Picture of Jon Cox, Head of Tenancy Sustainment

Expand the benefits of the Government’s ASB action plan to safeguarding

First published by Housing Digital on 27/09/23 and republished by Sovereign Housing Association. 

Earlier this year the Government launched its new 48-page Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Action Plan. There’s a lot within the action plan and plenty that housing providers will welcome.  

The proposals are still at an early stage and in some areas, detail is lacking. As this comes forward, those of us working to improve people’s lives in this area must make sure the all too often ignored links between ASB and safeguarding aren’t missed.

The tragic death of Steven Hoskin is just one example of why we need to get this right. Steven was a man with learning difficulties who became part of a gang in Cornwall. He died in 2007 after suffering abuse at the hands of the people he thought were his friends.

The independent report into his death found that mistakes were made by police and social services. Collectively, they failed to recognise that he, like many perceived perpetrators of ASB, are in fact vulnerable – and in need of safeguarding too.

This is something which the Government’s action plan doesn’t yet fully acknowledge. It’s surprising – given that ministers announced a new ASB Advisory Panel last summer which is specifically designed to provide better advice to the sector on how it can tackle ASB committed by vulnerable persons. Some ASB issues can be more effectively resolved by support, rather than enforcement or a blend of both.

While this is a gap that needs to be resolved, the current plan does offer some unexpected opportunities to improve how we respond to safeguarding concerns.

One of the most promising commitments is the ambition to create a specific ASB hub and centralised reporting tool on the Gov.uk website. This ‘one-stop-shop’ is expected to act as a funnel which allows anyone to send ASB related concerns to the right agencies and authorities, all presumably at the click of a button. 

This is particularly important – because currently there is no centralised reporting tool for safeguarding concerns. Each authority has their own individual reporting requirements to follow, which adds further complexity.

When you consider that safeguarding is about keeping people who are at risk safe, this lack of consistency is an unwelcome hindrance.

So, knowing that the IT infrastructure is going to be put in place to allow people to report ASB concerns centrally, the question is: could the tool be adapted and introduced for people wanting to report safeguarding concerns?

As well as creating a potentially more effective tool for reporting cases, if expanded it has the potential to drive greater consistency in the reporting of data, allowing safeguarding professionals to develop a more thorough understanding of the trends.

I chair a Safeguarding and Housing Best Practice Group, with national reach which is made up of members from 19 registered housing providers. It focuses on how we can extend our expertise to other housing associations dealing with those at risk. And there’s certainly an appetite to achieve standardised reporting methods and data among the group’s members.

The reviews we carry out through this group highlight good practice and underline why housing providers must have a seat at the safeguarding table. While the Care Act 2014 lists housing as a key partner, all too often housing providers are invited late or completely omitted from the safeguarding table altogether.

It’s vitally important that policymakers acknowledge the connections between ASB and safeguarding, and make it as easy as possible to keep people safe.

Expanding the development of the ASB IT infrastructure to include a single hub for safeguarding reporting, looking at ASB perpetrators through the lens of potential vulnerability, and giving registered providers a more prominent seat at the safeguarding table, are three simple, yet potentially effective, ways to do this.