Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABC's)
ABC's and the XYZ's of what they are and how they work?
Are they really the 'softer' option to the big sister - the ASBO?
In contrast to the ASBO, which is an official, legally binding order with statutory implementation, the Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) is conducted and used through an informal procedure and does have some significance that is legally based. ABC's can be used both with children, young adults and older adults.
The Acceptable Behaviour Contract is a formal agreement in written form (i.e. not verbal) which is made between an individual and most often their parent or guardian (in the cases of children/young people). They can also be made between the individual and the 'registered landlords', housing departments, schools, the local police and are extremely flexible in content and the format presented.
They are personalised and individually written to meet individual circumstances/needs.
When signed, individuals are agreeing that they will not display or act in an antisocial manner in future circumstances and ABC's are important in encouraging children and young people/adults to take on more ownership and responsibility of their own actions; including encouraging their parents/guardians responsibilities for a perpetrator's behaviour that is unacceptable.
ABC's also hopefully give individuals a chance to change their behaviour and learn from past mistakes. Some on the receiving end of anti-social behaviour feel they are a soft option and do nothing but allow a perpetrator of anti-social behaviour yet another chance to indulge in unacceptable behaviour without a 'real' consequence. However, there are positive outcomes from ABC's.
People who agree with these contracts also agree not to take part in certain, specific behaviours (harassment, alarm, nuisance and distress for example). If an ABC is broken or not maintained, ASBO's can be applied for through the magistrates court as normal.
ABC's normally last for a period of 6 months but can be extended in particular circumstances where the police and local authority feel it to be necessary.
The Acceptable behaviour contract (ABC) will clearly outline what course of action can be progressed against an individual or others responsible, if the contract is broken.
Where ABC's are broken, the contract breach may result in:
- The Magistrates Court could impose an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO against the person in question. ASBO breaches can result in a fine or an individual being sent to prison, or both.
- Legal action involving the tenancy of an individual. The harsh reality of making a person homeless is sometimes the only wake up call that works; it can sound harsh.
This could be against a tenant who is responsible for the behaviour of a person (e.g. a young person) who has agreed to undertake an ABC. Local Authority residents who rent their home from a council for instance are subject to rules of 'Terms and Conditions of Tenancy'. Part of these rules could well be that all people who live with them in the rented council property act in a peaceful and proper fashion. The court may be requested via a local authority to remove the person from their home by taking the property away from them as a consequence for breaking an ABC contract.