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Quick Wins in the First 100 Days of a new Government

April 20th, 2015

The Community Links led Early Action Task Force has just published a new book One Hundred Days for Early Action: Time for Government to put prevention first: A collection of essays by a respected group of leading experts and thinkers with decades of experience of Government – as, civil servants, senior advisers or respected commentators.

In the collection they set out practical steps for the next Government. In the second of our posts serialising the essays between now and the General Election, this piece by Guardian Journalist  Polly Toynbee, sets out the way in which a new government could claim some quick wins.   Download the book.


Hit the deck running – that’s the advice given to every new prime minister. But running where, to do what?

Gordon Brown lost his blueprint somewhere  on the short walk between Number 11 and Number 10. On stepping inside, David Cameron burnt his pre-election disguise as the nice-maker of his party:  away went hoodie and husky-hugging as he embarked on his scorched earth austerity plan. But even those with a declared plan find themselves easily swamped by unforeseen events as the daily churn of minor crises overwhelms original intentions.

In the first 100 days some things need to be done fast to point the way, while other, slower things must lay down long-term foundations from the start for fundamental change. Signaling the direction of the Government, so every minister and civil servant understands the route march needs bright flags waved from early on.

Quick wins? Repair some damage first. Abolish the bedroom tax on day one to signify revival of welfare state principles: the housing crisis is not the fault of council tenants. Until the DWP chaos is sorted, automatically pay personal independence payments to all the hundreds of thousands of seriously ill and disabled people waiting for months, sometimes for over a year, for basic support: over 40% of applicants are waiting, with no help, due to DWP incompetence. Repeal Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act to stop any more of the NHS being sold to a small cartel of private companies, some of them, Serco and G4S, already under investigation for fraud.

Start on the living wage from day one, showing how the earnings crisis is at the heart of the country’s economic instability, and the cause of soaring tax credit and housing benefit bills. Let no company bid for a Government or council contract unless they pay the living wage and pay all their taxes. Virtually every large company does Government work, so this spreads fair pay rapidly across most sectors – bringing in hefty sums from tax-avoiders. This time every company that ever hopes to earn a tax-payers’ pound has to contribute fairly to the welfare of their employees and the exchequer.

Make building homes a cornerstone of what good Government is for: families everywhere worry where their children are to live. Free local authorities immediately to borrow for investment in social housing: borrowing rates are low and they have huge assets to borrow against. Get building fast, with quotas for homes and quotas for apprentices to be taken on by every contractor using state funds.

Royal Commissions are traditionally mocked for “taking minutes and wasting  years” but they can be useful if you know what you want from them. A permanent rolling Royal Commission on Inequality could act fast to spell out the alarming current trajectory and recommend remedies: all the research is there already. What’s lacking is the nerve and the authority to act on the obvious: half the population is underpaid, dragging down the economy while property is over-valued and under-taxed, council tax is derelict for lack of revaluation while many of the older generation acquire too, much leaving the young bereft. The Commission would make recommendations for windfalls – as on utilities in 1997 – to be taken from cartels and profiteers to pay for high quality apprenticeships, jobs for the young, a revitalisation of Sure Start and universal good childcare. Extend the Low Pay Commission’s remit beyond the universal basic minimum wage to pronounce on pay rates variable according to sector, as in the old wages councils: some sectors in some areas can afford higher pay rates for their staff than every local hairdresser or sandwich shop. Let them set targets for top pay too, suggesting the Government withdraws its custom from companies that overpay executives. Most of these banks and finance houses do business with Government.

Signal that this is a Government that will put the young first, from birth to first job. No wonder young people are detached and alienated from a political process that has abandoned them: in a vicious circle they don’t vote, so
they don’t count and resources pour upwards to better off home-owning pensioners. Devote resources first to nursery, schools, FE colleges, universities and gold-standard apprenticeships, not the shoddy courses posing as a route to work – and that way young people will see that politics makes a difference to them directly: Westminster decisions matter and they should get involved.

Summon the forces’ top brass to join a Defence Commission, spelling out the colossal defence cuts Osborne has already written in (though dare not confess). Ask them to decide if they really want a Trident replacement – or
to use the limited funds for a right-shaped army, navy and air-force able to dovetail with European allies’ capabilities.

Above all, at this eleventh hour, devote every effort to halting climate change, internationally and at home. Show that green investment creates green growth and green jobs in renewable energy and insulated housing. Take on the climate deniers and declare a green growth Government: real international strength grows the more independent we become in energy over the next decades.

The first 100 days can lay out the journey to a stronger economy through greater equality when even the Governor of the Bank of England declares escalating inequality is the greatest threat to long-term economic stability.
Fairer, greener, more generous-spirited, the country needs to learn to like itself better. That means an end to divide and rule, blaming and shaming the weak, the poor or foreigners: this time “Genuinely all in it together” needs to be reclaimed from day one.

One Hundred Days for Early Action: Distilling the Wisdom

April 16th, 2015

This week the Community Links led Early Action Task Force published a new book One Hundred Days for Early Action: Time for Government to put prevention first: A collection of essays by a respected group of leading experts and thinkers with decades of experience of Government – as, civil servants, senior advisers or respected commentators. In the collection they set out practical steps for the next Government. Between now and the General Election we will be serialising the essays on this site starating with an introductory piece by Caroline Slocock – Director of Civil Exchange, member of the Early Action Task Force and (amongst other things) a former Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. In Distilling the Wisdom Caroline imagines the books contributors as an advisory group  introducing this little book to the new boss with a Private Secretarry’s first memo. Download the book.



Margaret Thatcher's last dispatch box

Prime Minister

  1. Welcome to office. You have received advice from an expert panel of advisers, with key points of agreement summarised below.


  1. There is a strong consensus from your advisers that early action should be at the heart of your future strategy. It will not only deliver greater well-being and fairness, it will also promote growth and opportunity. It will reduce the rising demand for public services and help drive public sector reform. Many of the current incentives point in the wrong direction, toward short-termism, silo working and maintaining expenditure on acute services at the expense of early action. Without decisive early action, a downward spiral will continue in which preventative spending is cut to yield short-term savings, resulting in rising demand over the medium to longer term and threatening financial sustainability.
  2. Decisive action to tackle these institutional barriers will be easier for an incoming Government: “early action to beget early action,” as Dan Corry puts it. There are precedents from earlier Governments of successful bold initiatives announced in the first few days: the New Deal, the transfer of interest rates to the Bank of England and the creation of the Office for Budget Responsibility.
  3. That said, although some institutional changes are best implemented and announced in the first 100 days, in other areas it is advised that further work is commissioned now in order to underpin well informed decisions at a later point. Analysis and discussion now are more likely to yield better results.

A Five Point Action Plan

  1. There is a five point action plan for you to consider, each of which is considered in more depth below:
  • Set early action outcomes to drive the agenda.
  • Plan for the longer term and for delivery of these outcomes.
  • Identify, protect and increase early action investment, treating it as essential investment in the future, rather like capital investment.
  • Spend and tax to deliver better outcomes, not to perpetuate existing public services and the current welfare system.
  • Increase accountability for early action.

Early action outcomes

  1. A small number of early action outcomes, which cut across institutional boundaries, should drive this agenda. Choices here are critical and should not be rushed, as they will drive everything that follows. These will set a clear direction for the reform of public services without which you will not achieve real change or make significant savings in expenditure. Existing public services have failed, for example, to tackle persistent health and education inequalities or stem rising demand.
  2. Key outcomes suggested by the advisers include reducing inequality and child poverty; investing in children and young people; increasing public health, including better mental health and well-being; improving housing and tackling global warming.
  3. Once these outcomes are identified, you may want to consider particular initiatives that will help deliver them. As you see some ideas have been put forward by your advisers including a programme of investment in Troubled Young People (building on the current Troubled Families initiative); a Good Mental Health programme, which would include preventative and remedial investment; a Schools for Life initiative, including training in resilience, a Transition to Work programme for young people; a public health promotion campaign; and an imaginative new housing strategy, including incentives to increase house sharing.

Longer term planning

Planning needs to better support the delivery of early action outcomes and to achieve this you need to tackle the culture of short-termism that pervades the public sector. The next Comprehensive Spending Review is the right place to start. Many of your advisers agree that firm plans should be set for the full fixed five year term, though most think that there must be leeway to review mid-term in the light of developments. But they would also like to build in a longer term horizon, a minimum of an additional five years, to create a “Ten Year Test” which would require the consideration of the long-term benefits and costs of all existing and new expenditure both in the spending review and when more detailed plans are made. However, your advisers warn against rushing this process in the CSR, as decisions taken in haste are rarely the best.
Investing more in early action

  1. Your advisers recommend that you commit to shifting a higher proportion of expenditure into early action year-on-year, and suggest that this should a clear goal for the next Spending Review. To deliver it expenditure on early action would need to be separately and robustly classified – the National Audit Office have already proposed how to do this and their definition has been developed by the excellent Early Action Task Force. Early action should be treated as an investment, like capital, and ring-fenced, with a “one-way valve” – acute spending can be diverted to it but the early action budget cannot be raided for short term spending.
  2. To help shift toward greater investment in early action, various ideas are put forward by your advisers for a new social investment fund or funds. One idea is to ‘top slice’ a proportion of current departmental budgets for the delivery of outcomes which cut across institutional boundaries.

Spend and tax to deliver better outcomes

  1. A focus on better outcomes, on the longer term and on investing more in early action has major implications for how the public sector currently operates. We propose that your Government commission work now to map the best way forward, leading to a publication of a ground-breaking “Delivery of Public Outcomes” White Paper. This would sit alongside thinking about greater devolution, which itself opens up new opportunities to do things differently. It would signal a move away from maintaining existing services – which are no longer fit for purpose and are crumbling under rising demand – to new models for delivering outcomes and reducing demand. These would often be developed and delivered locally and in collaboration with service users. The public sector might redefine its role from public service delivery to prevention.
  2. Various ideas and thoughts are put forward by your advisers which could be considered, including:
  • New methods for co-ordinating local delivery, building on City Deals, Health and Well-Being Boards.
  • Development of some existing models for pooling budgets and working collaboratively, such as Community Budgets and Our Place.
  • Putting power into the hands of front line staff to work in new ways.
  • Shifting financial incentives to reduce pressure on existing services (e.g. raising council tax bands to generate revenue and reduce incentives to under-occupy).
  • Shifting existing public sector contracts toward outcomes, finding ways to work with the voluntary and community sectors more effectively and moving away from big contracts.
  • Encouraging personal action such as investing in parenting skills and resilience in young people, home sharing, and encouraging better health and reducing food poverty by a public campaign to “grow your own food and reduce food waste.”
  1. Taxation and benefits are an important part of this picture but currently tend to be considered separately to spending on public services. Your root and branch review could look at how to simplify taxation and find ways to remove any hidden incentives to employers to keep wages low because of tax credits. The review should also look at an early action approach to reducing welfare costs, promoting investment in action in non-welfare budgets – such as greater investment in mental health – to tackle problems at source rather than cutting benefits in ways that may create further problems.
  2. You should look at the case for greater taxation where it can be shown to be part of a strategy for prevention. One idea is for a “polluter pays” tax, for example of the alcohol, smoking, betting and junk food industries, with revenues invested in earlier action.

Increasing accountability

  1. Do not underestimate the shift in culture that this programme will require. New institutions and tools are needed to facilitate this process.
  2. To drive a change towards an earlier action approach within Government and develop new tools, such as better methods of evaluation, it is proposed that you establish a new cross-Government unit under your direct control (but also reporting to the Chancellor).This should be established immediately. Similar units could also be set up in each Department to help re-prioritise spending. They could report to the central unit.
  3. There is a broad agreement about the need for a new external organisation or organisations to monitor progress and aid external accountability. Lord O’Donnell proposes a new Office of Taxpayer Responsibility that might clear spending proposals. Alternatively, you might extend the remit of existing bodies, particularly the Office for Budget Responsibility, which might also take on the critical task of strengthening evaluation. One technical task that must be tackled is to ensure that the definition of GDP does not inadvertently score prevention as a reduction in GDP by public services.
  1. You should also consider whether legislation is needed to facilitate and embed early action, for example through new statutory accountabilities at a local level and duties to collaborate, a duty to promote early action and apply a ten year test and a binding commitment to shift spending toward early action. You will know that the Welsh Government’s Future Generations bill has blazed a trail here. It will be important to ensure that the rest of the UK isn’t left behind


  1. Finally, there is a need to take the public with you on this. There is great potential in early action for you to develop a more positive and optimistic framework for reducing public expenditure over time. It is proposed that you announce your strategy in your first major speech.

Thank you Prime Minister.

One Hundred Days for Early Action

April 14th, 2015

Manifestos were launched this week, with prevention clearly on the agenda for both Labour and the Conservatives. In areas such as health, crime and the environment the manifestos illustrate a commitment to prevention and include specific suggestions as to how they will achieve this.

But to what extent will this rhetoric become practical action if either party forms a government? This is an important question in a time of escalating needs and constrained resources. As Rob Whiteman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting, points out: “if prevention is always better than the cure, it is usually also more affordable”.

Prospective MPs would therefore do well to read our latest book, One Hundred Days for Early Action. It brings together a group of leading experts with decades of experience of government to share their thoughts on early action and its importance. Covering a wide range of issues from systemic change through to practical programmes in specific policy areas, each author offers an insight into immediate changes that could – and indeed should – be made by the next government.

Our current trajectory is unsustainable. It is not, however, inevitable. The time to put prevention first is long overdue, and the next government – whoever they may be – will have the perfect opportunity to do this.

In Defence of Welfare 2: Towards an Early Action Social Security System

April 10th, 2015

Today marks the launch of In Defence of Welfare 2, a collection of essays from academics, policy makers and journalists exploring the changing nature of welfare in the UK.

With over 50 essays, the collection covers an impressive range of issues from the impact of welfare reform to the very purpose of our welfare state. There are many common themes throughout the essays, but one is particularly striking: rather than promoting social security, the welfare system often undermines and punishes those that currently rely on it. Refreshingly, the discussion in this collection is far more constructive than you might find elsewhere. It is a very welcome contribution to a debate clouded by attacks on the so-called ‘undeserving poor’.

Our piece, Towards an Early Action Social Security System, aims to directly challenge this overly narrow and negative debate. Drawing on ideas from both our qualitative research into the impact of welfare reform in the London Borough of Newham and our more theoretical work on social security, we argue that there is a need to take a longer term approach to the social security system.

Far more detail can be found in the actual piece, but in order to revitalise the system we must re-imagine its underlying principles in a more positive light and change currently restrictive public spending rules. This would not only challenge the endemic short-termism so evident in the current system, but also lead to better social and financial outcomes for all. Rather than being seen as a ‘bill to be cut’, it can instead be framed as a crucial investment in individuals, communities, and ultimately the whole of society.

Budget 2015: Three initial thoughts – a welcome, a warning and a concern.

March 19th, 2015

The line-by-line analysis of what was included – and what was not – in George Osborne’s budget started before he had even sat down; I’d like to add three initial thoughts to the conversation: Welcoming one measure, identifying a concern and warning of a significant challenge.

First the good news. We’ve been banging on for years about early action and joined-up services. We welcome the news in a passage of the budget statement the Chancellor committed to the following:

1.87 Further savings will also be achieved by making local services work better for the people who need them. The £448 million invested in the Troubled Families programme has helped over 105,000 families to turn their lives around, the government has demonstrated its commitment to early intervention in a child’s earliest years and the £5.3 billion Better Care Fund is helping people to benefit from joined up health and social care. This is based on the principles that intervening early can prevent problems arising later on and locally joined up services can better meet the needs of vulnerable people. Building on the government’s ambitious programme of reform, the Budget announces that the government is exploring the cost-effectiveness of options to integrate spending around some of the most vulnerable groups of people, including:

  •   joining-up services for people with health and social care needs,
  • improving the links between health and employment support for people who are unable to work because of a health condition,
  • designing a more integrated, multi-agency approach to divert from custody, where appropriate, female offenders who are convicted of petty, non-violent offences

Although it is too early to understand the depth and scale of this commitment it would be perverse not to welcome  this clear recognition of the importance in invvesting in preventative initiatives. Programmes such as the Better Care Fund have the potential to make a real difference. We must continue to  interrogate the detail on this work and hold feet to the fire.

However the real proof of these commitments will be determined by adequate resourcing of the public agencies who are tasked with delivering them – as we have stated previously Early Action spending forestalls future liabilities and creates growth. Funding needs to be treated in the same way as capital investment – not raided for short term demands. It is a significant challenge to see how cash strapped councils will be able to deliver or support these measures. Back in November I wrote about a little noticed National Audit Office report on local authorities which predicted that some may go broke in the next few years. This danger still remains and further evidence of its likliehood continues to emerge. Even local authorities which just about manage to survive will only be able to do so at the expense of vital services and, possibly, some statutory duties.

Finally a concern for Community Links and colleagues in the voluntary sector who are currently picking-up the pieces when our communities struggle to cope with the cumulative challenges of low-pay, under employment, and extensive welfare reform. This budget was a missed opportunity to improve the lives of the most vulnerable; tinkering with the tax allowances has resulted in negligible and possibly negative impact for the lowest paid –whilst benefitting middle and higher earners. This budget has done nothing to reduce inequality.

Yet there is much a Chancellor of the Exchequer and a newly-elected government could put in place relatively simply and quickly to put an early action approach at the centre of their programme of work, or risk the future of important public services if they fail to seize the opportunity.

The Early Action Task Force has brought together a hugely respected group of leading experts and thinkers to set out practical steps for the next Government. Their compelling contributions  will be published next month in a series of essays: One Hundred Days For Early Action: Time for government to put prevention first

Osborne’s budget: forward thinking or the same old story?

March 18th, 2015

Cover100DaysThe past few years have been a missed opportunity for investment in early action.

In 2012 the Early Action Task Force published The Deciding Time, calling on government to prevent today or pay tomorrow. A year later the National Audit Office published their early action landscape review, highlighting how just 6% of major departmental budgets (including Health, Education and Justice) was spent on early action in 2011/12.

There has been some progress since then, though much of it has been outside of Westminster. In Wales, for example, the Well-being of Future Generations Bill makes long-term thinking a statutory requirement, thus illustrating that progress at a national scale is very much possible. At a more local level, Lancashire Constabulary have successfully begun a shift in policing towards early action.

The Budget

The Chancellor’s budget is unlikely to signal any real change in direction. Perhaps a gift or two to butter up certain parts of the electorate, like so many pre-election budgets before, but nothing that will embed an early action approach in public services.

Nevertheless, we are now at an important juncture. The next government, whatever its composition, has the opportunity to change things for the better – to start a shift towards early action, therefore yielding a triple dividend: savings to public expenditure, increased contributions to the exchequer, and thriving lives.

It is with this opportunity in mind that we will be publishing a collection of essays in early April filled with practical ideas for how the next government could put prevention first. One Hundred Days for Early Action brings together leading experts in their field, many of whom have had extensive experience in and around central government. It explores what systemic change is needed and how early action might look in a range of specific policy contexts.

Many of these things will take more than one hundred days to achieve in their entirety. However, setting them in motion and ensuring that an early action approach frames much of the government’s work over the next five years is entirely possible in those first few months.

Let’s not have another missed opportunity.

Early Action is what police work should be all about

March 16th, 2015

Andy Rhodes is the deputy Chief Constable in the Lancashire Constabulary. I first spoke to him three days after we released “The Triple Dividend” – the first publication of the Early Action Task Force.  He’d read it from cover and cover and wanted to meet. This blog is Andy’s account of what happened next.

We talk in various Task Force publications about the relationship between systems, culture and leadership.  Really significant change in the ways that big organisations work cannot be achieved without simultaneously attending to all three. For many organisations, but perhaps particularly for an emergency service, early action is a really significant change. I remember listening to Andy introduce the idea to a senior team that was more accustomed to measuring performance on numbers of arrests made than on trouble prevented. I saw how he was beginning to  redefine both the deeply entrenched cultural expectations of a “good police officer” and the multiple demands of a rigid and complex structure. Three years on the remarkable progress in Lancashire shows what can be achieved with  bold and tenacious leadership directed equally and consistently at custom and practice, structures and systems.


A few years ago I saw an email land in my inbox entitled ‘Triple Dividend’ and rather than deleting it thinking it was the latest government savings plan I opened it. Now I am a police officer and one can be forgiven for thinking that Early Action hasn’t been on the top of my list for the last 24 years, in fact I’ve probably made a few decisions that have prevented a  more sustainable solution being put in place. So what is it about Early Action that I passionately believe is so compelling for the police service in 2015 looking ahead 10 to 20 years?

The police spend 90% of their time, money and effort on fewer than 10% of the population. This is how it is, it has always been and always will be. In fact with reducing resource we will become even more focused into the high intensive users of our service because this is where the vulnerability is most severe and where the demand exists. All too often we get caught up in a purely reactive cycle and have only committed to longer-term work with partners and community if it has been additionally funded, now the funding has gone what is left ? The system. That’s been there since 1945.

Most of us joined policing to make a difference and to help keep people safe. I recall once seeing a police officer to congratulate them on passing their two year probation only to hear her say ‘we aren’t making any difference … it’s  the same sh*t just a different day’. This is not in any way where we ever wanted to be. It’s bad for the public, bad for the officer and bad for society overall. Don’t let anyone tell you the police don’t make a difference … they do and Early Action, when integrated into daily business at a strategic and tactical level, IS the future of UK policing.

We know the police are but one small part of a very complex system involving that most unpredictable of factors – human behaviour. We like to think we are in control , that we do A and we achieve B. This is the philosophy of New Public Management, outdated and defunct in 2015 yet still promoted as a legitimate way of delivering public services. It isn’t working because it never worked and what got us to here will most definitely not get us to there. Public Value Leadership on the other hand … that is a whole new blog for another day suffice to say – it’s where we need to be.

So, in Triple Dividend language, we are running around at the bottom of the cliff feeding the beast. At best putting a daily sticking-plaster on some of our most complex social problems, at worst making things even more complex.

We have a great track-record of problem solving and neighbourhood policing, yet in times of reducing budgets this is being seen as a luxury we can no longer afford. Wrong. The saviour of local neighbourhood policing is Early Action and I’ll explain why.

This is the police triple dividend

Dividend 1 – Tackling vulnerability We are seeing unprecedented rises in high victim  impact crimes such as child sexual exploitation , historic abuse, vulnerable adult abuse etc. Mental Health is now our number one area of demand and crime now only accounts for 17% of what we do. The rest is all about vulnerability which is Early Action territory. Austerity is making the most vulnerable in society more vulnerable, added to which we know people are living longer and this will continue to increase as a percentge of what we do.

Dividend 2 – Reducing demand Police budgets have been hit hard and will be hit hard again. Understanding demand must avoid knee-jerking towards demand diversion or the setting of thresholds to reduce work.  Crime prevention is no longer just about more locks or more security lights , it’s about early intervention. 64% of prolific offenders in my force come from households with a domestic abuse marker. In Glasgow, Karen McClusky (incredible woman) put ‘violence’ on the Scottish Governments policy priorities list as a public health issue not a policing issue. She took a stand against a culture of violence that has it’s roots in childhood experience. ‘If you bring a kid up in a war zone why are we surprised when he turns into a warrior?’ is her powerful wake up call.

Dividend 3 – Meaning & Purpose Nobody wants to spend their life adding no value and making no difference. Police officers are, by-and-large, ordinary folk doing an extraordinary job, just like paramedics, mental-health workers, social-care workers and teachers. We do it because we care about people. Early Action is what we joined to do because it’s hard, it’s complex but it makes a difference.

So we know  this will not be solved through traditional collaboration or multi-agency working. We need integration not collaboration. This is because a) we can’t afford to keep paying 18 different professionals to sit in the same room and talk to each other and b) if I had 18 different professionals knocking at my door every week I’d be utterly confused and so are our most complex families. We need one public/community sector asset not 18. Step out of your silo , be prepared to give to receive and start thinking more radical thoughts.

What are we doing about it here ?

The first step was to talk to all our key partners to clear up the language of Early Action … language is important to get right from day one  and we did this by holding a conference / workshop. This resulted in massive support and formal sign-up (yes a signature on a piece of paper!) to an EA commitment, a locally tailored version of the Early Action Task Force principles.

We then commissioned some specific research through The University of Central Lancashire to build on the national evidence base, specifically focusing on joint outcomes. All organisations are going through massive change and we were determined to avoid prevention being the victim of short-term budget saving. We have developed Early Action into our policing delivery model which means we have dedicated resource allocated and most importantly a plan that will ensure neighbourhood teams focus on EA as their fundamental purpose. We are NOT just adding EA on as another silo, it’s everyone’s job.

We have some amazing examples of partnership working that ’walks the talk’ on EA , Transforming Lives in Blackburn is a fine example. Across Lancashire we are seeing a new energy for partnership, huge increases in volunteering and more progress than we have seen for decades. Why? Because people across the partnership share values. People who share values can move mountains!

By using hard demand data to convince people that EA can reduce demand with purpose and compassion we are seeing numerous cases where our most complex, vulnerable people are being supported so that they move from being viewed as a problem to being viewed as a fellow human being.

Arthur was excluded from every GP surgery and had called the police over 900 times in three months resulting in 140 deployments. A paramedic ran a pilot to case-manage Arthur’s vulnerability; which originated from mental health, alcohol and isolation. She negotiated with him and the Clinical Commissioning Group to gain him access to a GP and all responders contributed to his plan. Result: Proper care for Arthur and huge reductions in harm and demand for the partnership. EA can deliver public value and financial savings as well as helping those most in need.

We are on a journey that has no end … you have to accept this as part of the challenge. I reviewed our plan last week and the complexity of the system multiplied by the complexity of the need can seem daunting unless you begin with the fundamental question ‘why?’ Many great people from Ghandi to Churchill have urged us to consider that ‘any society is judged by the way it treats it’s most vulnerable citizens’. Policing is a profession that often  sees the tragic reality of system failure. We see the consequences of short-term thinking, silo working and inside-out thinking. Early Action is what police work should be all about.

Andy Rhodes, Deputy Chief Constable, Lancashire Constabulary.

Regeneration For All: benefitting people as well as places

March 12th, 2015

Regeneration of the "Hallsville Quarter" Canning TownWalking in to work each morning, I pass the almost-finished Hallsville Quarter, part of a £3.7bn regeneration of Custom House and Canning Town which itself is just a fraction of the £22bn that will be invested in Newham’s ‘arc of opportunity’ by 2027.

These huge regeneration projects – and astronomical figures – lead to opportunities on a scale that we may never see again. Newham council estimates that the investment will create more than 35,000 new homes and 100,000 new jobs. This regeneration also dwarfs the social investment in the area: annual private investment made into Stratford over the past decade is – at £1,125m – more than four times as large as Newham Council’s £275m budget.

Regeneration therefore forms an important context for everything that Community Links does. It affects our service delivery, our public policy research but fundamentally it affects the place we work and the people who live here. We welcome the opportunity to renew the area and deliver the potential of the community. The extraordinary level of regeneration will completely change our area, and has the potential to be hugely positive if  it focuses on people as well as places and is genuinely open to all.

But that’s quite a big ‘if’, and it’s clear that this potential will not be realised by accident. Despite rhetoric about transforming areas, regeneration efforts have tended to be poor at improving the lot of existing communities and have often left them feeling isolated and distant from any benefits.

Today we publish our latest policy briefing: “Regeneration For All”. The briefing captures what Community Links has learned from working in an area of huge regeneration for almost forty years and offers important lessons for other places on how to ensure that the process delivers for the whole community.

The briefing highlights the importance of developers and planning authorities alike taking a long-term approach and doing more before, during and after regeneration projects:

  • Beforehand they need to start early to gain meaningful understanding of places’ shared histories and desires.
  • During regeneration, they need to ensure the process as well as the outcomes meet communities’ desires and enable networks to be maintained.
  • Afterwards, long-term social investment is needed to enable old and new communities to come together.

This briefing also sets out three questions that should be clarified by future regeneration activities:

  • Who will regeneration benefit?
  • What is regeneration seeking to achieve?
  • Who is undertaking and paying for regeneration?

Too often these questions are left vaguely answered or not addressed at all. The result is a lack of clarity on what regeneration will achieve for those who have most to gain. The result is communities feeling that regeneration is “isn’t for people like them”. The result is regeneration that fails people and that isn’t genuinely open to all.

We’re clear that everyone working in areas like Newham has a role to play in ensuring the legacy focuses on people as well as places, and is genuinely open to all. As we approach one decade since east London won the Olympic bid, we know much more needs to be done to ensure that the regeneration benefits everyone within the community. Community Links will be using this briefing to inform the range of regeneration work that we do, and we hope its lessons are useful for others.


Download our policy briefing: Regeneration For All

The Olympics and east London: A sound legacy?

March 10th, 2015

Olympic Legacy by Amit and Naroop for Community Links “We want to use the once in a lifetime opportunity to continue the work and ‘Inspire a Generation’ of kids who have seen the Olympics and Paralympics happen in their neighbourhood.
A generation ready for anything, understanding they have potential, and playing their full part in society.  And even more importantly, a generation which brings up the next generation to be the same; passing on the torch of a positive legacy; a generation which shows others how to do it.”

These are the words we wrote just as the Olympic and Paralympic games came to a close back in 2012. Two and a half years later, the vision of how the Olympic area will develop is being finalised at a set of hearings. On the tenth floor of an office block in Westfield, Stratford the London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC) proposed Local Plan – which if adopted will provide a blueprint for the development of the area – is being interrogated.

Last week, I attended the hearing session focused on what this Plan means for the local economy. As a social action charity working in an area neighbouring the LLDC’s patch, Community Links has an important stake in the plan, and in particular, the local economy that was the subject of last week’s session. The jobs created, businesses attracted and the local economy that develops will fundamentally affect our work and lives of the people we support. The turn-out from local businesses and community groups was impressive, with the East End Trades Guild, The Old Truman Brewery, Bromley by Bow Centre and Carpenters and Docklands Centre all present – as well as several smaller studios from Carpenters estate, Hackney Wick and Fish Island.

My initial thought on the experience of attending the hearing was about the issue of representation in the planning process. The hearing was an important part of the legal process in which an independent Inspector – appointed by the Secretary of State for Local Government – scrutinizes the proposed plan to see whether it is ‘sound‘, which means based on evidence and in line with national and London policy. The LLDC’s Plan is based on tomes and tomes of background evidence papers, briefings and impact assessments – the Inspector was almost walled in by towers of documents on all sides. It’s great that such thorough work goes into developing planning documents and yesterday’s full-day session was just one of nine looking at the plan.

However, this hefty procedure makes it hard for many people who will be affected by the plan to have any meaningful input. The complex legal nature of the proceedings can make them impenetrable for small organisations or individuals, indeed even as a relatively large local organisation, Community Links would have struggled to input without the excellent coordination work led by Just Space. This risks only large developers with substantial resources being represented at the table.

And big-money developers were indeed there in force, arguing for more floorspace to be allocated to their developments and for regulations limiting the change of industrial land use (for, say, luxury flats) to be watered down. The legalistic process lends itself to an adversarial negotiation in which large developers on one side of the table, and smaller business as community groups on the other end up trying to defend their own interests, rather than together envisioning a positive vision for the area as a whole.

The LLDC’s Local Plan is important because it’s the first Mayoral Development Authority to go through this process, meaning the planners have to balance the interests of the GLA as well as the land owners, and the local community.

By attending the EiP session, we were seeking to achieve three main objectives:

  • Firstly, we want to ensure that the economic development promoted by the new plan builds on the strengths of the existing local economy, and delivers for the businesses and people who live and operate in the area. The LLDC’s initial plan was almost exclusively focused on attracting in businesses from elsewhere: it said it aimed to “draw additional investment into the local economy” and to “boost the profile of the area nationally and internationally”. But the evidence base for the plan shows how vibrant local economy is and how it could be built on. Local businesses are more likely than national ones to employ local people, and offer a broad range of sectors including industrial uses and creative industries. What’s more, businesses who’ve been here longer are more likely to see a long-term value in the area and thus be more committed to creating a sustainable community.
  •  Secondly, we want to ensure that the job and learning opportunities created are accessible to people who currently face the largest barriers to the labour market and education. For example, the Plan’s policy B5 doesn’t currently put a target on the amount of jobs created by development that should go to local people; and policy B6 focuses on attracting higher education but doesn’t do enough to ensure that lifelong learning opportunities address the educational disadvantages that people within our area face. At present the plan includes some good policies for providing affordable workspace which our Enterprise Team know is paramount to enable budding local businesses to get off the ground. Developers at the meeting were arguing for this policy to be watered down, whereas if anything it needs to be strengthened to ensure workspaces remain affordable for small and start-up businesses.
  •  Thirdly, we want to plan for one joined-up economy, in which businesses moving into the area integrate local businesses into their supply chains. A lot of the Local Plan is focused on attracting businesses and investment from the “central London office market”, i.e. from the kind of firms that might otherwise be based in the City or the West End. Encouraging inward investment to the area is great, as long as these firms contribute to local businesses and communities. Support for medium size businesses who can bridge between large firms and local SMEs would help, as would a requirement for new developers to use local businesses in their supply chains.

We achieved some success in each of the above areas. For example, the LLDC agreed to re-frame the ‘economy’ section to focus more on local, as well as national and international enterprises and to alter one of the policies to ensure it focuses on ‘groups underrepresented in the workforce’.

But even with these agreed amendments, the Plan is still a long way from envisioning a local economy that would really work for local people. We were lucky that the Inspector in this case seems receptive to the points made by community organisations and individuals. Now we have to wait and see what recommendations she makes and how Boris chooses to respond to them.

Based on this hearing, it’s clear that the principles we set out in our forthcoming policy briefing – to be published later this week – are as pertinent as ever. Developers and planning authorities need to do more to really understand the communities they are working in; ensure the process of regeneration, as well as the outcomes, are positive for people; and encourage long-term social investment in areas of regeneration. Watch this space for Community Links’ ‘Regeneration For All’ briefing, which expands on many of these points and sets out the issues we’ll be working on in the future.

Launch of the Early Action Neighbourhood Fund

February 27th, 2015

A pilot of the Early Action Neighbourhood Fund was launched last week, representing an investment of £5.3m in three early action projects.

This joint-funding initiative, pioneered by the Early Action Funders’ Alliance, was welcomed as an “exciting moment” by Dawn Austwick, CEO of the Big Lottery Fund  – one of the three funders who are directly involved. Indeed, it is the product of over a year’s work and illustrates not only the growing interest in the important idea of early action, but an attempt to ensure that innovative projects are well-funded and provide evidence for future initiatives.

The three criteria for a successful application were partnerships that could:
• Change local systems and structures
• Affect the future commissioning of services
• Demonstrate the wider case for early action

The three projects

The first project is based around an organisation in Hartlepool called Changing Futures. It originally started as an informal gathering of parents and young children for the purpose of socialising, but eventually grew into an organisation that helps families in the Tees Valley through a variety of different services. They aim to reduce spending on acute childcare services by 10%, whilst also having a positive effect on outcomes such as the emotional wellbeing of children.

The second, Mancroft Advice Project, will work with three schools in an attempt to improve the wellbeing of children and young people whilst also reducing acute spending in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. This will free up future money to be invested into preventative measures.

The third and final project, Ignite, is based at the Coventry Law Centre and aims to address the problems that many of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of their community face with the legal process. By building the legal knowledge, confidence and skills of local people they will enable them to address problems for themselves and empower others to do the same.

Thriving lives: costing less and contributing more

Each of these projects has three important things in common. Firstly, they all try and reduce the demand for acute services, and therefore also the amount of money that is spent on them. This won’t happen overnight, of course, and so the second common theme is an explicitly longer term approach – a key element of early action. Finally, they all want to achieve better social outcomes for those that they work with. This is not merely a matter of supporting people to overcome problems, but also enabling people to be ready to seize any opportunities that come their way; whether that’s a training course, a new job, or even better relationships between friends, families and the wider community.

It is great news, then, that these projects have been funded via the piloted scheme. Hopefully both they and the pilot scheme itself will provide plenty of evidence for the common sense idea that preventing problems is far better – both in financial and social terms – than picking up the pieces after a crisis has already occurred.