How to engage and influence the Police and Crime Commissioners agenda
The purpose of this briefing is to help women’s organisations to identify ways in which they can get involved with new Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). For more information on PCCs please click on this link: Safer Future Communities
In dealing with PCC’s make use of the arguments for why women only services are important. Find out more here
Make sure you know who your Safer Future Communities (SFC) Network Co-ordinating organisation is and feed into their work.
The SFC Network Co-ordinating organisation will be building a relationship (as the ‘voice of the local VCS’) with the Transition Boards that are developing the draft Police and Crime Plan, commissioning models and budgets. It is important then that all VCS organisations, on top of any other activity they are planning, are linked into their area’s SFC Network as it will ensure a unified and stronger VCS voice, especially around issues of priority setting and commissioning frameworks. The input of the women’s sector will be particularly useful when the SFC Network proposes an outcomes framework, and business plan, to the Transition Board that will serve the interests of the VCS and their service users.
Women’s sector to meet with the SFC network co-ordinating organisation or attend their organising events, which should be publicised on their website.
This is an opportunity to ensure that the interests of violence against women and girls (VAWG) services are embedded in any work and lobbying that the Network does.
We think it’s important that it is not just individual VAWG organisations that do this. Rather, it will be a more effective and inclusive strategy if the women’s sector can speak with ‘one voice’ as much as possible. For increased collaboration between organisations, the following action will be necessary.
Organise meetings of VAWG organisations that cover the police force area. This could be through using existing networks and infrastructure such as the local domestic and sexual violence forums.
We recommend that these meetings are used to develop a strategy within and on behalf of the sector, which can then be taken forward and promoted within the work of the SFC Network, as well as directly with local media and stakeholders. It may be useful to think about developing the following:
- Start mapping the VAWG sector in your police force area to ensure all types of organisations, including specialist ones are taken into account and invited to participate.
- Key messages in order to clarify your position and your expectations.
- Start developing a local strategy- who to target; when to target them (our timeline may be useful); what areas to lobby and focus on; what lobbying tactics to use; the evidence to demonstrate social and economic benefit of specialist VAWG services; which organisations and stakeholders e.g. possible local champions should be involved; what extra support might you need (please feel free to contact WRC if you think we may be able to help with any support or resource needs you may have).
- Input into a national strategy to develop a suitable VAWG outcomes framework that works to the needs of women and girls affected by violence (WRC hopes that this will be developed by a national VAWG steering group, which would involve any interested VAWG organisations). In the meantime, it may be worth thinking about what evidence and frameworks may be useful to make your case.
- Discussion of whether you want to set up a more formal VAWG partnership, so that any PCC funding can be administered through it to all of the area’s VAWG organisations to deliver police-area wide VAWG services.
The following document from WRC may be helpful when thinking about setting up a network, forum or more formal partnership arrangement:
Please get in touch with our development team if you need support in setting up a more formal partnership with other organisations at: firstname.lastname@example.org
CASE STUDY: The Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) have been working with local women to develop a Women’s Forum, ‘Coventry Women’s Voices’ (CWV). Membership of CWV is free and open to women from women’s groups and organisations; voluntary or community groups with a particular focus on women’s issues or providing services to women; statutory services with a focus on services for women; business or business networks with an interest in improving the position of women; trade unions and individual women. Their aim is to work with people, organisations and agencies to improve the delivery of services to women from all backgrounds and communities in Coventry. CWV provides a network for women to come together, talk, share ideas, and develop good practice. They also provide expert advice and information about the actual and likely effect that policies and programmes will have on women. For more information go to:
Action: Write to your local PCC candidates
Labour candidates have pledged to prioritise violence against women and girls (VAWG) if they are elected. However, they have little knowledge (which is probably true of most of the candidates regardless of political party) of the women’s voluntary and community sector or that VAWG covers more than domestic and sexual violence (e.g. forced marriage, so-called ‘honour’ killings, female genital mutilation, stalking, forced prostitution). They may also be unaware of their responsibilities under the Equality Act (2010). WRC have produced a template letter that organisations can send to their candidates which is available to download below.
Levers to use: useful policies and frameworks
Public Sector Equality Duty and specific duties
As a public body, PCCs and their offices are subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which means they must pay ‘due regard’ to eliminate all forms of discrimination, harassment and victimisation that are prohibited by the Equality Act; advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it; and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it. The Police and Crime Plan that the PCC will produce will need to take these responsibilities into consideration.
In terms of trying to shape a more ‘intelligent’ commissioning model that does not exclude specialist, women-only organisations from bidding and winning contracts to provide services, it is worth promoting the Government Equality Office (GEO) guide for public bodies, which states that the Equality Duty “does not require public bodies to treat everyone the same. Rather, it requires public bodies to think about people’s different needs and how these can be met. So the PSED does not prevent public bodies providing women-only services – for example, for female victims of sexual violence or domestic violence. Indeed, such services may be necessary in order to ensure women have access to the services they need.”
You could also remind the Transition Board and the PCC that they are subject to the Equality Act and its Duties. It is a good idea to ask questions about how they intend to meet these responsibilities and how they assessed the ‘local’ evidence that determined their decisions. They can also be asked to provide information about how impacts on people who share a protected characteristic were considered, and how negative impacts will be addressed. Ultimately, it will be up to organisations like ours to hold PCCs to account in terms of their responsibilities with regards to equalities issues.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
This legislation sets out a flexible framework for partnership working between the Commissioner and their community safety and criminal justice partners. It includes two duties to facilitate cooperation (outlined at Section 10 of the Act) between the relevant partners working in community safety. The community safety duty specifies that a Commissioner must, in exercising its functions, have regard to the relevant priorities of the probation, health service, Local Authority, Police and Fire services. If violence against women and girls is a priority area for any of these (and in many cases it will appear), it will be another lever by which to ensure it is also a priority for the PCC.
The Act also requires Commissioners to consult with victims in setting policing priorities in their local area.
Existing local strategies
For example, the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Strategy contains relevant ‘local, evidence-based’ information and priorities, determined by local engagement and partnership working that should overlap with the concerns of the PCC. While local authorities are no longer duty bound to have an LSP Board, some areas are still maintaining them as an effective way of bringing different agencies together to work on local priority issues. Even if they are not carrying on in the same form, the Strategy document may be useful as it should already have looked at evidence of local need and identified priority areas. If violence against women is mentioned in this document, there is local evidence that can be used as a lever with the PCC if they fail to consider violence against women services in their area.
The Protocol is a document produced by the Home Secretary under a power taken in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. It sets out how the new policing governance arrangements will work, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of Police and Crime Commissioners. This may be useful to ensure they are meeting their duties, particularly to victims of crime and improving community safety, into which categories violence against women services would fall. The protocol can be viewed here: The Policy Protocol Order 2011
Police and Crime Commissioners, What Partners Need To Know is a Home Office publication that sets out guidance on how PCCs should work collaboratively with local partners including the local authority, Health and Wellbeing Boards, and voluntary sector organisations that have expertise in working with victims. These intentions signal a standard for good practice which could be used to ensure effective engagement with the VAWG sector. Available below from the Home Office website.
As decisions become ever more decentralised, it will be of continued and increasing importance to engage with and build relationships at a local level. Local authorities will have increasing influence over the work of the women’s sector. Local politicians could raise the profile of women’s issues and promote the vital work of the women’s voluntary and community sector.
For more information please see our report on how to engage with the localism agenda refer to the links below: