Antisocial behaviour tactic ‘failing youths’

LOCAL authorities’ methods of dealing with antisocial behaviour are forcing growing numbers of youths into homelessness and more serious criminal activity, according to a report.

The study, The State of Antisocial Behaviour in Working Class Communities, is based on extensive research and direct interviews with local authority housing residents who have been victims of anti-social behaviour, those identified as perpetrators and those who have been of the receiving end of council actions.

Stephen Gaughan, of the Community Mediation Works scheme, said: “The report contrasts the experience on the ground with the best practice recommendations issued by the Housing Unit in 2003. It points to ways to alleviate antisocial behaviour while simultaneously building community capacity and strengthening relations.”

The researcher added that the current way the provisions of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 are being utilised and a system that allows courts make judgments on evictions based solely on the evidence of one local authority official or Garda “was resulting in problems often being exacerbated or just moved on rather then dealt with”.

“In effect they can enshrine a discrimination against youth which, coupled with a lack of provision of services and spaces for young people, essentially create an environment apt for alienation, disillusionment and resentment.”

The report calls for the fostering of community agreement on issues such as gathering points for youths and street football, where it is also accepted that young people have a right to pursue social activity within an estate.

The report’s analysis of training for Dun Laoghaire Rathdown local authority staff charged with dealing with antisocial behaviour found that training focused on ensuring correct legal procedures were followed when issuing notice to quit. The training does not emphasise how to conduct a fair and impartial investigation, nor does it consider community mediation and tenancy.

A particular issue is that entire families can find themselves faced with problems due to the activities of younger members, often leading to evictions.

The report calls for the establishment of intensive family support projects that have been rolled out across Britain since first established as the Dundee Families Project in 1996.

These schemes have been found to be “a cost-effective form of tenancy sustainment” in audits.

* The report is available from Community Mediation Works, 5 Anglesea Lane, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.


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