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Acceptable behaviour contracts (ABCs)

Antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs) won't be appropriate in all cases of antisocial behaviour. Sometimes everyone can agree on a solution without going to court with an acceptable behaviour contract (sometimes known as an abc contract). This often happens where children and young people are involved but it's an option for everyone. In cases like these, an acceptable behaviour contract may be drawn up.

What is an acceptable behaviour contract?

An acceptable behaviour contract (ABC) is a voluntary agreement between the person who is behaving antisocially and any other relevant people (for example, the police, the council or social workers). Sometimes ABCs are called acceptable behaviour agreements or antisocial behaviour contracts etc..

The main aim of an ABC is to help the person who is behaving antisocially to admit to their behaviour, understand how it affects other people, and, hopefully, stop it.

ABCs are meant to be flexible and informal so that they can be adapted to suit all sorts of situations. For example, they could be used to stop an adult playing loud music or to help parents make sure their children aren't out late at night vandalising property.

How are the terms of the ABC decided?

The terms and conditions of the ABC will be discussed and agreed before it is signed so that they help everyone in the process. That includes the person who is behaving antisocially, other people in the neighbourhood and perhaps the police, the council and other organisations who are involved such as the social work department.

You should be able to discuss things openly round a table when trying to work out the terms of an ABC. It's not a case of blaming or having a go at anyone. The idea is to sort out differences and find a solution that helps everyone involved.

Everyone involved in negotiating the ABC should get an opportunity to read it and ask any questions or make any changes before signing it.

What will I have to agree to?

There is no set formula for what should be in an ABC but the Law and Parents website has further information. Remember that every ABC will be different because every problem is different.

When can ABCs be used?

ABCs are sometimes used instead of antisocial behaviour orders. They can also be used to try to tackle the problem before it gets so bad that an antisocial behaviour order is needed.

ABCs can be used in lots of different situations to tackle antisocial behaviour. For example, they can be used:

  • to stop a person's behaviour getting worse
  • to help with any problems that are causing the antisocial behaviour
  • instead of an ASBO.

ABCs are a possible solution in most cases of antisocial behaviour. They can be used to stop or improve the behaviour of all sorts of people including:

  • council and private tenants
  • homeowners
  • children from the age of 12 who are behaving antisocially
  • parents whose children are behaving antisocially.

Do I have to sign an ABC?

No. You can't be forced into an ABC. You have to agree to it.

Don't sign anything you're not happy about or can't stick to, because this will only make the problem worse.

If you feel that you'd like someone to help you get your point across, or even if you just need some moral support, you can contact your local Citizens Advice, who will be able to put you in touch with someone in your area who can represent you.

What are the advantages of signing an ABC?

If you, or someone in your household, has been accused of behaving in an antisocial way, it is worth thinking seriously about agreeing to speak to the police or social workers to see if you can reach a compromise by signing an ABC. It's better than going to court and being forced to do something or stop going somewhere. If you try to reach an agreement, it's more likely that your views will be heard and your needs taken on board.

If you have any other problems that are contributing to your antisocial behaviour (for example, problems at home, problems at school or work, pressure from your friends, bullying), you will be able to talk about these when negotiating an ABC. You should get a chance to explain why you have been behaving in a certain way and you should be offered support to tackle your other problems.

You will have a say in what goes into the agreement rather than being told by a court what you can and cannot do.

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