Social services failing to commit to antisocial behaviour policies

People with mental health and addiction problems issued with
antisocial behaviour orders are breaching the terms of the orders
because they lack support services, according to a report by MPs
published today, writes Maria Ahmed.

The concluding report on antisocial behaviour by the home
affairs select committee accused social services departments and
child mental health services of failing to commit to antisocial
behaviour strategies.

The committee identified “insufficient” support for
perpetrators who had mental health and addiction problems, or those
living in chaotic families as the “most important
factor” in the high number of asbo breaches.

The report said: “We recognise the strain on the budgets
of social services departments and we recognise that they may
often, quite legitimately, have other priorities. Nonetheless, the
failure to participate is likely to undermine the success of
antisocial behaviour strategies and lead to people not getting the
assistance they require.”

The committee raised concern over the “underuse” of
mediation and parenting schemes, and called for more funding for
prevention work.

The report also upheld the government’s policy to
“name and shame” individuals issued with antisocial
behaviour orders, but said that the minimum two-year length of
asbos for under-18s was “inappropriate”.

It recommends a change in law to give magistrates “greater
discretion” in setting the duration of asbos for

The report also concluded that the current 42 per cent breach
rate of asbos “compared favourably” with other
non-custodial youth justice interventions.

The committee denied that the problem of antisocial behaviour
had been “exaggerated” by the government or the media,
and rebutted claims that policies were “overwhelmingly

The report followed a five-month inquiry examining evidence
submitted by non-government organisations, local government and
central government representatives.

Campaigners criticised the committee’s endorsement of the
“naming and shaming” policy, saying it flouted
children’s rights to privacy under the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child.

Rehabilitation agency Nacro also raised concerns that asbo
breaches created a “fast route into custody” for young
people for “low level” disorder offences.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform,
warned that the current legislation “widened the net”
of the criminal justice system by criminalising children.

She said:”Antisocial behaviour legislation relies on a low
burden of proof. It does not rely on an objective test of behaviour
but on the reaction to that behaviour by others.

“Yet antisocial behaviour legislation uses the criminal
justice system if the original order is breached. There is a
blurring of the boundaries between civil and criminal law which has
serious implications for due process and the rights of the
child,” Crook concluded

The report can be found at:

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