Evaluation of police and fire reform: partnership, innovation and prevention year three case study

Findings from a thematic case study from year three of the evaluation focusing on issues of partnership working, innovation and prevention.

Annex 1

The following four vignettes provide brief descriptions that illustrate a range of partnership working, prevention and innovation, involving Police Scotland and SFRS. The vignettes are based on focus groups conducted in each of the four case study areas and as such present the perspectives of both Police Scotland and SFRS, as well as the partners they were working with. The vignettes focus on the following issues:

  • Vignette I provides an example of innovation for Police Scotland through a mental health community triage in area D
  • Vignette II highlights Police Scotland and SFRS working together with partners through a community safety hub in area A
  • Vignette III is an example of Police Scotland and SFRS working with partners to deliver a primary prevention initiative focused on road safety in area B
  • Vignette IV highlights an example of innovation for SFRS to improve safety in the home in area C

Each vignette addresses four key questions:

  • Why was the initiative needed?
  • What does the initiative involve?
  • Who participates?
  • What impact has the initiative had?

From these vignettes and the wider analysis of the data collected across all four case study areas several high level themes emerge which help define the broad contours of the partnership and innovation landscape within which Police Scotland and SFRS operate.

Vignette I: Mental health community triage

The following vignette provides a detailed example of local partnership working to provide a response to individuals coming to the attention of police in a state of mental health distress and to reduce the number of people being taken to hospital emergency departments.

Why was this initiative needed?

The police in Area D were concerned about incidents they dealt with of individuals in mental health difficulty 'out of hours' and that too many of these people were being brought unnecessarily to be seen at hospital emergency departments. This was identified as an issue of providing a more joined-up approach that made better use of resources, and delivered a better service to people with mental health difficulties.

Following concerns raised by the police to the chief officers group for child and adult protection, a review of NHS services for mental health crisis was undertaken in 2014. The review recommended that the mental health Crisis Resolution Team should establish a closer working relationship with the local police to provide a community based assessment for individuals where the police attend an incident involving a potential mental health difficulty. In 2015 NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and Police Scotland piloted an approach that provided a mental health telephone triage service for out of hours incidents of mental health difficulty attended by the police. An evaluation of the pilot showed these incidents could be resolved by a telephone consultation with a mental health nurse and removed the need for the police to take them to hospital. The learning from the approach in Glasgow helped informed a decision to undertake a data gathering exercise locally to provide a clear picture of the nature of the problem and how it was being dealt with.

What does the initiative involve?

An NHS mental health nurse was seconded to the police and began by undertaking a scoping study to identify the nature and scope of the issue locally. The work was overseen by a partnership steering group comprising representatives from Police Scotland, NHS mental health, the local hospital.

Following the report, new arrangements were put in place that allowed police officers at an incident of someone in mental health difficulty to call a mental health nurse and get advice. If necessary, the nurse provides a telephone consultation with the individual, often in their own home.

Who participates?

The initiative was developed by a partnership between the local police and NHS crisis mental health. It was overseen by a steering group that also involved the Health and Social Care Partnership, Council, social work and emergency department of local hospital. Funding was secured from a Scottish Government Mental Health Innovation Fund. This helped to pay for the secondment of the mental health nurse, and the subsequent additional mental health nurse provision out of hours to cope with the additional demand that came through the new triage service.

What has been the impact?

It was felt by those involved that the number of individuals taken to hospital for a consultation or held in police custody was greatly reduced. The time spent by police officers on each incident was also reduced. The quality of service to the individuals was also felt to be much higher- attendance at busy and noisy emergency departments, or police custody, was regarded as an outcome to be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Vignette II: A Community Safety Hub

The following vignette exemplifies the wider themes of partnership working, including organisational, cultural and personal. It describes day-to-day partnership working in a community safety hub in an urban area, a model that has been replicated in other areas across Scotland. It includes a model of co-location for the police in a council building, with weekly MATAC (Multi-Agency Tasking and Coordinating) meetings taking place between police, fire, council, housing, anti-social behaviour teams and Victim Support, to address community safety issues.

Why was this initiative needed?

The Community Safety Hub was formed a few months before reform, towards the end of 2012. Before this time there would be regular meetings between partners but there were no co-location arrangements in place. It was believed by the senior management that there was a need for the partners to work more collaboratively through a model of co-location.

What does this initiative involve?

This model of co-location and weekly MATAC meetings is seen as an opportunity to share information on specific incidents, problem solve and co-ordinate required responses. As well as the weekly meetings they have daily, informal data sharing arrangements. It is felt by those involved to open up opportunities for different types of actions and move away from punitive responses to more coordinated approaches.

Who participates?

The police, council, anti-social behaviour team and housing are all co-located on one floor in a council building with an opportunity for informal interactions and sharing information on a day-to-day basis. They also have weekly MATAC meetings which also includes fire and Victim Support. This is not their only opportunity to see fire and Victim Support who though not co-located stay in regular contact with the teams.

What has been the impact?

The partners involved in this example of co-location explain that their approach should not be viewed as innovative, instead they believe it should be seen as ' 'the norm' and they insist it is a 'sensible' approach. They have faced some challenges, such as not having a shared IT system. However, the benefit of co-locating is stated as them having an opportunity to speak and share information on a daily, informal basis.

This example highlights the development of relationships between partners, in which the hub provides an informal environment to break down barriers, increase understanding of each other's roles and organisational limitations, build trust and develop solutions together. They all feel supported and empowered by their respective organisations to work collaboratively with each other.

Vignette III: Road Safety

The following vignette outlines how road safety is being used as an early intervention, primary prevention approach to tackling deaths and serious injury amongst 17-24 year olds in one of the case study areas.

Why was this initiative needed?

The focus of this initiative is an early intervention approach for pre-driver age young people. The decision to focus on this group was a response to concerns by the partners to deaths and serious injury rates amongst 17-25 years particularly in rural areas. As such, this initiative was intended to reach young people before they became drivers and introduce good attitudes towards driving and provide a long-term solution through an early intervention approach.

What does this initiative involve?

This initiative was a one day training course for pre-driver young people aged between 14-17 years who were taken by their schools to an airfield, where they were provided with an opportunity to drive a car. During the driving experience they had two coaches who were representatives from two emergency services (police, fire or ambulance). During the coaching session they were shown how to operate the car and provided with road safety advice. An added element to the day is that when the young people were not driving they were shown a crashed car and SFRS and the ambulance service would show them how they deal with car accidents. The focus of the initiative was providing young people with a real life situation which they may experience in the future and provide early intervention before they become drivers so they are aware of the possible consequences.

This approach was viewed as innovative and different from other road safety initiatives by the police, fire, council and private partners due to the young people being given the opportunity to drive. This approach is seen as moving away from the more traditional methods such as PowerPoint presentations and showing films, and instead provides the young people with hands on driving experience.

Who participates?

The police, fire and ambulance service worked in partnership to deliver this initiative, with some funding from the council and Scottish Government. It however, could not have taken place without private investment from local business owners who provided the cars and airfield for the training to take place on. These business owners had concerns about road safety amongst young people and were keen to become involved. They also took on a coordinating role including liaising with the local schools for them to bring the young people during school hours to the initiative. The emergency services all provided their staff time and equipment.

What has been the impact?

This initiative is in the process of being independently evaluated. It is not clear at this stage what the long-term impact will be of this one day input on the future young drivers. However, the partners involved in the initiative looked at similar approaches being used outside of Scotland including teaching young people under age 17 to drive and found that the likelihood of them being involved in accidents in their first year of driving reduced significantly.

Interest has been shown from other areas and they are in the process of sharing their learning. The approach has also been nominated for national awards for innovation and partnership working and has received national media coverage. The sustainability for the initiative is based on receiving funding through Transport Scotland at the Scottish Government.

Vignette IV: Safety in the home

The following vignette provides an example of SFRS working in partnership through a community safety hub to ensure safety in the home. This is highlighted as an area of innovation due to the holistic approach to identifying risk factors and vulnerable community members through multi-agency working. This is also an example of day-to day partnership working, where the hub is providing a 'business as usual' approach.

Why was this initiative needed?

The community safety hub was established in October 2013. Before this time, the agencies believed that they worked in silos, in which there was little communication. It was felt that there was a need for more joint working but due to the expansive rural location, co-location was not a practical option. Instead a hub was created to provide daily contact between the agencies. It was acknowledged that due to limited resources across the agencies, working in regular partnership would ensure they could better target the resources they have.

What does the initiative involve?

The agencies involved in the hub refer to it as a 'virtual hub' as they are not co-located in the same building. Instead, the community safety officer produces a daily briefing in consultation with the services on what has been happening in the area over the last 24 hours. This enables them to set daily tasks. They have a face-to-face meeting once a week between all organisations which are well attended. Working in this way has felt to have led to more effective targeting of vulnerable groups.

Examples are provided of joint training, information sharing and joint home visits to identify 'at risk' community members. This type of working is seen as an opportunity for more early intervention approaches, as SFRS are able to identify potential vulnerabilities and refer them to the appropriate agencies before emergency action is required. One example, is SFRS alerting the council of community members who are hoarding items in their homes which may be a fire risk as well as potential indicator of mental health issues. Other examples, include SFRS attending flu jab clinics to provide CPR training and offer home safety visits to elderly community members and looking for risk factors in the home in relation to domestic violence. SFRS are viewed in the hub as providing the most referrals to other agencies due to risk factors they look for when conducting home safety visits.

Who participates?

The community safety hub consists of SFRS, housing, anti-social behaviour teams, community safety teams, Police Scotland and community care access teams.

What has been the impact?

The community safety hub has not been evaluated however, this approach is believed to provide a more holistic way of working with vulnerable community members. It is also thought to lower response times as the agencies work together to problem solve and share tasks. The biggest benefit of this type of working is viewed as 'communication, communication, communication'. The agencies involved identify shared aims as well as a shared understanding of each other's roles and how they can effectively work together.


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