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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.

Links to Enterprise: networking east London’s start-up businesses

February 26th, 2015

Rose Randles is works on Community Links, Links to Enterprise Team which supports people to harness and develop their enterprising skills. As well as comprehensive training focused on business start-up and practice trading opportunities at street markets and pop-up shops each partcipant has support and guidance, including regular network and social events. In this blog post Rose details the latest enterprise network event.


Throughout 2015, Links to Enterprise will be holding regular networking and social events for people who are interested in enterprise. These evenings are a great way for budding entrepreneurs to share ideas, offer support to one another or even form working partnerships. We recently held the first networking event of the year and enjoyed a really interesting and inspiring couple of hours. To kick off the evening, we heard from a few of the entrepreneurs who we helped along the way to getting started in 2014 and some very inspiring stories they were…

Francesca came along to our Introduction to Enterprise in March last year with a business idea – she wanted to run workshops for parents whose children were going through difficult transitional phases. She said that the Links to Enterprise programme helped her to sort through all the ideas and plans that were whizzing around her head so that she could find a starting point and lay down a clear route to start-up. By September Francesca had founded YAPS and now has regular ongoing work lined up with schools and colleges.

Nisha also joined the programme in March 2014. She had already dreamt up her ‘product’ – a website that shares good news – but hadn’t yet launched it. Shortly after attending the Introduction to Enterprise, she launched ‘Good News Shared’ and has since built up a great team of writers. Nisha said that the most helpful things for her were to be able to meet other people who were trying to start up, to network and to bounce ideas off one another. She is now looking for sponsorship for the site and with her online community building day by day, we’re confident she won’t have to look for long.

Halima had already created her Rustic Roots chilli condiment when she signed up to the programme last February. She had her product but wasn’t that confident about going out and trying to sell it. She said that the training and ongoing support from Links to Enterprise has helped her to build confidence and realise that she actually has a natural talent for networking and selling herself. Halima will be launching a new range of products in May and dreams of being stocked in Waitrose!

After a fruitful networking session with numbers being swapped and ideas shared, we heard about some of the Links to Enterprise opportunities coming up in 2015.

  • If you’d like to talk to Community Links about support for your own business start-up you can call the Links to Enterprise team on 0207 473 2270  or e.mail

How We Can Do Better For Less: New Report by the Early Intervention Foundation

February 12th, 2015

 photo EIFREPORT_zpsa4ebcc89.jpg

Today the Early Intervention Foundation launch a new report called Spending on Late Intervention: How We Can Do Better for Less. Amongst other things, it outlines how much we currently spend on late interventions; crucial yet often unnecessary services that attempt to ameliorate the immediate problems of children and young people, but do not deal with their causes.

It argues that shifting investment towards the prevention of crises can yield a triple dividend: thriving lives, costing less, and contributing more. As worries over public finances are set to dominate political rhetoric in the run-up to the General Election in May, this report is an important and contribution to the debate about the importance of a proactive rather than reactive state.

The Costs of Late Intervention

In the report Chowdry and Oppenheim estimate that we spend almost £17 billion a year on late interventions. Three fifths of this total is spent on child protection and safeguarding, with crime and anti-social behaviour a close second, and benefits for 18-24 year olds not in employment, education or training (‘NEETs’) the third main area of expenditure.

Perhaps most notable is the difference between the amount of money spent on late intervention as compared to early intervention: only £200 million is spent on crime prevention, whereas £1.4 billion is spent on already-existing anti-social behaviour and youth offending. Some commentators might try and quibble over the actual figures, but the huge difference in expenditure on late and early intervention is unarguable, as the National Audit Office’s Early Action Landscape Review has shown. Such a disparity is a fundamental problem across many areas of public service expenditure, from health to social security.

Some examples of early intervention are also detailed in the report; for example Multi-Systemic Therapy is a family based intervention aimed at reversing patterns of anti-social behaviour for teenagers aged between 12 and 17. Several randomised control trials – the gold standard for evidence-based approaches – have been conducted and it is estimated that for every $1 invested, $6.60 is saved in the form of reduced crime.

Whilst arguments about the money-saving capabilities of prevention are important, we must not forget that there are social costs to late intervention too. As the report points out, we need to ensure that the wellbeing of children and families is at the heart of any approach.

The Future

The report also sets out three ways in which the government – whether local or national – could shift spending towards prevention. The first requires them to prioritise early intervention funding. The report challenges the next government to reduce the £17 billion expenditure on late intervention by 10% over the next parliament. This would be achieved by, on average, a 2% shift per year. Whilst this might feel a bit cautious, even a small amount can have a significant impact over the long term when it is part of incremental change.

One of the mechanisms for such a transition, they argue, is a dedicated and ring-fenced Early Intervention Investment Fund which is tied to the life of the next parliament. This could be supplemented by private sector capital, particularly in the form of social investment. At the Task Force we’d argue another way to change patterns of spending would be to set up an Early Action Loan Fund – a scheme that allows public sector agencies to take out interest free loans to be paid back over 3 to 7 years if they have a suitable demand-reduction plan in place.

The second recommendation is to incentivise local services to work together. This would require the pooling of budgets and sharing of information between different agencies. Health and Wellbeing boards should be a key area of focus, and making early intervention a fundamental part of their work should be a priority. Another interesting development is that of Southwark and Lambeth’s Early Action Commission, which aims to work with the local community and local stakeholders to identify areas in which they could reduce demand for public services and improve health outcomes.

The third and final recommendation involves putting the early intervention agenda at the heart of government. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with someone about prevention where they have thought it’s a bad idea in principle. However, the major problem often appears to be actually following through and coming up with policies to put these principles into practice.

If the next government truly wants to spend public money on promoting thriving lives rather than coping with problems, then it needs to start taking the suggestions in this report seriously. As the authors point out, any commitment to reducing the fiscal deficit must be combined with a commitment to reducing preventable social problems. The time to act is now.



You can read more of Haroon Chowdry and Carey Oppenheim’s ideas in our upcoming compilation of essays, “One Hundred Days for Early Action: time for government to put prevention first”.

Talent Match London Employment Project: A Volunteer’s Journey of change

February 4th, 2015

This guest blog post, from Fateha Begum chair of Community Links Youth Board,
details her journey onto the Talent Match London programme


Fateha Begum with members of the Youth board and Community Links Staff
Fateha Begum pictured with members of the Youth Board and Community Links staff

In today’s world, it’s rare not to be busy.  There are so many things to do, that we can take time for granted. I had it all planned out that after college I would go university and graduate, then get into a career. Funnily life took an unexpected twist, causing me to leave university and all my plans to go flying everywhere.

This is where Community Links came in and brought light to the end of a dark tunnel. After a horrible year of health problems, I finally recovered but did not know what to do anymore. I felt lost and like a failure. Only 19 years old, I stepped through the doors of Community Links and into a project called Bridges into Work, where I had my own Personal Advisor who amazingly helped me gain confidence and see life in a new perspective;  I felt doors opening again.

I wanted to explore options whilst still recovering and the voluntary position offered was a fantastic way to get back into the world of work and balance my personal life.

At first it was daunting and nerve-wracking. I was always in education and now to experience a working environment was alien to me. I initially kept quiet and would observe everyone but soon I was part of a team.

I started off with administration work, observing the personal advisors, designing posters and writing feedback for events – and now months into volunteering I am the leader of a youth board for a program called Talent Match London. It has been an interesting journey. The range of opportunities only boosted my self-development and gave me the confidence to try new things.

Almost a year on now, I have got a job with an opportunity I got through volunteering. Words cannot do justice to the support, encouragement and guidance I have got from the team at Community Links Youth Hub.  As a teenager, volunteering was never appealing but now I appreciate and value the opportunities, because not only does one gain invaluable experience but to know that a person has the ability to make on impact in the world, no matter how small they may think that impact may be …. it all gives back to the greater community-  it’s great! – Fateha at 19

The story continues …

The journey from being a volunteer who listens to everyone else, to being a volunteer with the power to steer a program is amazing.

Talent Match London funded by the Big Lottery, was launched a year ago by a group of young people to tackle youth unemployment. It is a program that was designed by young people for 18-24 years who faced the biggest barriers and had long term unemployment. Through its “journey of change” and personalised support offered, the aim is to get young people into “careers and not just jobs”.

Community Links is one of the partners that help London Youth deliver the Talent Match London program in Newham and Barking & Dagenham. Talent Match London’s unique touch is being youth-led at the heart of the programme; myself and other young people have formed EastSideLinks Youth Board with the support of the Talent Advisors.

We organise a meeting once a month where the board comes together to discuss and evaluate progress whilst making suggestions and coming up with new ideas. Plus the refreshments are a bonus, alongside the numerous games that have been introduced – it is always a good laugh.

Throughout the month, everyone has the chance to volunteer and attend various opportunities to gain knowledge as well as make a difference. It’s flexible to suit everyone’s life. The best part so far for me, has to be planning events, going out to meet new people and having our voices heard. The youth board is only now turning on the ignition for the exciting and successful year ahead.

Join us, as the year has only begun – Fateha at 21

Payment By Results: Learning from our experience.

January 29th, 2015

Paying for outcomes – rather than delivery – of public services has been increasingly applied as a method of commissioning over the course of the current and previous governments, particularly through Payment by Results (PbR) contracts. Community Links has a long history of successfully delivering PbR contracts, as well as engaging with the social finance policy behind these schemes. Our experience working with PbR has taught us several key lessons, which are set out in a new policy  briefing published today.

Payment by Results (PbR) as a means of commissioning has several attractive features. In our experience, PbR can work particularly well when the contracts are small scale (resulting in a closer link between providers and the commissioner) and when the outcomes are simple, for example when only one outcome is required. We support the principle of PbR, a principle which allows us to focus on achieving outcomes for our community. When PbR works, it should enable us to deliver our services innovatively, drawing on our local knowledge and experience.

We think three main issues need to be addressed in order to ensure that PbR contracts work well

  1. Contract financing needs to be carefully addressed. A blended funding model, with some ‘up-front’ or grant-based elements is useful; and PbR should not be the default way of contracting. This is particularly the case when working with people whose situations are most complex.
  2. The size and structure of PbR contracts can determine the role that different organisations play. Smaller PbR contracts would increase the number of small voluntary sector organisations able to become prime contractors. Supply chain issues – such as the extent to which risk is passed down from prime to sub-contractors – should also be addressed.
  3. PbR contracts risk forcing providers to focus on a narrow range of outcomes rather than working holistically. A greater proportion of up-front payments can enable providers to work more holistically. For groups that have the most complex issues, PbR contracts should be designed to incentivise the achievement of intermediate steps and ‘soft outcomes’.

Our new policy briefing draws on our experience with PbR and contains recommendations for both Voluntary Sector contractors and commissioners could get the most from this funding model.