This week marks a year since the publication of Rebalancing Act, a resource jointly produced by Revolving Doors Agency, Public Health England and the Home Office. Rebalancing Act was designed to support a broad range stakeholders in understanding and addressing the health inequalities experienced by people in contact with the criminal justice system (CJS) and reducing offending. In this blog, Jason Ablewhite, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, discusses how local organisations need to work together to move away from crisis management to prevention and support.
Far too often people facing multiple disadvantage find themselves stuck in the revolving door of crisis and crime. Health and social problems amongst those in contact with the criminal justice system are high and public services are operating under serious financial constraints. It’s therefore crucial that local organisations work better together to find systematic solutions to what are complex problems.
Improving the life potential for people with multiple and complex needs, whether mental ill health, substance misuse, domestic abuse and homelessness has to be something we all play a part in. Being Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough puts me in a strong position to both influence and work with other local agencies to find those solutions.
So what progress have we made?
Cambridgeshire Constabulary introduced a scheme that supports people at risk from reoffending in 2016, in partnership with HMP Peterborough and their community-based Outside Links service. The new approach tackles the root causes of early offending behaviour by offering conditional cautions.
Conditional Cautions are agreed on an individual basis by multi-agency assessment and examples of the kind of issues where support has been available for individuals include housing issues, anger management, drugs or alcohol misuse, mental health and support for debt management.
With signs of early success in Peterborough, the scheme was rolled out county-wide last year. To date, over 500 conditional cautions have been issued, with high levels of compliance.
One of the individuals whose life is now back on track thanks to support from the programme is Kate. When Kate first received a conditional caution and came into contact with Outside Links, it was clear she needed support. She had a drink problem and was homeless. After several conversations it became clear that Kate’s behaviour was influenced by a number of domestic issues both historically and currently. Outside Links were able to put a programme in place, introducing her to new people and helping her with her alcohol problem, with weekly counselling to help her rebuild her life.
Looking forward we need to continue to work together to move away from crisis management to prevention and support. Early steps have been made but there is still more that can be done. We need to better understand the needs of people who continue to re-offend, and to engage with communities, particularly service users, to deliver more effective and joined up public services.
Other areas in which we have made progress include:
- The introduction of three mental health nurses in the force’s 999 control room who provide officers with real time clinical advice on the best way to support and keep people safe in a suspected mental health crisis.
- Hosting a regional partnership event with East of England LGA and Public Health England, in March last year. ‘Safer Communities through Stronger Partnerships in the East’ brought local organisations and decision makers together to understand how effective partnership approaches can tackle some of the key challenges around community safety. Based on its success, another regional partnership event is planned this year around early intervention in adverse childhood experiences, looking at the latest research and examples of local practice in trauma informed service.
It is clear to me that in the face of complex economic and social pressures, we must think and act differently and continue to transform the way we work through collaboration and partnership. However, it can only work if we all work together to inject the right amount of energy into bringing about an end to the so-called ‘revolving door’.