Housing Workers ‘Key’ To A Sustainable Community Approach

Proposed new powers announced in the Queen’s Speech to tackle crime should focus on prevention rather than simply enforcement, according to the editors of the new Chartered Institute of Housing book, Supporting Safer Communities – housing, crime and neighbourhoods. Home Office plans for two new bills to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour should avoid knee-jerk responses to anti-social behaviour and crime and have a greater emphasis on working in and with communities to make them safer.

The government’s “Respect” agenda and the media’s unhealthy concentration on ASBOs focus on enforcement and punishment, but what communities need just as badly are strategies for prevention, intervention and support.

In disadvantaged neighbourhoods, where tenants often fear crime most, housing workers are key to co-ordinating a sustainable community approach.

This new book is aimed at helping staff and managers in the housing profession work more effectively with their colleagues in social services, police, education and youth services and the voluntary sector to seek sustainable solutions.

Professor Tim Newburn, from the London School of Economics, joint editor said: “We seem to be locked into a cycle of ever-increasing punitiveness. Policing and criminal justice responses to crime and anti-social behaviour have a part to play, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that they provide the whole answer. Education, housing, welfare and work are equally, if not more, important for creating and maintaining safe and pleasant places in which to live.”

Professor Peter Somerville from the University of Lincoln and senior research consultant, Alan Dearling, joint editors, said: “We need a much more balanced approach stressing the need for support for people who need it, as well as robust measures for intervention. Let’s not forget understanding and compassion. To achieve this there needs to be much more active understanding and real co-operation between the partnership organisations who are dealing with the outfall of anti-social and nuisance behaviour at the front line.”

The editors conclude: “To achieve a safe community, we have to recognise clashes of cultures, whether these be between ethnic groups, generations, social classes, lifestyles, occupational groups, or between those who are in authority and those who are not. Such divisions probably cannot be eliminated, but their strength and impact can at least be reduced. There are no simple methods for doing this, but recognition of the divisions needs to underpin the solutions devised in particular areas, and will almost certainly lead to strategies that do not rely on one method alone but combine prevention, diversion and different levels of intervention.”

Keith Exford, Chief Executive of Affinity Sutton Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of affordable housing, said: “The key issues, and the challenge for making communities safer, are featured in this book. These include the need for a balanced and proportionate response to anti-social behaviour and crime.

Roger Howard, Chief Executive of Crime Concern, said: “This book demonstrates the need for both immediate enforcement interventions and those more long term and sustainable preventative solutions. Most crime happens in disadvantaged communities, and the book reminds us that through a forensic approach to addressing crime, we can simultaneously address the goals of social justice.”