Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC)

An Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) also known as an Acceptable Behaviour Agreement (ABA) is a voluntary written agreement which is signed by an individual committing anti-social behaviour.  In signing the contract, the individual is agreeing to abide by the terms specified and to work with the relevant support agencies.  

Whilst they are used quite widely with young people, they can be issued to an individual over the age of 10. They are normally drawn up by a number of different agencies including a local authority, a housing provider and the police, however, the support agencies and school for example may also be involved if appropriate.  It is very much a case by case basis and where the individual is a young person, their parent/guardian will also be involved.

Ideally, the terms of the ABC/ABA are developed and agreed with the individual to ensure that they fully understand what is being asked of them and they are able to comply with the contract. Once the contract is drafted, the individual and relevant agencies will all sign the document, and all parties will receive a copy.     

The contract normally lasts for six months but it is recommended that it is reviewed at approximately 3 months to ensure it is still fit for purpose and does not require amending.

Whilst, an ABC is not legally binding, if breached, it can be used as evidence to illustrate that enforcement action is required as the non-legal tools have been unable to successfully tackle the problem.  However, it must be remembered that legal action (e.g. injunction) will only be taken if it is proportionate to do so.  

 It is considered best practice for an organisation to take an incremental approach in relation to breaches as detailed below.  

However, if the behaviour exhibited at any stage of the process poses a serious risk of harm and legal action is deemed necessary and proportionate, there should be a caveat within an organisation’s policy and procedures to allow for this.

In the majority of cases, agencies will follow a procedure whereby: –

  1. A first breach would involve discussing the breach with the individual and warning them of the consequences if their anti-social behaviour were to continue. 
  2. A second breach would require an attendance at an interview/appointment and 
  3. A third breach, the investigating officer may consider legal action if proportionate to do so

ABCs if administered and monitored correctly are a great way for tackling anti-social behaviour.  

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