The Use of Continuous Strategic Assessments in Planning Partnership Interventions
Cambridgeshire Research Group, Cambridgeshire County Council
LARIA Research Impact Award 2015: Best Use of Community Safety or Policing Research (Commended Entry)
The Cambridgeshire Research Group has developed a new process for the Strategic Assessments in partnership with Fenland Community Safety Partnership (CSP) to enable timely action planning, meet statutory requirements and save money.
Previously, as with most CSPs, Fenland partnership received one strategic assessment document a year (a statutory requirement). Now, at the beginning of each year priorities for the partnership are agreed based on the previous year’s analysis. One of these priority topics is then analysed in depth each quarter with a report or presentation going to the partnership.
This ensures that the partnership stays on top of problems before they become entrenched and, more importantly, helps the partnership to target interventions in a timely way. Additionally, all of the quarterly documents build together into a body of research that supports the statutory requirement to carry out an assessment of crime and anti-social behaviour.
The ‘Fenland’ model has since been adopted by a number of other Community Safety Partnerships who report that they find if much more effective than the single assessment document model still in use in much of the country.
Working in Partnership
The work was produced in partnership with community safety officers and other members of the community safety partnerships. The main topic areas are agreed at the beginning of each year and are timed ahead of known seasonal peaks where appropriate to allow the partnership time to plan activity. Furthermore, the research group has an open dialogue throughout the year with key partners so that new or emerging issues can be included within the analysis quickly.
The statutory responsibilities of the CSP include the requirement to conduct at least an annual strategic assessment. The partnership felt concerned that the annual process was not enabling them to respond quickly enough to emerging issues. The research group proposed a way forward with quarterly reports to the partnership. These reports would include a brief performance overview, in-depth analysis of a particular topic, recommendations, examples of best practice and emerging issues or gaps in information. Each document is discussed by the full partnership board each quarter, recommendations are agreed and partners input into the ‘next step’ discussions that would update the action plan and direct intervention work.
Greater Understanding of Community Safety
Using this methodology has allowed us to build up knowledge over a longer time period and without producing repetitive analysis. It has enabled the partnership to answer specific questions about community safety issues within the district. This has led to the following understanding of issues in Fenland:
- The profile of street drinkers and factors affecting their own vulnerabilities.
- The profile of offenders of acquisitive crime.
Final reports are produced each quarter and presented to the board meetings where in-depth discussion of the key findings, recommendations and future activities takes place. Online interactive maps are also made available with the supporting data.
This focus allows the partnership to ‘get the right people in the room’ in addition to the standing board members. This helps ensure that discussion moves from understanding the issue to taking action.
Impact of Analysis
An analysis focusing the impact on ASB of street drinkers in Fenland produced a major change in partnership activity aimed at tackling this issue. Subsequent monitoring has shown a reduction in the problem.
Taking the strategic assessment in ‘bite size’ chunks has enabled a more detailed understanding of issues to be communicated, e.g. understanding of levels of community cohesion.
Spreading assessment activity throughout the year has also ensured that the resource pressure from producing one major document is lessened considerably. The whole process has become cheaper and easier to manage.
What should LARIA members learn from this award entry?
Ask Specific Questions
Asking specific questions within the strategic assessment process provides much more detailed answers and thereby enables responses to be successfully targeted.
This method of delivering the strategic assessment has allowed the partnership to become much more outcome-driven. It has required partners to re-think the purpose of the documents and reduce the extent to which it is driven by process. This in turn is bringing about a renewed focus on the victims and offenders of crimes.
Photo Credit: ‘Clare College Bridge, Cambridge’ by Kosala Bandara