Tag Archives: anti social behaviour

Let’s Talk

The kids continue to run until way after 11 at night.  Since they moved in my daughter struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud “bangs” sound so late.”  ‘Sam’

Anti-social behaviour takes so many different forms.  We all have different levels of tolerance to it – since it is defined as causing harassment, alarm or distress, we will all define different behaviour as anti-social.

This case study shows a situation where a 2 year old girl is experiencing alarm and distress which in turn is distressing to her parents.  However, it strikes us that it is also a clear situation where mediation needs to be the way forward to solve the problem.  Finding a way to talk through the issues is key.

The neighbour in the flat above has two children who run up and down the house “all day long”.  Sam feels he is already making compromises by sacrificing his daughter’s nap, knowing he can’t expect them to be quiet in the middle of the day, but after 9pm the noise becomes a problem.

He says he has spoken to them repeatedly as well as leaving a polite note.  His daughter “struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud ‘bangs’ sound so late“.

Meanwhile, the neighbours accuse Sam of being intolerant, saying: “they complain too much and should move to a country house if they need their daughter to sleep“.

Let’s Talk

We recently looked at the value of considering mediation in situations of anti-social behaviour.   Mediation brings the two parties that are in conflict together with an independent person present to hear both sides of the story.

Everyone will have a different take on the situation when reading this story.  Many will empathise with Sam’s struggle to get his daughter to sleep and it is certainly concerning that she is waking alarmed with the noise.  Others will feel it is too intolerant and that noise is a natural result of living in a ground floor flat.

The fact of the matter is that both Sam and his neighbours live there, and want to enjoy their homes.  In situations like these the opportunity to talk together, with someone independent to help ensure both parties can fully explain their perspective, holds huge value.  Tension and frustration is damaging to our health but in a situation involving noise like this, that is unlikely to be classified as a statutory nuisance, there is very little available to agencies to resolve the situation.  This is a place for mediation to try and figure out how to live well together for the benefit of everyone.

Can you Read and Write?

 

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of leading a workshop at the Resolve ASB annual conference on “Putting Victims First”.  I co-led the workshop with an ASB practitioner from Greater Manchester who is passionate about putting victims first and led the section on how we do that practically. Her casual mention of the fact she asks people “can you read or write?” before she leaves them with a diary really struck me.

Diaries are a classic way to start gathering evidence in cases of anti-social behaviour.  Yet, I wonder how many practitioners do ask that question: “Can you read and write?”  It might seem an unnecessary question but it really got me thinking.  Whilst the UK boosts 99% literacy, it is widely recognised that more than 1% of the population are functionally illiterate and struggle with reading information from unfamiliar sources or on unfamiliar topics.

There are also people whose second language is English who may particularly struggle to write in English.  What struck me with Janice’s comment was how aware she was of all the hurdles that could be placed in front of a victim of anti-social behaviour.  She showed through and through a victims-first approach.

Hurdles to reporting ASB

Anti-social behaviour is under-reported, and sometimes when it is reported, action is not taken nor is the victim taken seriously.  How many of the most vulnerable in our society are in those two categories – either they find the whole experience of trying to report an incident of anti-social behaviour too overwhelming, or once they pluck up the courage, they may struggle to clearly articulate the problem and are fobbed off or ignored.  Or sent a letter with further information which they find incomprehensible due to unfamiliar terms and an overload of jargon …

Speaking at a Surrey ASB Practitioners Forum last month, I urged delegates to keep their communication clear, remove jargon, and take time to explain unfamiliar processes such as the court system.  It can be easy to forget that victims have no clue about all this.

At that forum I was challenged by someone about how accessible we as a charity really are.  She commented that only a small proportion of victims of ASB would have access to the Internet to find our website, and then only a small proportion of them would be able to read through the content we have there.  I feel that is harsh and unfair.  92% of the UK population has access to the Internet and we have sought to make our information as clear as possible for victims.  Yes, they need to be able to read, though they may have advocates who can access the information and share it with them.  Unfortunately anti-social behaviour is such a complex topic that it cannot be simplified too much – we are keen not to mislead victims that it is easy to define and easy to resolve.  Usually it is not.

Yet this is a good question to keep holding out there: “Can you read and write?” We are a small charity and are aware that we cannot yet reach the most vulnerable in our society who do not have access to the Internet and cannot read English.  Yet it is worth remembering, anti-social behaviour can hit anyone, anywhere – it is not just areas of deprivation – and therefore we believe there are still many people who can benefit from our resource.  For those who are isolated, our hope is that someone somewhere will listen and connect them to the help and advice they need.  That when they pick up the phone to report the problem, the official at the other end listens carefully, chooses to put the victim first and takes prompt action to help them.

Tips for Putting Victims First

Janice’s tips for how to keep victims in the centre were:

  1. Prioritise going to talk to the victim after they call in to report the ASB (in the next couple of days, not a week next Thursday!  Note: visit, not write)
  2. Empathise and really listen to what they are sharing
  3. Do not downplay what they say but ensure they feel that you care about the effect the behaviour is having on them (such as sleep deprivation, effect on work/school performance, health impact, fear, anxiety, isolation, etc.)
  4. Clearly explain what you plan to do, what you can do and what you can’t do to help them
  5. Check in with them on an ongoing basis to see how they are coping and whether the behaviour has improved if a warning has been given

Those Summer Nights

Summer brings an increase in anti-social behaviour. With warmer weather and longer days there are more people out and about, gathering together on street corners and parks, or in their homes. This is all wonderful. In the last week alone I have attended an evening BBQ, hosted a dinner party including pre-dinner drinks out in the garden, and been part of a big family group enjoying a picnic and games in the local park. I love the chance to be out and about and enjoy that atmosphere of friendship and fun together. The problem comes when either a gathering gets out of hand, or when the initial motivation was one of causing nuisance in the first place. Agencies report a clear increase in alcohol-related incidents in the summer. Not only can this create noise as well as littering, it can intimidate other people and become a nuisance that would deter others from using community spaces. We need to be considerate of others when we gather with our friends.

Being Considerate of Others

Keep in mind:

bullet Not everyone is on holiday – your neighbours may be getting up for work the next morning and need their sleep.

bullet Remember that if you have opened your windows in the warm weather, any household noise will be amplified

bullet In the warm weather, bad smells are exacerbated so remember to dispose of waste properly including cleaning up after your dog! Perhaps it’s time to attack that untidy garden
too.

bullet We all spend more time out in the garden in the summer – sometimes disputes arise between neighbours with regard to boundary hedges and fences – try and use the opportunity of being out in your garden more to approach your neighbor and build up a relationship, not to pick a fight.

bullet Take a deep breath when the noise from children and teenagers gets too loud. We were all children once and it is good to see them outside enjoying some fresh air, rather than stuck in front of computer games all day long. Let’s get the best out of these current warm days.

Summer is often all too short – let’s enjoy it responsibly and try and be reasonable. If you are struggling (and tempers can flare much quicker in the hot weather) see our tips on coping with frustration and anger.

Ensuring Great Summer Holidays

Children will get bored if they are just at home all summer. Many areas have free activities going on for children of all ages – why not ask at your local library and see what’s on offer? If you live in a flat or house with poor insulation, be considerate of your neighbours if your children are inside all summer. It might be worth getting out and meeting your neighbours and taking the opportunity to apologise in advance for the nuisance your children could cause with their noise (or balls going over the fence, etc). This can be powerful – instead of allowing resentment to grow in your neighbour’s mind, you build a relationship instead, or improve a strained one.

Community Action

If there is an issue going on in your street or more widely in your community, the summer can be a good time to get out and find out what other residents think. It could lead to positive steps to make a difference in your area – perhaps form a Neighbourhood Watch or Residents’ Association. There is power in numbers and you may be eligible to activate the Community Trigger if nothing is happening in your local area. You may also decide it is worth gathering signatures for a petition to push for action.

Suffering Anti-Social Behaviour?

If you are suffering as a result of anti-social behavior, especially one that is alcohol-related, then report it to the relevant agency. Most are at the ready in the summer, with different operations to focus on tackling anti-social behaviour so do not be afraid to contact them for help.

Petition to Parliament

Do we sometimes underestimate the power of a local petition?

We have a page dedicated to tips for putting together a petition – http://asbhelp.co.uk/petition/ – because we believe they can be effective. It is a tangible way to make your individual voice louder and insist action is taken.

Of course if 5 of you have complained about an incident of anti-social behaviour and no-one is doing anything about it, you can activate the Community Trigger. In fact you should – insist on a case review and get results.

However, it would seem this Community Trigger is not always matching up to expectations (http://asbhelp.co.uk/trigger-thoughts/) so don’t forget to try a good old-fashioned petition.

This week I read that such a petition was being brought before Parliament by a supportive local MP:

Photo of Keith VazKeith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:39 pm, 25th November 2015

I am presenting a petition signed by 256 local residents. The petition was collected by volunteers, including Pradip Dullabh, Bindu Dullabh and Sanjeev Sharma from the local area, together with local councillors Riata Patel, Ross Willmott and Piara Clair and other local residents.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of Leicester, East:

Declares that urgent steps need to be taken to stop the antisocial behaviour, attacks and robberies by groups of young people on users and nearby residents of Rushey Fields Park in Leicester, and further that it is the only green space in the area and this kind of behaviour is discouraging people who are concerned for their safety and welfare from using the park.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Leicester City Council to put CCTV security measures in place and increase police patrols to discourage antisocial behaviour, robberies and attacks on park users and nearby residents.

And the petitioners remain, etc.

So, do not lose hope. Collect your petition and believe that even if your local agency dares to ignore it, you can take it higher. I hope that Leicester City Council will indeed listen to the House of Commons and act. To not do so would be at great detriment to the public voice.

Effective Support for Anti-Social Behaviour Victims

Today we are launching a new report looking at Victim Support’s work with the victims of anti-social behaviour. ASB Help Report Effective Support November 2014

The aim of this research was to establish the availability of Victim Support services across the country and to gain an understanding of the nature of the support available.

We found:

bullet Only 23% of the population in England and Wales have access to specialist Victim Support anti-social behaviour services.

bullet The characteristics of the support available vary greatly from place to place in funding, scope, and profile.

bullet An independent point of contact – as used in the ‘ASB Champion’ service model – is of huge value to victims of anti-social behaviour in reducing the complexities of getting help.

Our recommendations include:

bullet Priority in commissioning for victims of anti-social behaviour should be given to specific victim-focused support, preferably independent of the local or statutory authorities.

bullet Increased sharing of best-practice both within and between local authorities.

bullet Increased sharing of best-practice between Police and Crime Commissioners following their local consultations.

bullet Victims who activate the Community Trigger should be automatically referred to Victim Support for support, advice and advocacy (as currently happens with victims of crime).

bullet Greater support made available for victims whose case goes through the civil courts.

bullet The introduction of a national minimum standard for anti-social behaviour support.

bullet More accessible information for victims about reporting anti-social behaviour and how to get help.

Established in 2013, ASB Help’s remit is to help and advise victims of anti-social behaviour wherever they may be in England and Wales, primarily through informing them and signposting them to the appropriate local agency to help them deal with the problem they are experiencing. If you have any questions about the attached report please contact us.

PRESS RELEASE: Major gaps in support for victims of anti-social behaviour

Major gaps in support for victims of antisocial behaviour, report finds

Despite an estimated 8.2 million anti-social behaviour (ASB) incidents taking place each year, less than a quarter (23%) of victims of antisocial behaviour in England, and only 38% of victims in Wales have access to the support services they need, a report by the charity ASB Help reveals.

The ground-breaking research provides the first comprehensive map of the independent anti-social behaviour support available to victims across England and Wales. The report highlights the value of the practical help and emotional support that is being provided through locally-commissioned Victim Support projects in some areas.

In Newcastle, Leeds, Nottinghamshire, Somerset and Tower Hamlets dedicated anti-social behaviour teams are working with victims while in 25 other areas Victim Support is providing ‘Victims Champions’ to help people cope with their experiences. However, the patchy provision and funding across the country means that a staggering 43 million people do not have access to such specialist independent antisocial behaviour services.

The report by ASB Help calls for a national minimum standard of support for antisocial behaviour victims, for local authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners to fund more local projects, and greater support for victims who are seeking redress through the civil courts. It also suggests that new government anti-social behaviour legislation would be improved if victims were given a clearer route to getting help.

Jennifer Herrera, Chief Executive Officer of ASB Help said: “Resolving anti-social behaviour often requires a multi-agency response and lines can be blurred as to who has responsibility for acting. Sometimes no one acts and the victim continues to suffer in silence. We believe an independent victim-focused point of contact like Victim Support ASB Champions is crucial for a victim-centred approach to tackling anti-social behaviour. We have confidence in signposting victims to such a service but this report shows that in many areas we do not have that option. We believe this urgently needs to change.”

Adam Pemberton, Assistant Chief Executive of the charity Victim Support said: “Antisocial behaviour can take on many forms, from littering and drunkenness to verbal abuse and threatening behaviour. It is often persistent and can shatter people’s lives and have a negative impact on the communities in which they live. “It’s clear from the findings of this report that there are massive gaps in support for people who are affected by antisocial behaviour, which must be addressed. A consistent approach to tackling this is needed. Agencies need to work together and learn from each other to ensure victims no longer fall through the gaps and have to cope with the torment of antisocial behaviour alone.”

Ends

About ASB Help

ASB Help is a national UK charity seeking to assist victims of anti-social behaviour as to their rights – who they should report the anti-social behaviour to and crucially, what to do if they do not get a satisfactory response. Some areas of the UK have excellent resources to help victims of anti-social behaviour, including dedicated helplines. To find out more about ASB help visit: http://asbhelp.co.uk/

About Victim Support

Victim Support is the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales. Last year we offered support to more than 1 million victims of crime and helped more than 198,000 people as they gave evidence at criminal trials through our Witness Service. Victim Support also provides the Homicide Service supporting people bereaved through murder and manslaughter and runs more than 100 local projects which tackle domestic violence, antisocial behaviour and hate crime, help children and young people and deliver restorative justice. The charity has 1,400 staff and 4,300 volunteers and is celebrating its 40th anniversary during 2014. To find out more about Victim Support visit: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/

ASB Help Report Effective Support November 2014

Trigger Happy

We welcome the introduction today of legislation designed to put victims of anti-social behaviour first. We sincerely hope that victims will indeed feel like they are being put first as agencies implement the new tools. We are very interested to hear from victims about their experiences.

We are particularly optimistic about the Community Trigger – a tool that will enable victims to require a case review by a multi-agency group including the Police and Council if they have reported incidents of anti-social behaviour 3 times or more in the past 6 months without an adequate response (note: the exact threshold will differ from one local authority area to another).

These agencies will be required by law to report to victims on what is being done and any recommendations they have for the agency leading on the case. This tool has been designed because the government believes there are a number of victims experiencing these problems. We believe that is the case too. So will we become trigger happy, activating them and getting those results we have a right to expect?

There is certainly a need for it. 79% of respondents of our online survey report that they are still waiting for a resolution to the anti-social behaviour they are suffering; 72% of people accessing our Act Now! guide have reported the ASB 3 times or more. However, it would seem unlikely that we will become trigger happy as the report from Trigger Pilots in specific areas of the country indicated: very little take-up though positive responses from victims who did activate it.

We believe there are 3 main reasons we can’t expect a flurry of triggers to be activated:

1.Complexity of it – each local area has a different threshold and as soon as you get into the explanation of how and when you cross this threshold, you may have lost some victims. That key message needs to get across first and foremost – if you are reporting anti-social behaviour but not being helped, or just being passed from one agency to another, the Trigger exists for you.

2. No funds for promoting it – Councils may often be the main point of contact but they do not have a budget to heavily promote it to the public in their local area. Funding cuts means local authority bulletins going out to every household are a thing of the past in many areas. Just sticking the Trigger somewhere on their website is not going to help many victims – those who do not have Internet access and those not keen on navigating their way through pages of text on Council websites!

3. No independent voice – we are optimistic that the Community Trigger can identify areas of bad practice amongst agencies – but if these same agencies are the points of contact this is going to be a real challenge. If a victim is struggling to get anywhere with their local authority because the local authority is unresponsive, it is unlikely that this same local authority is going to point the victim towards the Trigger.

We hope the Home Office will take a strong lead in getting the word out about the Community Trigger. We hope too that the media will give it some exposure – so far it has not been highlighted as other tools such as the Community Remedy have taken prominence.

We are compiling a Community Trigger Directory here and hope to raise awareness for victims. We are delighted to have this tool as victims contact us after years of suffering anti-social behaviour who seem to have reported it in vain. We are heartily recommending the Community Trigger and hope to get that all-important contact page for each area so that victims are equipped with all the necessary information to activate the Trigger.

Please email admin@asbhelp.co.uk with your local Community Trigger webpage if we don’t yet have it included in our Directory.