Engaging with PCCs: 5 top tips

jessica-mullenJessica Mullen is Senior Policy and Projects Officer at Clinks, the organisation that supports the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sectors working in criminal justice. She also volunteers for Prison Reading Groups.

In the run-up to the 2015 general election, predictions of a hung parliament meant that the future of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) looked unclear, with all parties except the Conservatives promising significant reforms. However, writing following the Conservative Party’s election victory, it is clear that PCCs are here to stay.

The next time the whole country goes to the polls (local elections aside), it will be to elect PCCs again. In London, where the mayor assumes the duties of the PCC, this will happen in May 2016 and in the rest of the country it will take place in November 2016. In the run up to these elections it’s all the more important that the voluntary sector is able to engage with and influence their PCCs.

What do PCCs do?

PCCs are responsible for securing an efficient and effective policing service. They are not responsible for running the police, which remains the responsibility of the chief constable. PCCs are responsible for the police force’s strategic direction for tackling crime and community safety. Their priorities are set out in police and crime plans, and they have the power to commission services in line with these priorities. They are also responsible for commissioning victims’ services.

PCCs have a statutory duty to collaborate with local authorities and other criminal justice partners. They should also work with other local partners, such as clinical commissioning groups, in order to tackle socio-economic factors which have a significant impact on crime.

The role of voluntary organisations

In recent months the local landscape of criminal justice partners has changed significantly, with the introduction of a national probation service managing high risk offenders, and new contracts for the delivery of probation services to low risk offenders in 21 areas of England and Wales. This has added further complexity for voluntary sector organisations wishing to engage in local commissioning and partnership arrangements.

Voluntary sector organisations work closely with local communities and have an excellent understanding of their community safety needs and priorities. They also know what works to address these needs, through their many years’ experience doing just that. So, over the coming months, and in the run up to the next PCC elections, voluntary sector engagement with PCCs to ensure that this knowledge and expertise is properly utilised is all the more important. A good example is the appointment of a voluntary sector adviser to the PCC in West Yorkshire.

Watch our webinar on engaging PCCs

Learn how to approach and influence your PCC in our webinar for senior managers, trustees, and leaders from 28 May 2015

View the webinar here

Top Tips for engaging with PCCs

With this in mind, Clinks have worked with Compact Voice to produce updated guidance for the sector on engaging with PCCs. This gives five tips for engaging with PCCs:

1. Do your homework

Begin by making sure you have a clear idea about how your local PCC works. This will give you an overview of how the PCC operates in practice, and an understanding of which people are involved in decision making, and will allow you to tailor your message to the PCC’s priorities.

2. Make the case for voluntary sector involvement

Some PCCs will have a good understanding of their local voluntary sector, and others less so. It is important to be able to make a clear case for the strengths of the sector. Clinks have a collection of resources aimed at supporting organisations to work with PCCs on their website, along with information outlining the voluntary sector’s ‘offer’ to PCCs. In West Yorkshire a staff member from Voluntary Action Leeds became the PCCs third Sector advisor.

3. Explore different routes to engagement

Giving the PCC direct experience of what you do is particularly powerful. Converting contact between individual organisations into sustainable and permanent arrangements that benefit the sector as a whole is one of the most difficult parts of the process. The method or methods that work best will depend on local circumstances and priorities but the guide gives a range of examples.

4. Demonstrate your impact

It is crucial to be able to demonstrate that you are solving a problem that the PCC cares about. This involves taking into account the priorities set out in the police and crime plan but also remembering the pressures that PCCs are under as elected officials and to find savings.

5. Encourage compact working

The Compact is the agreement between government and the voluntary sector in England. It sets out key principles which establish a way of working that improves their relationship, in order to achieve common goals for the benefit of communities and citizens in England. Local Compacts often have signatories, such as the local council for voluntary service, and the local authority and clinical commissioning group. Some PCCs are also signed up to their local Compact – Compact Voice’s annual survey of local Compacts showed that 12% of PCCs were signed up in 2014, compared to only 3% in 2013.

Want to find out more?

First Steps in Monitoring and Evaluation (CES)
In plain English, this booklet offers a practical, five-step easy to follow approach to evaluating your own project or organisation, using the resources available to you.

Monitoring and evaluation on a shoestring (CES)
A practical guide to help organisations to develop their monitoring and evaluation approach and improve their effectiveness on a limited budget.

For more information, or to discuss your thoughts on PCCs further, email Jessica Mullen or post your comments below.

You can read the guidance in full here

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