Behind headliines

Government proposals to cut housing benefit to people deemed
antisocial have been condemned as “discriminatory, ineffective and
ill-conceived” by a coalition of 27 organisations opposed to the
measures. The coalition, which includes Shelter, Barnardo’s, Help
the Aged, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Nacro and the Local Government
Association, said the plans were likely to worsen poverty and lead
to more homelessness. They would simply transfer the problem to a
new set of neighbours, the group said. A consultation document was
issued by the Department for Work and Pensions in May, but there
are no equivalent proposals for antisocial behaviour among those
people who are not on benefits. Another coalition, this time of
children’s charities, has also condemned the Anti-Social Behaviour
Bill for unduly restricting children’s rights. It has launched a
postcard campaign in which the postcards are filled in by young
people and sent to key ministries. It can be accessed at   

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“We all know there is a vicious cycle of poverty, disadvantage,
abuse, disaffection, isolation and alienation leading to the
antisocial behaviour which is causing such an outcry. But you
cannot tackle the end result by starving this so-called underclass
into submission and excluding them from their homes. There is no
magic answer – clearly the government does not have one. It
requires us to work harder and smarter – is it so unfashionable to
urge a little more tolerance while we try to get it right?”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“The government’s antisocial behaviour policies are discriminatory,
especially to the young and probably breach their human rights. One
legal opinion described clause 29 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill
as having ‘breathtaking provisions’ where someone can be punished
for just being present, ‘a nationwide curfew on young people under
16’. Young people are getting their views heard through a postcard
campaign entitled ‘Grounded – Stop targeting young people’. The
more responses the better.”

Julia Ross, executive director for health and social care,
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

“Somehow this strikes at the very basis of a fair society and it
makes me deeply uncomfortable. I would not support such a measure
and am glad that sensible organisations are challenging its

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield Institute
for Health, University of Leeds

“The prime minister has stated that respect is at the heart of a
belief in society, and this is a good starting point. There is no
denying that anti-social behaviour is a problem and needs to be
addressed. The difficulty with this particular proposal is that it
is discriminatory towards those in receipt of benefits, and is
unlikely to be effective in reducing such behaviour. Tony Blair’s
other mantras come to mind – ‘what counts is what works’, and
‘tough on antisocial behaviour and on the causes of antisocial

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,

“The consultation paper relevant to this issue makes interesting
reading. The focus is on rights and responsibilities and the theme
that runs through the paper is that social responsibility is the
bedrock of an inclusive society. No one can argue with this. What
is to be questioned though is the apparent lack of an offer of
consultation with those people who are labelled as ‘antisocial
types’. The consultation paper makes distinct reference to being
particularly interested in obtaining the views of those people
‘blighted’ by antisocial behaviour. It appears that the ‘deserving
and undeserving’ principle is alive and kicking. This does nothing
to promote social responsibility and inclusion.”

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