TIME TO REVIEW OUR REVIEWS?

Recently it’s felt like there’s been a change of focus from central government on anti-social behaviour (“ASB”).

As practitioners, you probably share the frustration that there hasn’t been much priority given to ASB over more recent years. Once the 2014 legislation got Royal Assent and came into force in October of that year, it felt a little like the problem of tackling ASB was considered ‘solved’ and practitioners left to get on with it.

So if we’re talking about positives that can be gained from a global pandemic, it’s that Covid helped shift the spotlight back to ASB.

Because of the increase of ASB reports during Covid for all the reasons that we’ve talked about at length before — people living closer together, people being at home far more often, people having conflicting priorities while they’re at home, people’s mental health being severely affected by the pandemic, causing their resilience to ASB to decrease — it became something the government simply had to return their attention to.

With priority coming back to ASB, hopefully, more time, money, and resources will be made available to tackle the issue.

It also means likely that as practitioners and organisations we’re going to be held more accountable and scrutinised harder in terms of the work we do. We’ve seen examples of this already in the efforts to raise the profile of the Community Trigger, making sure residents are aware of their statutory right to request a review.

We’ve also seen the Housing Ombudsman Service strengthen their powers around anti-social behaviour.

They’ll now look at cases that haven’t been dealt with as well as the resident might like, have stronger powers to act in those cases, and publish severe maladministration findings of failure more widely.

We’ve also seen the Social Housing White Paper pledge to strengthen the scrutiny and accountability around anti-social behaviour, namely removing the serious detriment test so that the regulator can intervene earlier.

And just a couple of weeks back, the regulator confirmed that two of the Tenant Satisfaction Measures will be related to ASB. One will be around how satisfied tenants are with the way we manage cases of ASB and the second on how many cases of ASB we hold.

Both measures need us to ensure we’ve got knowledgeable and experienced officers, that we’re acting decisively, and that we’re making confident informed decisions that’ll bring cases to a close as quickly as we can within the difficult circumstances we often work.

Whilst anything that makes us reflect on our processes is a positive thing, every time there’s a review it means somebody is looking at the things we’ve done, making a judgement as to whether we’ve done things in the right possible way, and that we’ve acted quickly and decisively to reduce the harm to our communities.

One way of making sure this happens is having a robust case review process embedded within your service.

Very often this might be provided to you by your manager or your supervisor or indeed, you might be one of those people actually doing the reviews with officers.

There is much value in case reviews when they’re done properly. There are lots of benefits for managers and the organisation because case reviews help us to recognise the cases exposed to the most risk, recognise the most vulnerable victims, and enable us to protect both the business and the tenants, residents, and communities we’re there to support.

They provide officers with a critical friend, an independent view and a way of simply seeking validation for the options that they are proposing to take.

Whilst there are clear benefits, there are also a number of challenges that hinder our ability to conduct a fully effective case review process.

Firstly, time. You might be an officer who’s managing a huge volume of cases and so finding time to sit down on a regular basis with your manager or supervisor to go through these might feel like time you simply do not have.

Equally, you might be a manager who has a large team. If you need to conduct monthly case reviews then it could be the equivalent of around a week’s worth of your time every month, and that’s probably not a possibility.

Case reviews can become a ball and chain around your ankles when we think we must review every single case every single month. What happens if we rush through and therefore don’t get the benefit that we need? It just fuels the argument that the case review is a waste of time.

So, how can we realise the benefits of having an effective case review process, without it becoming a drain on our time?

  • We should maximise some of the things we’ve learnt through the pandemic. Let’s use those virtual opportunities so that we can use less time in our diaries and not have to add in travel time.
  • Let’s think carefully about the cases we review and how often we review them. Perhaps you can think about triggers for when a case needs reviewing. For example, you know a case needs to have been open for at least a month before it gets its first review.
  • You could also have a trigger that says, unless a case is in the court system, if it’s a case that has been open for more than three months (or a duration of your choosing) then it may suggest it isn’t progressing. So it’s either escalation or it might be that we need to make a decision that this isn’t something we can deal with. Perhaps it’s something we should consider as not ASB and therefore needs to be closed. An officer might need help, through the case review, to make that difficult decision.
  • You might also use your vulnerability risk assessments to help you decide. You might case review more regularly those where victims scored highly on the vulnerability matrix because you know they’re higher risk cases. This would also help you to prioritise your case review process.
  • Finally, if you’re finding the precious time in your diary to do case reviews, you need to make sure they’re as valuable as possible. If it feels like a talking shop, if all you’re doing is discussing what’s happened, and you’re not really coming out with any outcomes, actions, and clear tangible ways to move things forward, I’d suggest you want to think about what you’re discussing and what agenda you are using. You want the officer to come out with clear and smart actions that are going to move that case towards resolution, reducing the number of cases you’ve got open at any one time, and ensuring the resident is as satisfied as possible.

If you would like further information about how you can maximise the impact and benefit of your case reviews, you may wish to sign up to my free webinar here

If you’re reading this after the date of the webinar, you can find a copy of the recording on the resource page of my website

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