Intelligence-led and outcome-oriented practice lies at the heart of community safety partnerships (CSPs) being the most effective possible vehicle for tackling crime and re-offending at the local level in England and Wales. To achieve this, efficient and effective information sharing between relevant partners is essential.
Information sharing involves the transfer of information from one agency to another. This can be information that is transferred via electronic means, in paper records, or verbally between CSP partner agencies. This can include the sharing of both personalised and depersonalised information as well as non-personal information.
Information sharing in many CSPs in England and Wales has made significant strides since the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act. Some guidance has helped CSPs along the way, but many CSPs continue to struggle and come up against barriers that constrain them in making better use of the rich sources of information that can be shared between partner agencies.
This guidance, published in March 2010, is aimed at community safety practitioners and their managers. It is designed to be comprehensive in helping CSPs improve their information sharing so that they can use data in order to be confident and well informed in the decisions that they make to improve community safety at the local level. The guidance identifies what data should be shared, provides clarity on legislation, and offers advice on the processes that can be put in place to help facilitate information sharing. The guidance addresses information sharing between local CSP partners, rather than between central government and regional government agencies.
The guide draws from practice and experience across England and Wales. Importantly, the guide gets into the detail of information sharing by:
- identifying the data (right down to the data fields) that partner agencies and local neighbourhood practitioners should share
- describing the key principles to follow when sharing information
- providing clarity on legislation so that practitioners can be confident in what can and what cannot be shared
- explaining the processes to apply in order for data to be fit for purpose for local-level intelligence-led service delivery
- suggesting a framework that can be used to help improve upon existing arrangements for information sharing.
The appendix describes the technical process of depersonalising geographic data, and explains the roles that analysts and non-analysts should play in a CSP to help facilitate information sharing and the associated development of intelligence products. The appendix also contains a glossary of words and terms used in this guidance and practice advice, and a list of abbreviations useful for community safety practitioners.
Benefits of information sharing
Effective information sharing is fundamental to supporting the development of CSP intelligence and providing an evidence base on which these partnerships can make decisions. This decision making should then help direct appropriate responses to:
- prevent and reduce crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour (ASB)
- apprehend and prosecute offenders; reduce re-offending
- address issues associated with the misuse of drugs and alcohol
- enhance public reassurance and confidence in the services that are in place to improve community safety.
To tackle these issues associated with community safety requires a response that involves more than one agency. Each of these agencies collects information that relates to certain community safety problems, so in order for these problems to be understood it requires each agency to share this information. If a certain problem is only considered from the view of a single agency then key aspects of the problem can be missed, the problem can be poorly understood or even misunderstood, resulting in decisions being made on little substance, and ineffective responses being deployed.
Information sharing therefore supports three important aspects of CSP working:
- understanding the problem - tackling the issues associated with crime, disorder, ASB, the misuse of drugs and alcohol, reducing re-offending and public reassurance requires the nature of each problem to be well understood. To understand the problem requires information to be brought together from a range of agencies. This entails exploring patterns relating to the problem, and then deciding on tactical, investigative or strategic responses (for example, to inform Integrated Offender Management arrangements - IOM), actions for managing the most harmful and problematic individuals (for example, Prolific and other Priority Offenders - PPOs), and for supporting those that are most vulnerable to victimisation.
- multi-agency in content, multi-agency in outlook - considering the problem using information from a range of agencies rather from just one agency leads more naturally to a multi-agency response. If the problem is only considered from the view of a single agency then the natural reaction is often for that agency to be considered as the only one that is in a position to tackle the problem. The inclusion of information from a range of agencies helps them to identify the role that they can play in responding to the problem and delivering a more joined-up approach to addressing it.
- supports partnership working - if the problem is considered using a range of agency information then this tends to overcome the reliance on one agency as the single source of information and sole purveyor of a solution to the problem. Relying on just one agency to provide information and respond to the problem with little input from other agencies can undermine the CSP and the spirit of partnership working. Information sharing helps to foster and improve inter-agency relationships.
Benefits of information sharing - a practical example
Consider the example of developing a multi-agency response to reduce the re-offending of prolific and other priority offenders (PPOs).
A number of agencies collect information relating to these individuals:
- the police collect information on the offences that PPOs are known to have committed
- probation may have carried out a recent OASys assessment on each PPO
- the drug and alcohol action team may have the PPOs registered with them and hold data relating to their drug misuse.
To understand the issues associated with prolific offenders requires these data to be drawn together. They can be used to help identify issues that relate to individuals as well as highlighting patterns that can be seen across all PPOs. These could be issues associated with drug misuse, unsuitable housing, and lack of employment skills that are common to many prolific offenders, and the partnership will need to decide upon the most appropriate multi-agency response. If issues associated with prolific offenders were only considered by using data from one agency then certain aspects of the problem could be missed, which in turn could impact upon key decisions about the suitability and timeliness of interventions to address an individual’s offending behaviour.
Ultimately, the personal safety of millions of people rests on the decisions taken by statutory agencies on the ground. All partners engaged in work related to community safety and wellbeing have a responsibility to share information where they think that action may need to be taken - if a housing officer, for example, notices something untoward on a visit, suitable and clear processes should be in place to ensure that, where appropriate, the information is shared with the relevant partner agency. Failure to do so may compromise both the safety of the individual and the professional reputation of the agencies in the partnership.
The guidance document and appendices are available to download below.
Date: Mon Aug 02 14:32:27 BST 2010