Opinion: Tackling ASB in our neighbourhoods
Published by Brian Church for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
Matt Jones, assistant director of communities and neighbourhoods at City West Housing Trust, outlines the essential measures for success
Customers tell us that when it comes to their landlord, three things are most important: Getting repairs completed on time, the quality of their home and tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB).
The last one is interesting because statistics tell us that, in the average year, only around 5% of our customers will report ASB to us, and yet everybody knows someone who has experienced it. Even if this isn’t the case, whether we’re reading our daily newspaper or switching on the evening news, it’s presented as a real problem.
In Salford, crime is reducing and levels of ASB are following similar trends. However, fear of crime and perceptions of ASB remain serious concerns for residents. There are huge correlations between feeling safe in neighbourhoods and customers’ perceptions of our ability to tackle ASB - that’s why we have invested significantly in our service and built our capacity and expertise.
Our approach is driven by the vision to create safe and sustainable communities, a core aim for any registered provider. But even if that doesn’t persuade housing association boards that tackling ASB should be high on the agenda, we should be taking into account the commercial implications if ASB goes unchallenged.
At City West, we have dedicated roles within our neighbourhood teams including specialist ASB staff, which is integral to our success. It sends out a clear statement to our communities, but also allows us to manage and resolve a range of ASB issues within the shortest possible timescales. We work closely with partners on an approach that balances prevention, early intervention and enforcement and resolve 80% of cases reported each year. Only 10% result in enforcement action and less than 2% result in eviction.
We also work with young people at risk of becoming involved in ASB through programmes like the award-winning ‘Change Your Choices’, which helps them to understand the impact of their behaviour on communities. Levels of success are high at over 90%, as are successful resolutions for our in-house mediation service.
We don’t sit around congratulating ourselves or pretending we eradicate ASB. But we are very clear on how customers can report ASB and what we can do to assist. Our message is that we can’t tackle what we don’t know about, but if you tell us about your problem, we will provide support until it is resolved.
Last year, 85% of complainants were satisfied with the outcome of their complaint and 92% would report ASB in the future. However, this doesn’t tell us the full picture which is why getting independent validation through our HouseMark accreditation was important. It gives us a level of assurance that we’re on the right track and provides our customers with the same. While our compliance rating of 98% is amongst the highest level nationally, we want to get better, we want more people to come forward and we don’t want anyone to suffer in silence.
We’re now creating extra neighbourhood-based resources in our more challenging neighbourhoods, delivered through community hubs offering a range of services and activities for customers of all ages to enjoy. We’re keen to see if this approach brings sustainable changes, and we are already seeing positive results – the Valley neighbourhood in Swinton is an example of a community that has seen a 47% increase in the amount of ASB cases being reported. This increase is due to customers being more confident in reporting ASB and is a direct result of City West having greater visibility within communities, and working with partners agencies.
Finally, new ASB legislation being brought in this year gives us an opportunity to take on a wider role. We also want to be instrumental in terms of offering training and support to other organisations who are struggling to get to grips with ASB issues. After all, it’s in all our interests to make neighbourhoods safer and better places to live. If that’s not a driver for all of us working in housing, then it certainly should be.