For the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms are yet another change to take place locally. They will require organisations to engage in new ways, and in many areas realign- yet again- with new geographical boundaries and partners within them. One issue of particular interest to me, having managed the Safer Future Communities project until the end of March 2013, is how services commissioned across the new 21 Contract Package Areas (CPA) will join up with community safety activities commissioned by the police and crime commissioners (PCCs), who are already taking a keen interest in this. The key implications for VCSE organisations seeking to engage with, deliver and influence local community safety services are set out below. Transforming Rehabilitation and PCCsThe Transforming Rehabilitation strategy states that PCCs will be key partners for contracted service providers in each of the CPAs. It also commits to ensuring that PCCs are “consulted in the design of the new system and able to engage collaboratively with it in live operation”. This includes measures to ensure that PCC local priorities are taken into account in the formation of MOJ/NOMS commissioning priorities, in the competition process and in delivery of commissioned services. In practice, though, the mechanism by which 42 sets of local PCC priorities are aligned with one national set of priorities from MOJ/NOMS, which are then delivered through 21 contract areas, remains unclear. Partnership workingThe Safer Future Communities project supported the development of local VCSE networks in each police force area to ensure they were able to engage strategically with PCCs in the new commissioning landscape. You can read the project’s evaluation here. Through this work I have seen how challenging and resource-intensive it can be for the Sector to forge new partnerships, in a short period of time, and get them up and running in order to coherently influence and bid for services across areas where organisations have not previously worked together. In Thames Valley for instance, just one police force area but with 18 local authorities, VCSE organisations have tended to work within the boundaries of their funding authority , and not across them. Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall covers a huge geographical area but with a dispersed population, which poses significant challenges to simple things like running events in suitable places and organisations being able to meet with each other. ImplementationThe new system is to be implemented in stages, with the competition for providers due to open very soon, and the new contracts to be in place from Autumn 2014. This Summer PCCs will have begun the planning cycle for 2014/15, and they will therefore want to take these new arrangements into account Clinks has published an analysis of Police and Crime Plans for 2013/14, including the gaps for VCSE influence, and a guide to commissioning the VCSE for PCCs and their partners. Implications for the VCSEThe work that has been done through Safer Future Communities has encouraged VCSE organisations to come together and work in partnership and this should provide some strong foundations for forging new relationships within the CPAs. This will particularly be the case in areas where the CPAs map directly to PCC areas and good relationships now exist between PCCs and the VCSE. However in other places the CPAs cover up to four PCC areas, and it will be necessary for VCSE organisations and existing Safer Future Communities local networks to work together and forge relationships across these areas. We have produced a document that shows how PCC areas map onto the CPAs which you can download here. But there are opportunities as well as challenges. PCCs in the same CPAs are likely to be working more closely together and therefore those that have funded Safer Future Communities networks, or put in place encouraging mechanisms in regards to VCSE engagement, could be used to influence those that haven’t. Similarly, in CPAs with more than one PCC, Safer Future Communities networks might be able to work together, pool resources and bid to more than one PCC for funding. We would certainly encourage Safer Future Communities or other VCSE networks operating within the same CPAs to contact each other and explore this as the new arrangements take shape.
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