction for the victim achieved.

If a case doesn’t meet the threshold for a case review, the best practice is to review the case anyway and see what can be done to help the victim.

North Lincolnshire Council is actively promoting the Community Trigger and provides a variety of ways for people to activate it.

However, she flagged that Ongo has only been involved in seven Community Trigger cases since it launched, highlighting the lack of understanding of what it is and how it can be used.

Jo called for others across the sector to promote the Community Trigger.