Monday, 25 March 2013

The Future for Safer Future Communities?

In Members’ Briefing of March 2012, we wrote about Safer Future Communities (SFC) – a Home Office funded network of networks aiming to support the voluntary and community sector to engage with the agenda around the new elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), who from April 2013 will set local priorities around policing and crime prevention, as well as controlling a proportion of the money that has previously flowed into the sector via the Drug Intervention Programme (DIP).

With Clinks as the lead partner supported by strategic partners including DrugScope and a broad stakeholder group, the project has been funded to:
  • Provide practical support and advice to organisations that support Home Office objectives in preparation for the arrival of PCCs
  • Support the sector as it adjusts to the changing local delivery and commissioning landscape
  • Enable VCSE organisations to be in a position to become effective partners with the statutory sector and provide cost effective services, including involvement in co-design and co-delivery of services that meet local needs.
Going from a standing start in much of the country, SFC supported the establishment of a local network in each of the 42 police areas gaining PCCs in the 2012 elections (including London, who had gained a PCC in the form of the Mayor earlier that year), mostly but not exclusively led by local infrastructure organisations. Altogether, around 4,200 voluntary sector organisations have joined local networks.

Unfortunately, in April 2013 the current funding expires, and the outlook is uncertain. That Home Office funding for the project has finished now is disappointing, given the large amount of work that remains to be done in shaping and commissioning services and the phased nature of the PCCs’ assumption of control over budgets (which will not be complete until April 2014). In the context of the priorities above, how successful has SFC been, and what does the future hold?

To turn first to successes, SFC has been a powerful voice for the sector in many local areas, and particularly for smaller organisations who otherwise might struggle to make themselves heard. The very nature of elected PCCs means that as individuals, they value different approaches, want to be responsive to local issues and feel obliged to adhere to their manifesto commitments.

Consequently a one size fits all approach was never going to be effective, and local networks have been pursuing their own lines of engagement with PCCs with varying degrees of success. This work was hampered by the moving of the elections from May to November 2012, which had the effect of compressing the time available for PCCs to create their first Police and Crime Plans and to start managing their budgets.

Turning to the future, some local SFC networks will be funded by their PCC, others are in negotiations with potential funders including PCCs, whilst the national strategic steering group has agreed to continue its work, in all likelihood at an unfunded and consequently a reduced level.

Engaging with PCCs will remain important to many VCS organisations and particularly so for the drug and alcohol sector, given the resources that will go to PCCs’ Community Safety Budgets from DIP and the strong results delivered to date as a result of arrest referral routes.

In addition to community safety, PCCs are expected to be key players in commissioning cross-cutting services that work across different strands of the new environment, including Public Health.  Agencies whose work currently meets crime and community safety objectives, who currently deliver DIP or who believe that they could offer something that would fit with local PCC community safety priorities could still consider contacting their local SFC lead partner to find out what the plans are for the local network.

DrugScope has produced a briefing about PCCs for the sector, and has other resources that might be of interest. They can be found on our website here. You can find more information about Safer Future Communities here, and “Why Invest” from the NTA, a briefing about the impact treatment has on reducing crime and reoffending here.

Paul Anders, Senior Policy Officer, email:

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