Is ‘Partnership Working’ a ‘Long-term productive institution’ OR simply a ‘marriage of convenience’?
Partnership (noun): 1 the state of being a partner or partners. 2 an association of two or more people as partners. Partner (noun): 1 a person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business with shared risks and profits. 2 either of two people doing something as a couple or pair. (Oxford Dictionary)
I’m sick to death of hearing senior police officers and council officials banging on about their ‘partner agencies’ and ‘working in partnership’ when it often just doesn’t happen!
Carry out a (UK only) Google search on the term ‘police working in partnership’ and look at some of the 1,150,000 returned results:
- West Yorkshire Police, Press Releases, Policy Statements, Partnership Working. (www.westyorkshire.police.uk)
- Information about the Police Authority’s partners. (www.nottinghamshire.police.uk)
- Partnership Working. Organisations such as police authorities, police forces, health trusts, fire services and local councils are involved…(www.gmpa.gov.uk)
- Across North Yorkshire and the City of York, North Yorkshire Police officers and staff work in partnership with a wide range of local, regional and national … (www.northyorkshire.police.uk)
Judging by the amount of police entries you would think a Google Gold Star competition was taking place 🙂
The words used in the search obviously reflect the result in that; most of the pages originated from within public sector and enforcement type organisations in particular. Not a very scientific test I know but it starts to illustrate the point of this piece.
The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act (CDA) established partnerships between the police, local authorities, probation service, health authorities, the voluntary sector, and local residents and businesses, to work to reduce crime and disorder in their area. (North Yorkshire Police)
The main thrust of the CDA was to introduce the concept that; reduction of crime is not simply the remit of the police. Other agencies have their part to play in the process. Most would agree with the thoughts driving the legislation however, doesn’t the ‘partnership working’ process go much deeper than crime alone? It should but often doesn’t…
In that case, and secure in the heart-warming knowledge the local authorities have The North Yorkshire Strategic Partnership structure, shouldn’t we all feel happier that, our agencies appear to be ahead of the game? Let’s wait and see…
Well, isn’t there masses of advice, information, guidance and instruction available on crime reduction and working with ‘partners’ to help them? Yes there is, but it’s still not bloody working!
I’m convinced the predominant reasons for failure are strategic as opposed to operational ones:
- Budgetary and Financial Constraints – In these days of much tighter financial controls (hopefully) every agency, every director and every department head has to manage and adhere to strict budgets. The budgets, which are usually set by parent agencies and/or government departments, consequently leave the person holding the purse strings little or no room for manoeuvring. It is not unknown for devolved budget holders to look for ways in which they can shift responsibility for any expenditure to a ‘partner agency’.
- Information Flow – Most agencies act and make decisions based upon factual information and/or evidence. If there is no record of a particular issue being a problem, in the eyes of a budget holder, it simply does not exist. The fact that a problem has occurred but hasn’t been recorded is immaterial.
Some areas of concern (without giving specific examples) that cause concern are:
- Crown Prosecution Service (Govt. remit)
- Noise nuisance (Local Authority remit).
- Social Services referals (County Council remit)
- Dangerous/Stray Dog issues (Local Authority remit).
- Mental Health Services (NHS remit)
- Highways and/or roadside furniture (County Council remit).
- Urban CCTV systems (Local Authority remit).
- Out of hours Doctors (NHS remit).
- Funeral Directors (County Council remit)
How can this be ‘working in partnership’?
In real terms, the police who just like councils and government departments, also have limited physical and financial resources, often end up shouldering the responsibility for providing a ‘service’ to the public.
Sometimes these agencies simply don’t comprehend (or care) that people have problems at all hours of the day and night. Today’s society is 24hr and many of its problems require a 24/7 response.
Not the next day when the office is open or after the weekend. Or even worse, during the next financial year when new budgets are in place.
Heaven forbid that anyone should need help outside office hours or indeed, at 9pm on a Friday evening… They’ll just have to wait until Monday morning at the earliest, unless it’s a Bank Holiday of course! 🙂
Yes partnership working with a multi-agency approach to tackle the issues within our communities is the way ahead. However, to actually make the concept a reality things need to change. Cost effective use of limited resources (by all agencies) will only happen when they are all pulling together. Anything else is just more hot air and PR spin!
The stability of any family is based upon ‘partnership working’ and contribution from both the mother and the father; anything less often leads to difficulties or total breakdown!