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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Police Commissioners spotlight earlier intervention & prevention

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In an era of falling public spending, prevention and early intervention are a growing focus for policymakers. With significant cuts to policing budgets in recent years, police leaders in particular have needed to think about how they can move ‘upstream’ to reduce demand.

Spending cuts encourage emphasis on earlier intervention

The week before Christmas (17 December 2015) the Revolving Doors Agency just  published the fourth in its series of “spotlight” briefings (produced with the Transition to Adulthood Alliance) highlighting  promising work among Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) on earlier intervention and prevention.

In an era of falling public spending, prevention and early intervention are a growing focus for policymakers. With significant cuts to policing budgets in recent years, police leaders in particular have needed to think about how they can move ‘upstream’ to reduce demand.

A number of voluntary sector organisations have been campaigning for preventative focus on young people and young adults for many years (see these posts for examples).

The report highlights the significant health and social care needs of many of those coming into contact with the police,with mental health related incidents accounting for somewhere between 20-40% of all police time.

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Examples of best practice

The report provides examples of initiatives from a number of different PCCs including:

  • Lancashire PCC has established a “Public Services Lancashire” partnership with all major stakeholders (public and voluntary sector) to invest in programmes that will provide mutual benefit, improving outcomes for vulnerable people through shared priorities, joint planning, better data sharing, and the opportunity to pool budgets. Programmes include an Early Action Response Team and a women offenders diversion team.
  • South Wales PCC has adopted a public health approach to prevention including a violent crime project which seeks to identify hotspots and build a greater understanding of where victims and perpetrators are coming from and which communities are at greatest risk.
  • Essex PCC has established a drop-in centre for ex-offenders with multiple needs and a mental health hub pilot.

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Key themes

The report found that intervening earlier to cut crime and reduce wider demand on the police is a key priority for PCCs across the country, but that, given that many of the levers for early intervention lie beyond the PCC’s specific powers, this requires close partnership working with a range of community services.

Seven key themes are identified in the report:

  1. Frontline integration: Many areas are championing greater integration and co-location of services, including multi-agency teams, encouraging closer partnership working and more effective links into a range of support for vulnerable people.
  2. Grant funding for community services: Many important preventative interventions are provided by small community organisations. PCCs across the country have set aside specific funds which vary in their size and purpose, but can play an important role in supporting innovation and helping to fund crucial work ‘upstream’ with some of the most vulnerable groups.
  3. Understanding demand: A recent National Audit Office report found that most forces do not have a thorough evidence-based understanding of demand. A number of PCCs have sought to address this situation by working closely with key partners such as public health to improve data collection and analysis.
  4. Responding to repeat demand: Providing coordinated support for the usually small number of ‘revolving door’ individuals coming into repeated contact with services is an important way to reduce further, predictable, demand.
  5. Diverting young people & young adults from crime: Many areas have identified responses to young offenders as key to early intervention, supporting youth triage and other approaches to divert young people away from crime. Some areas are also seeking to move further ‘upstream’, such as the work underway in South Wales around adverse childhood experiences, while increasingly PCCs are acknowledging the benefits of a distinct approach for young adults (18-25) who create disproportionate demand.
  6. Service transformation: The most ambitious approaches are seeking to transform local services, shifting a situation where service respond to problems in silos to a more preventative and flexible approach that meets people’s needs more effectively. The devolution agenda is likely to provide further opportunities for this, with greater powers held locally to pool funds around shared challenges and redesign services.
  7. Strategic partnerships: PCCs can help to bring key health and local authority partners together on a preventative agenda, working closely together to joint-commission services for shared benefit and acknowledging the overlapping issues which drive demand across public services.

I strongly recommend this series of publications from Revolving Doors which is fulfilling a national remit in ensuring that best practice is itself identified early and can be spread more quickly.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for this, a useful summary of the prevention agenda in policing!

    If anyone’s interested in reading Andy Rhodes’ – Deputy Chief Constable at Lancashire Constabulary – own take on all of this, he wrote two blogs for our organisation earlier this year:

    Early action is what police work should be all about (http://www.community-links.org/linksuk/?p=4748)

    An inspirational day with Jobs, Friends & Houses (http://www.community-links.org/linksuk/?p=4819)

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