|Back to basics (although it should read ASB)|
It seems that rarely a week goes by without housing hitting the headlines – as it did this week when Ed Miliband asked whether community-minded residents should get priority when it came to housing. Aside from reacting to the latest news, there’s the multitude of intriguing issues at work in the sector – ranging from innovation to responsibility – all of which could probably be the subject of a blog in their own right.
However, one thing I want to focus on more are some of the main issues that THT as an organisation are confronted by. As well as that I’d like to give readers an up-to-date view of the services we’re responsible for. So over the next couple of months there will be a series of guest posts from people within THT looking at these “basic” topics. First up, Tony Lowry, Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods, on how we are confronting the ever-present issue of anti-social behaviour.
In a recent blog Matthew wrote about the importance of getting feedback from tenants. One topic that they have always been very vocal and emphatic about is anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is one of the main causes for concern from tenants, and if we are to achieve our mission of being at the heart of our communities then we have to take it as seriously as they do. You can read more about our approach to the topic here, but the simplest thing to say is that we understand precisely how this issue can ruin the lives of individuals, destroy families and ultimately tear apart communities unless it is dealt with promptly and properly.
Despite the doom and gloom that usually surrounds the topic, over the last few years there has been a lot of work done on how anti-social behaviour is approached by organisations like THT. That effort has laid out an intriguing – and exciting – new approach, which has resulted in some real success. Statistics never tell the full story and I wouldn’t like to say that we had the problem beaten but the following make for good reading:
- We get 250 cases of anti-social behaviour a year. This is less than similar organisations working in similar areas. We feel this has much to do with the quality of our work to prevent anti-social behaviour in the first place.
- We know tenants want us to work towards solutions quickly. Consequently, we monitor the time taken on every case and we now have only nine cases open more than nine months. 18 months ago this was 36 cases.
- Every person reporting anti-social behaviour gets at least a monthly update.
- We have just had our best month ever with the number of anti-social behaviour cases successfully resolved in agreement with the person who reported the case.
To get a fuller picture, all of the contacts and interventions from the various agencies were mapped out and costed for just one of these families. The cost amounted to £160k per year! It would have been cheaper to put a Police Officer on their doorstep all year round! The key thing that the study revealed was that all of this intervention was reactive and, therefore, unplanned. This incredible amount of money was spent fighting fires. Clearly, this was not the right approach and led to a re-think in how to address the problem. The conclusion was that organisations and agencies had to learn to combine their resources and budgets to change the approach so that now, virtually all of the contacts and interventions are planned.
The financial implications of taking this proactive stance and helping this family out in a more rational way, is that it now only costs £120k per year, saving the tax-payer £40k per year. If you factor in the tax now being paid by the two members of the family who are now in work, the overall savings are more like £60k. Perhaps more importantly still, this positive approach is more effective and means that rather than spending the money on clearing up and punishing anti-social behaviour, we can help prevent families from committing it in the first place.
Imagine the implications if it’s not just one family, but twenty, or thirty getting the benefit of this shift in approach. The overall cash gain to the tax payer is potentially in the millions. This isn’t money that will come through to organisations like THT, but if we are undertaking this work and standing by our values to make communities stronger, then that means we have to protect those who are about to drop off the edge. If we can help a family with a few problems, or those intent on bringing full-blown chaos to an area - then we, the families and our communities all win.
Impressively, the recent trend of anti-social behaviour reducing has continued despite the cuts impacting on youth services and police numbers. The key to making this work in the future is to make real and fundamental changes in how services work together. It’s about stating what needs to get done, how it will be done and who is responsible for getting it done. If we are to carry on these improvements and continue acting on the concerns of our tenants then these partnerships are the key to unlocking the problem, because ultimately we believe that we can beat anti-social behaviour.