Helping community agencies be effective in community safety and public health

 

To support agencies wanting to bid for the  fund for communities created by Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner I found and shared a set of resources and tools which people might find useful.  I shared these on twitter and lots of people came back and asked for more resources.

So  here, in one place, are a range of tools and resources for you to use and share.

A good place to start is reading the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Plan.

 

Evidence for what might work in crime reduction and community safety

There is a lot of opinion about what works and what doesn’t in crime reduction. I am going to point you to the resources which I and colleagues have found to be most rigorous

  • The Campbell Collaboration has a host of systematic reviews on crime and social issues
  • A Knowledge hub of a range of things which work is here
  • Thinking of doing something on fear of crime, try here or here
  • Reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour: a useful resource is here
  • If you want to train up community practitioners, you might find some training models here for crime reduction and here  and remember Neighbourhood Watch do a programme of training for community advocates
  • Publications by Jim McManus on crime reduction and community safety including hate crime and designing out crime are here

 

Networking and support for agencies working to reduce crime

  • CLINKS helps voluntary and community agencies who work in reducing crime and re-offending

 

Understanding Health Inequalities, guides for community agencies

  • The Royal College of Nursing has a really useful webpage and guide

 

How on earth do I evaluate and monitor whether this works?

Evaluating (i.e. finding what the impact of your intervention was and whether it’s worth it) is very important because we need to know whether projects work, do nothing, or do harm. Community agencies so often find evaluation a world where experts talk jargon at each other. Here are my top resources for communities wanting to evaluate:

  • A very simple, straightforward and easy menu of tools for evaluation and monitoring aimed at not for profit and community agencies is here.
  • If you need to get your head round what evaluation is and why you need to do it, Evaluation Support Scotland has some excellent resources
  • The Kellogg Foundation Handbook is free and one of the best whole system approaches to evaluation you can find. This provides a tried and tested model used in major and minor projects in developing countries. I have used it and it works.
  • If that’s too ambitious you can try Charities Evaluation Services who have a range of tools on evaluation
  • Prove and Improve is an online toolkit to help you demonstrate projects work and improve their quality and impact

 

What about attempting a cost-benefit analysis?

The Office of Public Management has a really useful tool, Valuing Public Services on how to measure the value of services and interventions

 

And finally…

Can you explain something in plain English rather than Jargon?  (Ok, yes I fail often at this.) Try this tool http://www.splasho.com/upgoer5/

 

If there is stuff you want but isn’t here, tweet me @jimmcmanusph or email publichealth @ herfordshire.gov.uk  with “Ask Jim” in the title

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What can a Public Health mindset bring to making communities safer?

Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has done something visionary.  He has set up a fund for communities to put together “innovative local schemes which aim to make our communities safer”. This fund is linked to the Police and Crime Plan for Hertfordshire, which takes an “everybody’s business” approach to reducing crime and making communities safer.

Less than an hour later I had tweets and emails asking me what evidence communities could use. Then people started asking me how they could develop and put evaluation frameworks around bids. Then partners asked – can we use the Herts Public Health Partnership Fund given to LSPs and Districts to match fund where there are clear links and overlaps? (The overwhelming view of the Public Health Board was yes.)

This set me thinking, what does Public Health have to bring to the table?  More years ago than I care to remember, I produced briefings on crime and community safety among other work I did in community safety and crime reduction. My public health training helped me find the evidence and organise it into tools which went to statutory crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

I often say one of the ways I describe Public Health  about four Ps:

  • A Perspective (or Mindset) which focuses on
  • Populations and sub-populations; which is
  • Prospective (it looks to what can be improved, prevented or avoided) and goes retrospective to understand where we are today
  • Protective – seeking to protect communities and individuals from risk to health and life

The mindset of Community Safety is very similar. Both Public Health and Community Safety work in similar ways: through communities, through skilling people up, commissioning and using interventions which have evidence of effectiveness and sometimes, when the evidence is silent, going back to good theory to build an intervention and evaluate whether it works.

The Evidence

Crime impacts on Health in a range of ways, and there is a great deal of literature on this. Things like acquisitive crime to feed drug habits, and the devastation of domestic violence and hate crime are perhaps the ones that spring readily to mind. But there are other issues too:

  1. Evidence suggests that ongoing stress from high levels of crime and high fear of crime contributes to a stress pathway that can lead to mental ill-health, poor resilience and even heart disease and stroke.
  2. Victims of crime are more prone to physical and psychological ill-health on an ongoing basis.
  3. Disabled people are typically more victimised for property crime than the general population
  4. Hate Crimes have enduring mental health consequences
  5. Victims of violence often develop adverse coping mechanisms which develop health problems
  6. Ongoing phantom pain and unexplained symptoms among people who are victims are not uncommon

By contrast, communities which have strong self-efficacy (i.e. they believe they can do what they need to) are more resilient (i.e. they can handle challenges and problems more easily and return to a good state of functioning more readily), healthier and more able to address issues of relevance to their communities like crime and disorder. They also have lower fear of crime.

Building resilient communities

So how do we build resilient communities? In essence where people share the same place and public realm we need to support communities find strengths, self-confidence, skills and solutions at individual and interpersonal level, have strong links with each other and develop a sense of affinity for those they live next to and nearby.   Where people share the same identity (sexuality, faith, nationality) finding common ground and sharing common interests are salient. This is neither new nor rocket science.

But often we lack the insight of the behavioural sciences. And it can be quite simple to harness these. We talk about community development in the UK. In the US they talk about Community Advocacy. Community Advocacy has at its hear building capacity in communities to help themselves, to do, to believe in themselves. The approach works in Community Safety as well as Health.  It is particularly effective for marginalised communities and those experiencing hate crimes and has a strong track record in the US. The role of a range of diversity groups  such as Faith Communities in Health Advocacy in the US is particularly striking, working as they do for very marginalised communities. We have much to learn from them.

Building resilient communities is something which public health and community safety could do together, because everyone benefits. Addressing specific types of crime (hate crime, domestic violence) also brings ongoing benefits to both agendas.

The Public Health Contribution

Taking just the range of issues above, Public Health has a lot to bring to the table. The prestigious John Jay College of Criminal Justice actually has a whole programme of courses on health and crime.  I am going to list just some of the things public health can bring to the table:

  1. Sharing epidemiological skills so we can understand better the distribution of crime in time and place
  2. Working together on public resilience and mental health agendas
  3. Finding and appraising evidence for effective interventions (see my next blog post)
  4. Helping NHS commissioners and providers respond early and effectively to victims of crime
  5. Training Police and others in preventing victims of hate crime becoming more traumatised
  6. Providing drug and alcohol services and pathways which cut crime and disorder and help people with problems
  7. Providing training to communities who want to implement and evaluate programmes
  8. Sharing evaluation, evidence appraisal and policy appraisal skills with people in crime reduction
  9. Ensuring services for those likely to become victims of hate crime encourage and support people to report
  10. Ensure the cycle of crime in troubled families is broken by finding effective interventions for people to thrive
  11. Find interventions which help children thrive emotionally and value themselves and others
  12. Using the public health role in licensing to the best good of communities

The new landscape of the NHS means NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups are responsible authorities for Community Safety Partnerships. This could be seen as yet another burden on new CCGs. The challenge is to find ways of integrating the CCG agendas with the community safety agenda, and picking some concrete issues and projects to start with.

My next blog post will do two things: signpost agencies to sources of good evidence in crime reduction, and signpost them to resources to help them evaluate interve