ForHousing’s Community Safety manager, Mark Fitton, explains how teamwork, early intervention, and listening to tenants helped them achieve 100% compliance with HouseMark’s anti-social behaviour accreditation
With everyone being forced to spend more time at home during the pandemic, it is perhaps no surprise there has been a national rise in reports of anti-social behaviour (ASB).
In line with trends across the country, we are set to see a year-end increase in reports to our Community Safety Service in 2020/21, with 1,872 reports recorded so far (compared with 2,000 recorded in 2019/20).
From these, 709 ASB cases were opened and the remaining reports triaged and actioned.
Our triage system, launched in 2015, helps to manage service users expectations more effectively. It identifies reports that can be resolved through other routes such as referring to another agency, swift intervention to resolve low-level issues by speaking to both parties, or logging the report as non-ASB.
We have also seen an increase of over a third in the number of ForHousing tenants discussed at Domestic Abuse Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) meetings, with 500 cases in 2020, compared with 341 in 2019.
People deserve to feel safe in their homes and their communities, especially during such challenging times. For our team, that has meant adapting our approach to enable staff to primarily work from home while still ensuring we can continue to provide a high-quality service to tenants across Salford, Knowsley, Oldham, and Fylde.
But behind these operational changes, our core principles of how we work as a team and our commitment to making more things possible for more people have stood strong.
Our Wellbeing Strategy is the backdrop to this. We have a positive culture at ForHousing of supporting the wellbeing of both staff and tenants. Every ASB case we investigate is focused on getting the best possible outcome for tenants and improving lives.
We have an experienced and well-established team that has given us the ability to respond quickly during the pandemic; whether that be responding to the rise in domestic abuse reports or working with specialist mediation services to improve relationships between neighbours and prevent situations escalating.
Prevention and intervention
We proactively engage with relevant partners to support a joined-up approach to tackling the root causes of ASB and promoting positive behaviours. This includes working with Adult and Children’s Services, Domestic Abuse specialist services, Drug and Alcohol services, and Police.
We attend weekly MARAC meetings to discuss and agree action plans for high-risk domestic abuse cases and attend joint visits to tenants with the Police or Adult and Children’s Services.
“People deserve to feel safe in their homes and their communities, especially during such challenging times”
We also fund, co-fund, and participate as partners in numerous community development and diversionary initiatives across the areas where we own homes. This includes the Prince’s Trust, Youth Clubs, and knife-crime projects. Our Play Streets programme has been remodelled during the pandemic to support families to participate in online activities run through our Facebook group.
We use a comprehensive risk assessment to identify and respond to the support and safety needs of victims and witnesses. Any action taken against the perpetrator is done so with regard to their circumstances, support needs, and the severity of the behaviour being perpetrated. Regular contact is maintained with the complainant throughout the case, so that we are aware of any changes in the situation that may affect the action we need to take.
In cases where there is a use or threat of violence, emergency action is considered and will be taken where there is a significant risk of harm. Similarly, possession action will be considered in the more serious cases.
The on-site HouseMark ASB Accreditation assessment took place remotely in November 2020 via Microsoft Teams and involved interviews with both staff and tenants. HouseMark also reviewed closed and current ASB cases so they could get an understanding of our person-centred approach.
In the final report, the Assessor commented: “We found an ASB service that hasn’t allowed the challenges of 2020 to prevent it from delivering outstanding results for tenants and customers.
“We particularly noticed that you have:
- An agile service capable of developing alternative approaches
- Well-developed partnership approaches
- A great performance culture across teams
“Interviews with staff also demonstrated high levels of commitment to achieving positive outcomes. You have a service that recognises changing demands – e.g. domestic abuse issues – and looks to resolve them.”
“It is great news we have received such positive feedback from HouseMark, but we always want to do more”
Amanda Leonard, associate executive director of HouseMark Consultancy, added: “Developing and deploying effective strategies for ASB management has never been more crucial.
“This is the fourth time that For Housing have successfully achieved the independent HouseMark ASB accreditation.
“Becoming the first organisation to achieve 100% compliance demonstrates how seriously they take this issue, their consistency of approach, and the culture of continuous improvement they have implemented and embedded.”
Listening to tenants
It is great news we have received such positive feedback from HouseMark, but we always want to do more. We believe listening to tenants is the key to this and want to hear what their expectations of us are.
Our three community voice groups in Salford, Stockbridge, and Fitton Hill assess our performance with the support of our customer scrutiny panel, helping us to continuously improve.
ASB featured heavily in the Social Housing White Paper, and we will continue to adapt our approach and strive to do more, so that every tenant feels safe and happy in their home and part of a strong community.
Image: Mark Fitton
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