24 Oct 2022

What does increasing anti social behaviour (ASB) tell us about our communities and the people who live in them?

As housing professionals, we are all too aware of the increasing incidence of anti social behaviour (ASB), the complexity of the issues involved and the impact it is having on our customers and our communities. The responsibility for ASB is often laid at the door of the landlord and this has been leading to an increased focus on their performance in managing and resolving ASB cases. It is very timely that at the upcoming CIH All-Ireland Housing Summit one of our sessions will focus on resolving ASB through good case management.

Having been involved in the management of many ASB incidents, my experience has taught me that for the majority of cases we are not dealing with bad people, instead we are dealing with people who are struggling with bad circumstances. In trying to cope with the circumstances they find themselves in, some people engage in bad behaviour and make poor decisions. Now I am not suggesting that the behaviour, or the incidents that may be caused by it, should be ignored, or allowed to continue. I acknowledge that we have a duty to support the people in our homes and communities who are impacted by ASB, but I also believe that we have a duty to support those involved in ASB.

Over the past number of years, I feel society has been influenced to turn away from a sense of community and towards ideals of individualism. It has become the norm for many to view success as being able to provide for and improve our individual circumstances. Although this is a positive experience for those who are in a position to achieve this I believe it has eroded the notion of contributing to the success, health and wellbeing of our communities . Resulting in a reduction, and in many cases the loss, of local support networks. Indeed, it could be argued that we no longer have any form of a safety net for those in our society who, for many various and genuine reasons, may find themselves in difficult circumstances. When people in our communities hit tough times, be that because of poor financial, health or family circumstances, is there anywhere in their community for them to turn to for support?

When we receive a report of ASB it is essential that we investigate this thoroughly and take any action we can to resolve it. But we also need to make sure that we are not jumping to conclusions or considering actions before we are aware of all the circumstances. It maybe that the behaviour is a symptom of the bad circumstances people find themselves in and if they are unable to find or source the support they need, then behaving badly may be the only reaction they feel they have.

As housing professionals, we don’t have all the answers and we cannot solve all the issues alone.

We can’t allow ASB to negatively impact on our communities and on the levels of satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, among our customers. We do need to engage and work alongside all our voluntary and statutory partners to try and ensure all of the relevant professionals are engaged in our process of resolving ASB. We need to support our customers who are engaging in ASB by helping them to source and engage with partners who may be able to assist with the complex issues around family, health, addiction, financial or isolation that they are facing. We also need to support our customers who are suffering from the impacts of ASB by ensuring that we embrace good practice in our case management and involve all of our relevant partners, including justice and policing, where necessary. We should make every effort to ensure effective communication and keep customers informed throughout the process. The biggest causes of dissatisfaction in the management of ASB cases are customers feeling like we are not taking them seriously and that we aren’t keeping those impacted by ASB informed of what action we can and are taking.

Maybe increasing incidents of ASB in our communities is telling us that it’s time to be less focused on the health and wellbeing of individuals and more focused on the health and wellbeing of our communities. Surely increased investment in our communities will lead to improved health and wellbeing for ALL individuals, not just some.

Written by Eileen Patterson

Eileen will be speaking about anti social behaviour at the upcoming All-Ireland Summit 2022. Eileen is an independent housing professional, deputy chair of the Probation Board NI and a board member of Clanmil Housing Group and CIH Ireland.