Anti-social problems are no trouble for Afua

SHE spends her days listening to other people s problems and tackling anti-social behaviour, but Afua O Leary loves her job. Afua, 42, is a neighbourhood support manager for North Hertfordshire Homes and with her team of 14 deals with anti-social behaviou

SHE spends her days listening to other people's problems and tackling anti-social behaviour, but Afua O'Leary loves her job.

Afua, 42, is a neighbourhood support manager for North Hertfordshire Homes and with her team of 14 deals with anti-social behaviour from tenants in Letchworth GC and Baldock.

Afua has been in her current role for about 18 months but has worked in housing management for nearly 18 years.

She said: "I think it's a very satisfying job because someone tells you a problem and then you do a lot of hard work but people thank you for it.

"To deal with anti-social behaviour you have to be patient, you have got to be able to really negotiate and you have to have the ability to look beyond what you are told."

Afua explained that most of their information about anti-social behaviour comes from neighbours complaining.

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She said: "I don't get tired of hearing about people's problems because I know I can do something about them. If I couldn't then I guess it would be a completely different situation.

"Even if only one person complains, we do something about it.

"Our first approach is very friendly. It's very informal and we do everything we can not to aggravate the situation.

"We will do our best to keep things calm because people have to live together still. We only escalate things if we have to."

Per month, the Letchworth GC and Baldock team get about 59 new cases and resolve about 45 of these within a month.

Afua said: "About 85 per cent of cases are resolved at the first stage because most of the time people haven't taken the time to recognise what they are doing is a nuisance.

"Our focus is to resolve anti-social behaviour and to ensure that people are happy.

"It's an awful lot of work and it takes a certain type of person because you can't rush things and you must learn to reconcile people.

"Eviction is only an option when we have tried absolutely everything else.

"We try to bring in every intervention to see if we can try to help but if they are unwilling to be helped then we take action.

"The courts look at how the person has engaged in what we have suggested and how many people their behaviour is upsetting.

"It can take anything from first report to eight months to actually get an eviction. That's eight months of hard work because we want to satisfy ourselves and the courts."

When asked if she would ever move a tenant away from a problem neighbour, Afua said: "Moving somebody away from a problem is not resolving it. Anyone we move into their home next will have to deal with the problem and that's not fair. We are not keeping our side of the tenancy agreement if we do that. We will solve the problem rather than move people around. We would only do that as a matter of safety or security."

When asked if she spends a lot of time in her office on Station Road in Letchworth GC, Afua said: "It's not a desk job. If I sat at my desk I wouldn't know the problems people are facing so I wouldn't be able to help in terms of knowing what the problems are.

"I always encourage my staff to be out and we do things such as coffee mornings, walkabouts and inspections.

"The idea is that people see you and they tell you things about anti-social behaviour."

She concluded: "We have such a diverse group of tenants and people need to start being more tolerant and open and just talk to their neighbours.

"Hopefully we will have a good year. We owe it to our tenants to give them peace of mind at home.