ASB Policy Guidance

What is an ASB policy?

• A document that contains your high-level commitments and approach to the ASB service you deliver
• A legal requirement (if you are a registered provider of social housing)
• A document that helps inform effective case management practice

What are the benefits of an effective ASB policy?

• Consistency of approach across all case officers
• Provides support and guidance for those new to managing cases
• Gives officers the confidence to make [sometimes difficult] decisions
• Clearly sets out the remit and responsibility of the service, helping inform internal teams and external stakeholders, and preventing a case from being passed around without ownership
• Helps to manage the expectations of residents, partner agencies, elected members etc.
• Justifies our decision making when under external scrutiny (e.g. housing ombudsman enquiries, community trigger/ASB case reviews, legal applications etc)

An effective policy helps to ensure that officers can act confidently and decisively, bringing the harm to victims of ASB to an end as soon as possible. This, in turn, has a positive impact on satisfaction. This is particularly important for housing providers, given the introduction of tenant satisfaction measures and tighter regulation of the consumer standards, which form part of the Social Housing Regulation Bill

Areas to consider

The below are areas to consider including within your ASB policy. They are based on national guidance, the views of the housing ombudsman (which is equally applicable across all community safety partners), legislation and best practice. This is not exhaustive and there may be other areas you wish to include, or that are expected as standard by your organisation such as an equality and diversity statement/impact assessment.

1. Policy statement
• Outline your general approach to ASB
• Detail the key principles that underpin your ASB service (e.g. adopting a harm-centred approach to case management, working in partnership to problem solve etc)
• You may also wish to view the Home Office ASB Principles and ensure these are embedded with your policy and service

2. Associated legislation and policy
• Detail the legislation that governs your ASB service (e.g. crime and disorder act, housing act/s, ASB specific legislation, equality act etc)
• Reference any relevant internal policies (e.g. hate crime, domestic abuse, persistent complainants, safeguarding etc)
• You may also wish to reference the statutory guidance

3. Definition of ASB
• Include the statutory definition of ASB
• Explain what else you consider when making a decision as to whether a report is anti-social e.g. do you apply a reasonableness test, considering frequency, duration, intent, behaviour type etc?
• Make reference to adopting a ‘harm-centred’ approach to deciding on whether something is ASB, considering both the behaviour type and the impact it is having on the victim/s
• Gives examples of behaviours that are likely to be considered ASB
• Gives examples of behaviour that are unlikely to be considered ASB and the response in these types of matters (see below ‘Good Neighbourhood Management Policy”)
• Defines what is considered to be a “neighbour dispute” and the extent of involvement by the service
• Outlines the approach to hate crime and refers to any standalone hate crime policy
• Outlines the approach to domestic abuse (when reported as an ASB concern) and refers to any standalone domestic abuse policy.

Good Neighbourhood Management Policy

The recent Housing Ombudsman (HO) report into noise reports suggests that housing providers consider creating a good neighbourhood management policy, which outlines the approach to reports that do not meet the definition of ASB, but still require a response. For example, a terrace property has been turned into maisonettes and the soundproofing is poor. The resident on the ground floor can hear the tenant above carrying out reasonable household activities. This is causing a nuisance but isn’t appropriate to be classed as ASB as there is no wrong doing on the tenant’s part. Rather than dealing with this as ASB, the HO is recommending a separate policy which doesn’t label anyone as a “perpetrator” but considers responses such as mediation or property improvements. If your organisation decides to develop such a policy, the ASB policy needs to reference it and make clear when it applies.

4. Remit of the service

• For housing, set out whether the policy applies to all occupancy types (e.g.leasehold, shared ownership, licensees etc)
• Outlines the role the service takes in relation to cross tenure cases (e.g what happens when the harm doer is a non-tenant causing problems to a tenant? What about if a party private rents or is a tenant of another housing provider or the council?)
• Details the position with regard to anonymous reports
• Sets out whether the policy applies to behaviour directed towards employees and/or contractors
• Outlines roles and responsibilities in cases where there are multiple agencies investigating e.g. the police, in relation to matters that are criminal offences and environmental health in relation to matters which are noise related.

5. Prioritisation and Risk

• Outline the categories that you use when prioritising reports of ASB, based on a harm centred approach
• State the timescales for responding to these reports
• Details how victim risk and vulnerability are identified, managed and reduced

6. Expectations of residents

• Outline what is expected from residents
• Detail any tenancy conditions specific to ASB (if relevant)
• Outline any steps required from a complainant to help progress their case

7. Action

• Explain that action can only be taken where there is evidence of the ASB to the required standard of proof
• Detail the approach taken to deciding on the best course of action e.g. by adopting a harm centred approach, considering what action is proportionate based on the behaviour type and the impact, other relevant factors such as whether this is a pattern of behaviour, whether the harm causer is cooperating, previous actions taken etc.
• Do not tie service down to taking an incremental approach, having to start with non-legal actions and working upwards.
• Explain that sometimes complainants may be asked to be part of the solution, by asking them to speak to the harm doer or by engaging in mediation (where it is appropriate to the case)
• The proactive measures you take to stopping ASB from occurring in the first place (e.g. use of starter/introductory tenancies, the information provided at sign-up, estate walkabouts, education and awareness raising etc)
• The informal measures you may use e.g. letters, meetings, ABCs/ABAs, mediation, restorative justice
• The legal tools you may use (or support other agencies to use, if you do not have the recourse to them yourself e.g, housing associations and closure powers)
• That you complete a proportionality assessment and/or equality act assessment before deciding on legal action
• Whether you publicise court orders and how you make a decision as to the method and extent of this publicity.

8. Partnership working and information sharing

• Outline the key partners you work with in ASB cases and the partnership forms you input into
• Reference how you share information with them and under what legislation.
• Confirm that you share, store and retain information appropriately
• Outline your position with regards confidentiality and the limitations (e.g. the times it cannot be respected, such as if a criminal offence has occurred, if there is a safeguarding concern etc)

9. Reporting and feedback

• Set out how people can report ASB to you
• Set out how people can make complaints or give feedback. It is helpful to outline the difference between service complaints and ASB reports, which often causes confusion
• Link to information about the local community trigger process (or the ASB Help directory, if you have residents across several local authority areas)
• Explain approach with regards persistent/unreasonable complainants and link to any corporate policy.

10. Service monitoring

• Set out how the service and performance is monitored

Need more support?

Janine offers an ASB policy health check service, consisting of the following:

• A review of your current ASB policy
• A report outlining findings and recommendations
• A meeting to discuss the report and answer any questions
• A review of your final draft

Further details can be found here

Concerned that you don’t have the capacity to revise your ASB policy internally? Janine also offers full drafting services. For further details on any of the above, contact Janine on janine@janinegreenasb.co.uk

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