A citizen, rights and responsibilities and antisocial behaviour
The term ‘citizen’ may literally be used to refer to any person who has acquired or has the status of citizenship. The acquired status is used when the person that is conferred with the citizenship is not originally a citizen of the sovereign nation while, in effect the citizenship has to be earned through set of rules that govern the society. According to Hardy (1997) “the status of citizen is used to denote the link between an individual and a State, a form of political organization with territorial boundaries which may encompass more than one nation”. Citizenship is defined by Lewis (2004, p 9) as “a legal status conferred by an internationally recognised nation – state. This status accords a nationality and the right to make claims against the state and receive a share of the public goods”. Therefore, it can be seen that when an individual has the status of a citizenship, such individual has formed a relationship with the State and this relationship is guided and strengthened by the citizen knowing his/her rights from the State and responsibilities to the State, community and entire neighbourhood.
This project focuses on the rights and responsibilities of a citizen with respect to tenancy and how these relate to existing government policies on anti social behaviour. The project will attempt to achieve this focus by fully describing the rights of a citizen from the State and the responsibilities of that citizen to the State, community and entire neighbourhood. Secondly the project will carry out a review of the current government policies on anti social behaviour and how these policies relate to the rights and responsibilities of a citizen. Thirdly, the project will conclude with summary of the overall work.
Rights of a citizen
When a person has the status of a citizenship, Blackburn (1994) argues that a relationship has been formed with the state which gives the citizen certain rights. However, Marshal (1992, cited in Lewis, 2004) viewed citizenship as a relationship between the individual and a state which gives rise to 3 basic elements of rights – civil, political and social.
The civil right of a citizen represents the right to freedom of speech, expression, thought and faith and to conclude valid contracts. When a person becomes a citizen, such person has by virtue of the citizenship status acquired the right to freely express him/herself and to put forward opinions about issues affecting the that nation. In addition, the citizenship status comes with the right to equal opportunities and social justice in that society.
The political right of a citizen is the rights that allow the person to vote. The right to vote is an opportunity to demonstrate one’s democratic rights and this is important in a democratic society. The political right also includes the chance to participate in political process such as contesting for electoral positions and being duly elected in the political office.
The social element of the right of a citizen is the right to economic welfare and to fully share the social heritages within the society. One of the social heritages in a society is housing. Blackburn (1994) viewed the right to housing and be housed as one of the idealistic rights of a citizen.
Within the context of this project, the housing right (social right) of a citizen will be the subject for main focus.
The citizen has the right to housing (Cowan and Marsh, 2001 and Blackburn, 1994). There are two main sectors in the housing market for a citizen – the owner occupied and the rented sector. The owner occupied housing sector includes the individuals that have undertaken to purchase a property through mortgage and who live in the house by themselves. The house that is purchased may be a leasehold or freehold, but, in either case, the government usually supports the citizens through varying the interest rates and stamp duties. Other form of support by the government is through consultation with the mortgage lenders in reducing the amount of deposit required for the citizens to purchase their own owner occupied houses. These supports are to enable the citizen enforce their rights of housing. The rented housing sector includes the private and public. Private rented sector refers to those that rent out their house through short hold tenancies while the public sector is the assured short hold tenancy. The providers of housing to citizens in the public sector include housing associations and local authorities. The local authorities invest in houses and allocate them to citizens on the basis of ‘first come first served’ but attention is given to those with extra-ordinary circumstance or great urgency. The housing associations are not for profit making organisations who provide house to citizens based on their criteria and in view of the nature of the associations, they do not share profits but re-invest them into the activities of the housing.
Responsibilities of a citizen
The basic right of housing for a citizen is further broken down in the tenancy agreement the citizen enters into with the landlord which states the conditions of the tenancy. The Housing Act 1988 with amendments up to 2004 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 protect the citizen from undue harassment, unfair charges and fraudulent practices and also ensure that the property is in good condition for occupancy and illegal evictions. However, in order to fully enjoy the right to housing and the protection as contained in the Tenancy Agreement and the relevant Housing Acts, the citizen is required to fulfill some basic obligations. The citizen has the obligation to act within the law by not engaging in criminal or immoral activities and also to behave in such manners that may not be regarded are against socially accepted corms within the neighbourhood or wider social environment. Therefore, it can be said that one of the rights of a citizen is the right to housing and also that one of the major responsibilities of the citizen is to carry on his/her daily activities of living in such a manner as to show behaviours that are against the neighbourhood in which he/she resides. The term neighbourhood is described by Power (2007, p 17) as “local areas within towns and cities recognized by people who live there as distinct places, with their own character and approximate boundaries”. The citizen is a member of the neighbourhood and his or her actions will impact all the members of the neighbourhood either directly or indirectly, in effect, the citizen is expected to maintain a pattern of behaviour for the interest of the general neighbourhood. A pattern of behaviour that is not in line with the acceptable behaviours within a neighbourhood is known as anti social behaviour. According to Rose (1996) citizens are considered to be responsible when they play their roles but in a situation that the moral lifestyle of such person is contrary, such person is considered a threat or reproach to the community. According to Cowan and Marsh (2001, p 168) “the role of the law relevant here is through seeking to uphold particular standards of behaviour”. In the UK, the law that seeks to uphold the standards of behaviours within the neighbourhood is the anti social behaviour contained in the Crime and Disorder Act (1996, 1998) and Ant Social Behaviour Act (2003).
Anti Social Behaviours
The Good Practice Unite of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH 1995, p3) defined antisocial behaviour as “behaviour that opposes society’s norms and accepted standards of behaviour”. Also the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) described antisocial behaviour as acting “in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household”. The Anti Social Behaviour Act (2003) identified various forms of behaviours found to be common and these include: noise nuisance; intimidation and/or harassments, littering and graffiti; being violent against neighbours and properties; hate behviours that target an ethnic or gender groups; and use of the property for unlawful business or other purposes.
Several reasons have been given by different researchers and organisations as to the reasons that lead to anti social behaviours. Notable among the researchers are Hawkins, Catalano and Miller (1992) who identified risk factors and protective factors.The risk factors involves certain issues of life that have the potential of making people act against the society such as poverty, family problems and problems that arise in the school. The protective factors refer to the presence of some features that may discourage the individual from acting against the society such as bonding and community involvement. The issues of risk and protective factors were further highlighted by the argument of Miller (2005) that neighbourhoods with high crime rate in most cases are traceable to poverty, deprivation and lack of involvement in the community in which the offender resides.
Anti social behaviours has the likelihood of impacting on the members of the neighbourhood, properties and the individual that carries out the behaviour. One of the impacts of antisocial behaviour on the neighbourhood is that it can make withdraw from public places within the area for fear of the safety of their lives thereby and also crumble the service provisions in that area (Rogers and Coaffee, 2005). The Policy Action Team of the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU, 1998, p11) argued that “if housing is poorly managed or unlettable, or crime and anti social behaviour are not tackled, community support systems can easily crumble”. Secondly, there is the possibility of reducing house prices in the area and increased cost of repairs and cleaning of graffiti as a result of vandalism (Brand and Price, 2000).
Also, an area that is notorious for behaviours seen to be contrary to the accepted standards in the society may have a stigma which may make residents decide to relocate or prevent new ones moving in. This problem of stigma was emphasised by Harworth and Manzi (1999, p 163) that there is “the stigma attached to public rented houses” and that this is the result of behaviours that are usually not in conformity with the accepted norms in the wider society. In order to tackle the problem of anti social behaviour and reduce or eliminate its impacts on the neighbourhood and properties, Cowan and Marsh (2001) suggested the use of basic strategies such as housing management, legal tools and partnering with Social Exclusion Unit.
Tackling Anti Social Behaviour in Housing
Cowan and Marsh (2001) suggested that in order to control the activities of those that perpetrate anti social behaviours, Landlords should control the access to houses by such individuals through the use of housing register. This suggestion implies that those noted for their anti social behaviours should be excluded from having access to houses as a deterrent to others that would want to follow their bad examples. The power for landlords to exclude those whose behaviours are deemed to be against the norms of the society in which they reside (anti social behaviour) is contained in the Part VI of the Housing Act (1996) and research by Smith (2001) found that this exclusion has reduced the rate of antisocial behaviours in most estates.
In addition to the use of exclusion as a house management tool for deterrent and preventive measure for dealing with anti social behaviours, Landlords were empowered by the Housing Acts 1996 to adjust the tenancy agreement indicate repossession of properties. In effect, the tenancy agreement fully describes the rights and responsibilities of both parties with particular respect to anti social behaviours and that the Landlord has the right of repossession if the tenant receives anti social behavioural order – an order for carrying out anti social behaviours. On the effectiveness of the use of repossession as a deterrent, the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU, 2000, p 4) argued that “evicting anti social people does not mea that the problem will go away. Some people will be deterred from future ant social behaviour by the experience of eviction or exclusion from the housing register”.
The 1996 Housing Act further gave powers to Landlords (both Local Authorizes and Social Registered Landlords) to deal with their own tenants with respect to anti social behaviours. This Act made individuals responsible for their own actions, those of their households and those of their visitors and empowered landlords to take possession of their properties in the event of anti social behaviour. In applying this power, certain behaviours were banned by Landlords and where the tenant goes against those behaviours, a housing injunction is obtained from the court to arrest the offender. Also the 1998 Housing Act introduced the use of Anti Social Behavioural Order (ASBO) by the police or landlords against offenders as long as they are above the age of 10. Other legal tools include the use of 1996 Noise Act and 1990 Environmental Protection for noisy tenants and those houses not maintained by the tenants.
Social Exclusion Unit Partnership
While applying both the managerial and legal tools, Cowan and Marsh (2001) further suggested the use of partnership initiatives with the social exclusion unit by landlords and local authorities. The Social Exclusion Unit works with communities, individuals and families to make sure that anti social behaviours are not breached and that to a greater extent avoid repeat or re – offending (SEU, 2000c). Rather than punish those whose behaviours are anti social, through exclusion, repossession or injunction, the social exclusion unit partners with other relevant agencies to produce strategies in the forms of projects that to support the circumstances of the offender. This process involves having a one to one meeting with the offender to identify the causes of the anti social behaviour and the outcome of the discussion forms the basis for suggesting possible support programs to assist the offender where appropriate. The partnership with the social exclusion unit has additional advantage of making sure that those who are reacting as a result of their extra ordinary circumstances beyond their control are supported in overcoming such circumstances.
This project sought to find out about a citizen and how the rights and responsibilities of ‘a citizen’ relate with the current government policies on anti social behaviours. During the course of the project, it was found that citizen describes a person who has the status or acquired the status of citizenship that is, having a form of relationship with the State. Such relationships with the nation that has accorded that person the citizenship status usually comes with political, civil and social rights. The social right of the citizen which formed the basic focus of this project includes the right to housing and being housed. The right of the citizen to be provided with housing protects the citizen from being harassed, unfairly charged or exploited by landlords. However, the right of the citizen to housing requires that the citizen keeps to the conditions of the tenancy agreement among which includes a condition not to act in a manner that will above other things constitute not conform to the norms of the society/neighbourhood – that is ant social.
Furthermore, the project found that where the citizen acts anti social, it may result in crumbling of the service provisions within the neighbourhood (SEU, 1998), reducing house prices as the result of the stigma of crime and violence (Harworth and Manzi, 1999) and increasing cost of repairs and maintenance by the local authorities in cleaning graffiti. In order to tackle the problem of antisocial behaviour, the project found 3 basic strategies as suggested by Cowan and Marsh (2001) and these include housing management, legal tools and partnership with the social exclusion unit. Housing management uses seeks to exclude citizens with anti social behaviours from having access to housing and also repossessing their properties while the legal tool uses injunction. The partnership with the social exclusion unit aims to address the circumstances that create the anti social behaviours of a citizen.
Based on the findings during the course of this project, it can be seen that a citizen has a right to housing and that this right comes with responsibilities not to act anti social. Therefore, the current government policy of anti social behaviour seeks to ensure that a citizen, enjoying the right to housing, complies with the responsibilities that come with the right to the housing being enjoyed. The rights are received by the citizen; the responsibilities are the conditions for the rights and the anti social behavior policies ensure that the conditions are kept by the citizen.
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The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act
The 1996 Housing Act