Friday, August 10, 2018

Auditor-General calls 'three strikes' on anti-social behaviour policy

The Auditor-General office today released its report into FACS' anti-social behaviour policy. If we lived in a world led by evidence-based policy decisions it should be the nail in the coffin of the punitive anti-tenant approach to social housing.

But let's take a brief look at the key point in the report, which does make other recommendations about the systems and training in FACS, and focus on the key question of - is the scheme doing what it is meant to?

As the Report says the stated aims of the three strikes approach was  supposed to:
• improve the behaviour of a minority of tenants engaging in antisocial behaviour
• create better, safer communities for law-abiding tenants, including those who are ageing and vulnerable.

It is clear from the report that these aims have failed, and the government should reconsider its approach.

Only 21% of tenants thought that things had improved since the strikes system was bought in. But even worse - what do FACS think. Has it made neighbourhood safety and security better?

A resounding no.
But this shouldn't come as a surprise to the government or the Department - at its introduction, we told the government the policy would not help and that more support, not more punishment was the answer.

Since it's still relevant here is our recommendation to government at the time:
The Tenants’ Union of NSW agrees that a better response to dysfunction in neighbourhoods should be a high priority for Government. We accept the prevalence of dysfunction is a genuine concern for residents in neighbourhoods with high concentrations of social housing tenancies, and areas of relative socio-economic disadvantage. But the schemes set out in the Residential Tenancies and Housing Legislation Amendment Bill (Public Housing – Antisocial Behaviour) Bill 2015 go too far.
The Tenants’ Union does not support the bill. We call upon the NSW Government to withdraw the bill, and embark instead upon a genuine process of consultation with tenants, housing advocates, social housing landlords and other interested parties to develop and implement strategies to improve cohesion and resilience in all neighbourhoods where there are high degrees of disadvantage. By contrast, the bill will only encourage adversarial and punitive responses.
Where criminal and antisocial behaviour cannot be tackled through greater investment in neighbourhood and community cohesion, the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 already provides adequate avenues for social housing landlords to end tenancies, including on all of the grounds set out in the bill.
This aligns with the views of many other experts in this area. The experiences of Queensland and WA also demonstrated the ineffectiveness. It is unfortunate that government did not listen then, and continues not to listen now.

Instead it appears that rather than address the evidence presented, the government is doubling down on the punitive approach - introducing new mandatory evictions, bonds on public housing tenants, and changing the strikes process to make it more likely first strikes will be issued.