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Survey finds bullying in hostels

Physical violence and sexual exploitation are among the forms of bullying happening in hostels and supported housing, research has warned.

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Homelessness charity Broadway carried out the study after a survey in 2008 found service users thought bullying and harassment were a problem in residential services.

Its research team interviewed 11 hostel residents, three supported housing service users and two former clients about their experiences and views on bullying and harassment in the summer and autumn last year. Three focus groups were also conducted with hostel and supported housing staff.

The report states: ‘Bullying and harassment can take very subtle forms: examples given included “jokey” comments, talking loudly while people used the telephone, or repeatedly moving someone’s possessions in the communal area.

‘Services appear to be vulnerable to the effects of just one or two clients – one “bully” entering the service can affect a large number of clients.’

Other forms of bullying found were:

  • Verbal harassment
  • Using people’s rooms to take drugs
  • Knocking on doors/walls in the night

The charity found not all clients reported bullying or harassment to staff for a variety of reasons, including the stigma of being a victim and not being able to deal with the problem themselves, not wanting to ‘grass’ and fear of reprisals.

The study says: ‘Responding to bullying and harassment is difficult.  Staff emphasised the level of skill and experience needed to respond effectively, in particular to safeguard the victim whilst tackling the bullying.

‘They also described the challenge of understanding a situation when they are presented with unclear information or conflicting stories.’

Recommendations in the research, Bullying and harassment in hostels and supported housing, include talking about the issue in keywork and at residents’ meetings, staff vigilance and training in the matter, warnings and threats of eviction for bullies and mediation between the victim and perpetrator.

As a result of the research, Broadway has set up a ‘bullying and harassment work group’ with membership from across its services to stop bullying. Its success will be monitored through the charity’s client survey, levels of reporting and outcomes achieved for clients.

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