The draft Antisocial Behaviour Bill is a concern for children’s experts. The potential redefinition of antisocial behaviour as “conduct capable of causing nuisance and annoyance” opens the potential for children to be targeted even more for just playing in the street.[divider] Dfuse works to help communities defuse conflict situations – by giving community members models and approaches to address conflict, wherever they find it, and to have the difficult first conversation about things that annoy them. Experience shows that some people’s attempt to tackle perceived antisocial behaviour can actually be more violent, intimidating or antisocial than the initial act.
A significant component of our work is to prevent conflict escalating – too many tragic cases which result in serious injury or death started from easily resolvable disputes that grew bigger because they were not defused. And even without injury conflict can lead to criminal charges that affect lives. From the recent punch up at Legoland to Lords being involved in road rage.
We believe that conflict resolution is made stronger when all parties have the skills, share a common language and are skilled in defusing approaches. We work across communities to create a rounded approach and recent work incudes adult housing association residents, young people through schools, victims of crime, young offenders and staff whose roles include public interactions.
Tackling perceived or real antisocial behaviour of young people comes up regularly on our courses and programmes. Very often the examples given are a long way from the current definition of antisocial (likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm and distress’) but the tension felt is no less real and the potential for escalation means that the outcomes of conflict can be serious. Here is an example from Mumsnet of something which under new laws could be defined as antisocial – but even without has the potential to escalate into something unpleasant.
A common complaint to police or housing associations is young people ‘loitering’ – which in many cases means sitting on a wall, talking and drinking a soft drink. Some find this intimidating and believe it to be deliberately antisocial – while the young people have no malicious intent and are just looking for a place to be with tramadol their friends. For a range of a reasons –maybe because they feel a group needs a show of force, because their adrenalin kicks in etc. – many people go into this situation at too high a level of energy and with aggression. This makes it very hard to back down – they have created a conflict where there probably was not one to begin with and escalation often follows. It creates a situation where one of the parties will lose face – which many people do not want to do when in conflict.
Our work helps people have that difficult first discussion in an appropriate way. But also works with young people to help them to hear the conversation differently and to understand that the first words that they say are also important (no matter how the complainant behaves) – instilling that they have a responsibility, and an interest, not to escalate the situation.
Respondents of all ages who attend our programmes regularly report greater confidence in tackling community issues. Young people who had offended reflected that the course allowed them to talk about different approaches to conflict situations and workers reflected the importance of helping young people with often poor language skills have a range of responses to being ‘told off’ that do not start with aggressive words
There is a real risk attached to the change in legislation that more young people will be criminalised. But even without the change, across the country conflict develops unnecessarily when people struggle to make the difficult first step to resolving an issue peacefully. Dfuse is now testing its approach in a small number of communities across a range of groups to consider how its model of conflict resolution can build social capital and reduce both reported anti social behaviour and community tension.
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