Section 4. Model Procedure
This procedure provides a framework for housing providers and helps staff understand their role in providing a good service. Accurate record keeping will be needed for action to be effective. While each provider will respond according to their own structure, resources and context the process will retain some common features:
It is extremely important that the procedure is sympathetic and sensitive to the needs of the client and provides a swift response and an effective conclusion to the incident(s) complained of. This will help to achieve two objectives:
Demonstrate to the client that the provider is committed to ensuring their safety and security and
Demonstrate to the perpetrator(s) and the wider community that the provider will not tolerate racial harassment and will act to prevent it.
Effectiveness will depend on a number of practical measures being in place: trained and supported reception and investigation staff, victim support measures, workable solutions, committee support and understanding, successful monitoring and review arrangements.
The person who first receives the complaint should record basic details straight away (see Form RH1) and consider whether, based on the information provided, there is a need to flag the incident as potentially racially motivated (See Box One).
The complaint might come to the housing provider from the individual concerned, their representative or a community organisation. There might be a history to the incident which has not been reported before. Care should be taken when making first contact with victims of racial harassment, particularly when the initial report has been received from a third party source or witness. This is a complex area with much guidance available in the following sources:victim or his or her family – this should be carried out immediately. Similarly, if the incident involved racist graffiti, there should be a request made for immediate removal in line with the organisation's policy.
Once a report is recorded, it should be allocated to a named officer for investigation. This will provide a point of contact for the victim and any agency that might become involved. Internally, a named officer will also help focus the housing provider's response.
The investigating officer will inform the maintenance section of any repairs required within immediately or no later than 24 hours after receiving the complaint. Window repairs and graffiti removal should be carried out within 24 hours of the maintenance section being informed by the investigating officer. The security of the property should be treated as category A emergency work and therefore completed within 24 hours. Quantifiable package of support and protection measures should be available from the landlord.
Care must be taken to ensure that good quality evidence is recorded before it is disturbed or painted over by repairs. It is important that the investigating officer and maintenance team work closely to ensure that repairs are not carried out before evidence is gathered and that gathering evidence does not delay repair work.
Referral to community advocacy organisations for support and independent advice
Emergency legal action and liaison with the police
Provision of emergency accommodation or assistance in applying to the local authority
Provision and installation of domestic security measures such as fireproof letter box, fire alarm and extinguishers, additional and strengthened locks
Provision of panic button alarms, personal alarms and surveillance cameras
Contact with emergency services, the assurance of clear communication lines and supply of a telephone if necessary
The victim's agreement to the next steps to be taken.
Keeping the victim regularly informed of all action on the case, giving clear explanations of legal decisions and honouring guarantees on provision of services
Providing access to counselling services
Developing support groups for Victims of harassment
Explaining court procedures and providing an escort for any court appearance(Tackling Racial Harassment in Scotland: a caseworker's handbook CRE 2000)
The officer allocated the case is a combination of investigator, adviser and advocate. From the start, the focus will be on bringing a swift and effective conclusion to the whole incident. The officer will gather good quality evidence for action against the perpetrator and help the individual make an informed decision about the options available.
Within three working days, the investigating officer will arrange an interview with the victim. The immediate aims will be to:
Give practical support to the victim and his or her family
Deal quickly with any physical damage or threats to security
Ensure swift action against any known perpetrator(s)
The first interview is very important. The victim needs to know what is going to be done and the investigating officer needs to gather as much information as possible in order to decide what can be done and to draw up an initial action plan.
The investigating officer should discuss with the victim where the interview should take place, whether a professional interpreter might help and whether a female interviewer would be preferred.
Using the standard report form RH2 the investigating officer will seek to establish the exact nature of the incident, the extent of the problem and its impact and to collect any evidence including names and addresses of witnesses, any photographic and documentary evidence. This process should provide the first complete statement from the individual and, due to possibility of future legal action, it should be as full and detailed as possible. There should also be a further assessment made of the need for additional security e.g. personal alarm, fireproof letterbox, plastic windows, CCTV and if available a professional witness.
At the end of the interview, the investigating officer should:
Have gathered and secured good quality evidence for action against the perpetrator.
explain to the victim the importance of reporting immediately any further incidents to the investigating officer and the police, as well as any additional support organisation.
encourage the victim to record any further incidents on the Diary Sheets (Form RH3)
explain the options, including support measures and possible action that might be taken against the perpetrators. (remembering not to proceed against the victim's wishes)
explain the transfer policy. If there is reasonable evidence of racial harassment an application for a transfer will be accepted as a high priority. There will be discretion to approve a transfer where it proves difficult to establish evidence of racial harassment. The investigating officer should also consider reciprocal arrangements with other housing providers in the area
agree contact arrangements including frequency and manner of the contact. The outcome of each contact will be recorded in the follow-up report form RH7.
give the victim a list of relevant emergency phone numbers - and an outline of how the complaint will be investigated.Provide a support pack for Victims, translated into community languages, detailing the above but which includes diary sheets, and what the tenant can expect from their landlord including your complaints procedure. [more information on this page].
The investigating officer should interview any witnesses using the witness report form RH5 within 1-2 working days of interviewing the victim and continue to gather good quality evidence for use in any action against perpetrators. If any relevant information or evidence arises from these interviews, the action plan might need amending in discussion with the victim. Any interviews with alleged perpetrator(s) should be organised within a further 2 days.
If the alleged perpetrator has been identified beyond reasonable doubt and they are a tenant of another housing provider, a full report should be sent to the landlord requesting appropriate action, with the permission of the victim.
If the victim does not know who the perpetrator is, the housing provider should make every effort to find out who was involved including from interviewing any witnesses. If the victim has agreed that the police should be informed, they too should make all possible investigations including requesting CTV footage. Regular contact should be maintained with the police investigating the case.
With the agreement of the victim, the alleged perpetrator may be contacted and interviewed. Consideration should be given to the location of the interview and the presence of an additional staff member during the interview - one member to carry out the interview, the other to record it.
At the interview, with the alleged perpetrator(s) the investigating officer should:
explain the nature of the complaint
explain the provider's policy
ask the alleged perpetrator for his/her comments
Full guidance on interviewing an alleged perpetrator is available on www.raceactionnet.co.uk
The intention of the interview is to discover the alleged perpetrator's side of events and to help prevent any further incidents. This should be made clear in the interview.
The interview should be noted using the Alleged Perpetrator Interview Form RH6. A meeting should then be held with senior members of staff to draw up a detailed programme of action in respect of the alleged perpetrator. The programme might involve:
warning letters and interviews, varying in severity;
charging the perpetrator for damage to the provider's property;
instituting legal proceedings, with the agreement of the victim.
referral for police investigation
Where the investigating officer has grounds to believe that the alleged perpetrator was responsible for the harassment a follow up letter should be sent within one day of the interview confirming the discussion that took place, re-stating relevant clauses in the tenancy agreement and the organisation's objectives to stop harassment, support the person being harassed and take action against alleged perpetrators.
A follow-up letter to the victim may also be required at this time to confirm any action taken to deal with the complaint and to propose a date and time to meet in order to review the situation if necessary.
Obtain advice at an early stage if it looks as if legal action may be required. Maintain close liaison with solicitors experienced in dealing with cases of racial harassment.
Gather a high standard of evidence, including statements and photographic evidence - liaise with the police and consider the use of surveillance equipment, professional witnesses and private investigators if necessary.
Some organisations report that replacing 'yellow' bulbs in street or common area lighting with brighter 'white' bulbs has allowed them to collect better quality, more useful CCTV images
Encourage victims to keep diary sheets and take photographic evidence of injuries or damage if possible.
Be prepared to use verbal and written warnings and to charge alleged perpetrators for damage. Seek an ASBO or interim ASBO if necessary – but be guided by the victim's wishes.
If perpetrators are unknown, consider a more general warning letter, surveillance; preventative work; involvement of tenants associations.
Liaise with the police to see if they would be willing to visit local residents and increase their presence in the area.
Once the details have been established, it will be possible for the investigating officer and senior staff to determine an appropriate course of action. The time scales outlined in the procedure are offered as guidelines only and as a reminder of the need to ensure a speedy resolution. Time scales may have to vary according to circumstances but the following provides an idea of what may be required:
Regular visits to the victim and, with agreement, liaise over the provision of additional help from local groups if appropriate.
Priority action on a transfer request to ensure that it is dealt with promptly liaising with other organisations if necessary to obtain a transfer offer and ensuring that the victim is kept fully informed.
With regard to the alleged perpetrator set out a range of action including initial interview and warning letters. Also consider the need for legal advice and the range of associated action: eviction, ASBO, charging for the cost of any repairs.
Seek legal advice at an early stage and discuss the merits of any proposed action with the victim beforehand.
Set out the range of repair work needed and ensure that the
emergency status of these repairs is adhered to.
The programme of action can be amended as circumstances change but it is important that staff are clear about their role at each stage.
Each follow-up visit or action taken in relation to the victim should be carefully recorded and kept on file using the monitoring forms devised for these situations. Similarly, in the case of the alleged perpetrator, each follow-up interview or action should be carefully recorded and placed on file and kept securely.
There may be times when delays in the progress of the action plan occur. Good casework administration can help in these circumstance and will include:
An agreed action plan with identified timescales and clear responsibilities should provide an essential first step.
Following any interviews or the emergence of additional evidence or information, amendments may be necessary to the action plan and considered in consultation with the tenant.
Each development should be recorded internally as a file note and confirmed with relevant external partners, including the victim and potentially the alleged perpetrator(s).
This framework should help when delays need to be challenged. Approaches to statutory agencies should make reference to statutory duties, relevant policies and standards of good practice. Emerging delays should be checked quickly.
If reassurances are not provided and further delay seems likely, consideration should be given to further action including: written reminders, calling of case conferences, highlighting practical solutions and moving up the management scale.
The investigating officer will keep the victim informed of action taken, at least once a week for the first month, to ensure that harassment has not restarted. The weekly contact will also provide an opportunity for the investigating officer to note the contents of the completed diary sheets and decide how the investigation or action against the alleged perpetrator(s) should proceed. Where regular visits are not possible, frequent contact by telephone with the victim may be maintained.
The investigating officer should also make sure that the police and any other agency contacted at an earlier stage are kept informed.
The action plan will help shape the outcome of the case. As the views of the complainer are central in defining this outcome, it is important that records are kept, action plans agreed and progress maintained and regularly reported on. These efforts should help maintain the client's confidence in the process. Care in these areas will also help to ensure that the conclusion, when it comes, holds few surprises and that the tenant is broadly content with the outcome.
If the conclusion for the housing provider means the case has become a criminal matter handed on to the police for further investigation, the investigating officer might want to maintain a supporting role as a known and trusted contact.
Believe the victim until and unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.
Seek agreement with the victim to involve the police/other agencies.
Explain the options and discuss measures to support the victim and possible action against alleged perpetrators. Do not proceed against the victim's wishes. Some organisations make an exception here if they feel the safety of others is at stake e.g. through the risk of an arson attack.
Back discussion up with written support pack and an agreed action plan.
Stay in touch and check if there have been further incidents (this still applies if a victim is subsequently transferred).
Protect the confidentiality of victims (except where they have agreed that details should be passed to other agencies).
Keep records in a secure place along with any physical evidence such as photographs as they might be needed as evidence.
Ensure that records of the investigation are kept up to date e.g. dates and notes of meetings, agreed actions and date by which to be completed, progress noted against actions, detailed statements typed up etc.
Order repairs and agreed security measures to a strict deadline.
Ensure that effective liaison is established quickly and regularly maintained with named contacts within relevant partner agencies
|This toolkit will be continually updated to provide the latest best practice tips and training on offer.|
See the latest version at www.challengeracism.com
Challenge Racism Toolkit is by Positive Action in Housing 2007