Posted 17/11/2021

Getting to the real cause of anti-social behaviour

Antisocial behaviour is a range of behaviours that can cause nuisance and annoyance or harm and distress to others. This covers a wide range of behaviours from dumping rubbish, anti-social drinking to arson and verbal abuse.

Yet research from the National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) is clear that people involved in causing anti-social behaviour (ASB) often have a mental health problem and/or face complex family and social challenges.

A case study from Swan Housing Association demonstrates the importance of getting to the real cause behind ASB.

Caroline Maloney, Neighbourhood Service Officer for Swan Housing Association, is part of the housing provider’s team that manages the tenancies of its 11,000 homes across Essex and East London.

Recently Caroline was involved in a case where a tenant was regularly throwing items out of their windows, causing a nuisance and safety concerns.

Having received reports of this disruptive behaviour, Caroline set about investigating the matter. Following Swan’s procedures for dealing with tenancy breach and ASB-related issues, Caroline attempted to contact the resident via letter and phone calls, but to no avail. She also called at their home on several occasions, and while it was clear that they were inside, they would not speak to her.

Caroline explained how even at this initial stage of her enquiry, she was curious to understand why the resident was behaving in this manner.

“I thought that there was likely more to it than a case of someone deliberately choosing to be disorderly”, she said.

Having received no response to her attempts to make contact, she decided to dig a little further, rather than simply escalate the issue straight to becoming a matter for the courts.

Instead, Caroline decided to contact with other agencies to see if the person was receiving support, for example, for mental health issues.  She also talked to the tenant’s neighbours who were able to tell her that the person was leaving their home at odd times of the today and had recently lost a significant amount of weight.

At this time, the situation escalated as the resident set off a smoke alarm and the Fire Brigade had to attend. During their inspection, they noted that the resident’s home was being kept in poor condition.

Another conversation with a neighbour after this incident revealed to Caroline that the tenant received support for their mental health, and she was able to trace and contact their support worker. They were able to confirm that the resident had not being complying with their treatment plan.

The support worker was able to contact the resident’s mother who then visited the property along with Caroline and their support worker. However, the tenant wouldn’t come to the door.

Given their history of mental ill health, it was then agreed that the resident would need to be sectioned.

Members of the Swan team attended the tenant’s home along with the police. The tenant has been admitted to hospital and is receiving the care that they need.

Caroline cares about every customer and has continued to support the resident and their family.

Caroline said: “Sometimes getting to the root cause of an issue can take time, partnership working and not just treating a tenancy breach as that but thinking about what could be happening and how we can help that person and why.

"I would advise any frontline officer to always double check tenancy time and history when picking up breaches as in my experience there is usually a reason for a change in behaviour”.

This case study from Swan is an example of some of the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour, highlighting how important it is to tackle reports of tenancy breach and ASB with thorough investigation and partnership working, to fully understand what might be impacting or affecting people’s behaviour, and ensure the best response.