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  • Writer's pictureAnya Kemble

Levelling-up must mean levelling-down antisocial behaviour

Anya Kemble argues that if central government wants to level up local areas, it needs to address the issues that matter most to communities, including tackling crime and antisocial behaviour by investing in prevention.


The ‘levelling up’ agenda is designed to promote economic growth and productivity, reduce inequality and regenerate communities. However, to truly level up local areas and ensure efforts and investments are not wasted, tackling crime and antisocial behaviour must be part of the picture.


There is no doubt that addressing crime and antisocial behaviour is seen as a priority by the public. Onward’s Levelling Up Locally report focused on speaking to local leaders and residents across the UK to understand what mattered most to them to level up their local community. In almost every area, “tackling antisocial behaviour, particularly among young people” was the top priority.


Yet despite public concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour, only 2% of the total levelling up funding is going on social infrastructure according to thinktank NPC.


The Government and the Opposition have made commitments to address antisocial behaviour, promising to ‘crack down’ on perpetrators with increased police presence or enforcement of punishments – as seen in the Government’s newly published Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan.


Whilst these interventions are important, levelling up provides an opportunity to improve the balance between enforcement and prevention. An emphasis on prevention has benefits for building community trust and improving social cohesion of neighbourhoods, at the same time as ensuring its economic and investment focus can be properly realised.


So, what solutions can positively prevent antisocial behaviour, and allow levelling up to be a success?


Firstly, preventing antisocial behaviour can only be realised if communities have access to alternative rewarding activities, irrespective of their location or social demographic. Work by the Youth Endowment Fund has highlighted sport and mentoring as diversionary methods from antisocial behaviour, through building self-esteem, pro-social behaviour and social networks. A report for UK Youth estimates the indirect economic value of the youth work sector in England to be £3.2bn, with £0.5bn of this value coming from decreased crime. Councils should consider how they deploy their capital budgets to fund safe places for young people to access and participate in activities such as sport, mentoring and youth work.


Secondly, preventing antisocial behaviour and enabling local areas to level up relies on effective community engagement and trust. Community leaders are in a unique position: they understand their local area, the concerns of people living there and are best-placed to ensure buy-in to levelling up plans. Identifying suitable local initiatives to prevent antisocial behaviour, providing effective alternative activities and improving social cohesion is reliant on listening to communities and working with community groups to deliver change.


The focus of levelling up needs to move beyond regeneration of areas to bringing communities together to address social issues that matter to them. This is essential if central and local government are to effectively deliver on their economic ambitions and ensure no area is left-behind.

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