The ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is designed to shift the focus from centrally set targets, and the type of behaviour, to looking at the impacts on the lives of victims. Key components in the “putting victims first” approach are the Community Trigger and Community Remedy. These two tools also carry statutory duties for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), which in London’s case are carried out by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).
Between April 2013 and March 2014 the Safer Islington Partnership had serious concerns about the number of repeat callers to the police and council about anti-social behaviour (ASB) issues and the potential vulnerability of those callers. During a rolling six month period 70 people were calling 10 times or more to report ASB. A disproportionately small number of people accounted for a large volume of neighbour and noise complaints. There was also concern that vulnerability risk assessments were not consistently being carried out by the range of officers dealing with ASB victims.
- concerns that it was easy to miss vulnerability in ‘low level’ cases
- risk management was very ad-hoc;
- there was a potential gap in safeguarding provision
- a lack of clear process for dealing with vulnerable adults who are victims of ASB
A Community Risk MARAC (Multi-Agency-Risk-Assessment-Conference) was set up in March 2014 by broadening the remit of the existing ASBAG (Anti-social Behaviour Action Group), meeting chaired by the Chief Inspector for neighbourhood policing, (with the ASB Co-ordinator as deputy chair). A process is in place for risk assessing all repeat callers by the social landlord or ASB out-of-hours team (for private sector cases) to help determine whether a referral should be made to the Community Risk MARAC.
Following a number of high profile deaths of vulnerable victims of ASB LB Ealing set up the first Community Risk MARAC in May 2013. The Met Police Commander Christine Jones identified the CRM as good practice and all policing areas in the North sector were encouraged to apply the learning from Ealing and set one up. Officers in Islington agreed that there was a gap in provision and that a CRM was needed.
The Islington Community Risk MARAC is a multi-agency meeting where information is shared about vulnerable victims of ASB. The aim is to identify the highest risk, most complex cases and solve the issues of concern. Agencies represented include the community safety partnerships unit, police, fire brigade, Camden & Islington Foundation Trust (mental health services), housing (including registered providers), adult safeguarding, floating support, victim support and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors depending on the referrals made.
After sharing all relevant information about a victim and/or perpetrator, the representatives discuss options for increasing the safety of any victim and turn these into a co-ordinated action plan.
The main focus is on managing the risk to the vulnerable victim but in doing this it will also consider other persons affected and manage the behaviour of any perpetrator. The panel decides on the best approach to managing the overall risk to the victim/the community at large and on effective safety planning strategies.
During 2014/15, 43 referrals were made to the Community Risk MARAC. For the first half of the financial year referrals largely came from partners who were members of the CRM and without promoting the role of the meeting. Clearly this meant that the most vulnerable victims were not necessarily being identified. However, awareness raising sessions were then held with partners during the second half of the year and the CRM publicised.
Last financial year there was an average of 11 cases discussed during each quarter and in the first quarter of this year 16 cases were discussed.
Common factors included:
- Links with mental health/personality disorder issues generally – either victim or perpetrator.
- Vulnerable adults living alone who are ‘befriended’ by undesirable individuals who often have complex needs including drug/alcohol misuse.
- Repeat callers who do not meet the threshold for MH interventions or callers being affected by people with paranoia.
- Residents with unmet mental health needs who refuse to engage with support services.
- Perpetrators with complex needs, including mental health, who have stopped taking their medication.
- Complex needs of hostel residents presenting safeguarding risks to the safety of other residents and staff.
- Vulnerable adults living in general needs housing but in need of supported or sheltered housing.
- Victims of Hate Crime either by people unknown or neighbours.
What’s working well:
- There is good attendance by a wide range of partners including support agencies.
- New partners are seeing the benefit of this way of collaborative working and getting involved – the latest partner is the Fire Brigade who make a significant contribution to problem-solving and provision of support.
- A positive working relationship has developed with the Mental Health Assessment and Advice Team in Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust, both at the CRM and outside meetings.
- The responsiveness adopted by Mental Health Assessment and Advice Team in carrying out home visits and providing advice and guidance.
- A good range of types of referrals have been made and come from a range of appropriate agencies.
- Good practice has been identified in dealing with repeat caller cases including some vexatious callers.
- There has been a reduction in the number of repeat caller cases (as well as a reduction in number of calls by repeat callers) including some longstanding entrenched cases.
A dedicated co-ordinator post for this and the Domestic Violence MARAC has been in post since April 2015. This enables prompt writing-up of minutes/actions, distribution of paperwork, and information sharing with partners for example.
Regarding repeat callers, analysis in November 2014 was carried out for the 60 individuals who had been discussed in either the CRM or the previous ASBAG meeting. This looked at the number of calls made to the police or the council’s ASB reporting line for a six month period prior to discussion in the meetings compared with six months after the initial discussion. During that timescale there was a 49 per cent reduction in calls to the council and a 59 per cent reduction in calls to the police. Clearly this has significant implications in terms of staffing resources as well as resident/victim satisfaction and wellbeing.
Difficulties and areas of improvement:
- The Community Risk MARAC is currently exploring various case management systems to assist with prompt information sharing, improved monitoring, follow-up on actions amongst other things.
- Balancing the role of managing new referrals as well as tracking existing cases during meetings.
- Identifying the most vulnerable victims.
- Recognising the potential for a large number of referrals.
- No quick fixes – cases can be entrenched, complex and difficult to resolve.
- Managing expectations of the group and referral officers.
- It is crucial to have the right decision makers present at meetings.
- Sustainability and maintaining high standards.
- Evaluating outcomes – how do we know we are making a difference.
- Setting up a case management system
- Establishing a new role of Forensic Psychologist to provide support to CRM cases
- Further reinforcing the use of vulnerability risk assessments to identify suitable referrals
- Continuing to raise awareness of the CRM to other agencies; and
- Evaluating and measuring outcomes.
MOPAC funding (London Crime Prevention Fund) contributes:
£20,000 towards an ASB Analyst post
£20,000 towards a Risk Panel Co-ordinator post, and
£25,000 towards a Forensic Psychologist post.