Written evidence on Stage One of the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Bill
By: Shelter Scotland Published: January 2004
Shelter gave written evidence to the Communities Committee on the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Bill, calling for a number of the legal measures proposed to be amended, because, at best, they could be ineffective and at worst, could cause homelessness.
The Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 29 October 2003, and will increase the legal measures available to tackle anti-social behaviour. The measures in the bill include Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) for under 16s, measures to hold landlords to account for the behaviour of their tenants and measures to deal with noise nuisance.
Shelter believes that the government is right to prioritise this problem. As a service provider, we have first-hand experience of the impact of antisocial behaviour. We take the issue seriously because we see its impact every day through our work. We hope that this policy focus on the problem will lead to effective and sustainable solutions. Our concerns about the bill concentrate on its potential effectiveness.
Shelter is very concerned at the potential for an increase in homelessness as a result of the proposal to give local authorities the power to serve antisocial behaviour orders on under-16s. If a young person is served with an ASBO, a provision in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 gives a local authority a power to change their tenancy to a less secure one (i.e. one in which it is easier to evict from). This could result in a whole family being evicted as a result of the behaviour of a dependent child. This could undermine progressive government policies on homelessness, and implementation of the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003. Shelter proposes that ASBOs for under-16s are not linked to security of tenure, and are instead linked to support provision.
The proposal to give police the power to close premises because of antisocial behaviour raises more questions than answers. It is unclear how this section in the bill will work in practice. We call for clarification on the application of closure orders from the Scottish ministers, which should be reflected in guidance, and for a commitment to rehouse every individual whose residential premises is served with a Closure Order.
The bill aims to focus on private landlords who routinely ignore the antisocial behaviour of their tenants. This is a legitimate area of concern. However, on this point, Shelter believes that, while the bill goes some way to alleviate the problem, it does not go far enough. In particular, it will not deliver its primary policy aim, which is to ensure that landlords engaged in bad practice respond to antisocial behaviour carried out by their tenants. As an alternative, Shelter proposes the introduction of a mandatory certification scheme for the private rented sector in Scotland.
Shelter calls on the Scottish Executive to detail the projects funded by Supporting People. This is crucial if we are to judge whether the right type and amount of support is available to address behaviour problems.
Shelter is concerned about the lack of clarity in the bill's Financial Memorandum. Shelter seeks detail from the Scottish Executive on how they intend to spend the money allocated for tackling antisocial behaviour.
Shelter proposes a three-pronged alternative approach to tackling antisocial behaviour, which reflects our experience as a provider of support services to homeless people. This approach focuses on preventing conflict, actively working with people to change behaviour and specialist responses for the most persistent offenders.