Three priorities for delivering community action
The Government's Champion for Active Safer Communities today set out her top three priorities to help people make a difference to their neighbourhoods. In a new report, Baroness Newlove pinpoints the availability of easy to access online information, a new drive for public sector volunteering and the tackling of binge and underage drinking, as key to achieving her goals.
In March this year, Baroness Newlove published her report Our vision for safe and active communities, which called for neighbourhoods to be seen as equal partners in resolving crime, antisocial behaviour and disorder. Today's update highlights where she is focusing her energies and also the Government's progress in meeting the challenges raised by her earlier report.
Working across Government and with community groups and activists, the three areas Baroness Newlove will concentrate on are:
- Creating an online 'home' for community activism. Building on existing online services, these easy to find and simple to use 'hubs' will provide community activist 'starter kits', together with useful links, contact details, up-to-date funding information and the ability to recruit potential volunteers online.
- Creating a thriving 'civic service'. Encouraging public servants (like Whitehall civil servants, council staff and the wider public sector), who want to volunteer their skills and time to grass roots activists, providing a range of specialist support from IT, to project management to simply dealing with often complex bureaucracy.
- Improving the prevention and tackling of underage drinking. Baroness Newlove is positive that more can be done to help communities get on top of problems tied to drugs and alcohol. She is working with the drinks industry and Government to address problem drinking and chairs an Advisory Board leading the roll-out of Community Alcohol Partnerships which bring together local retailers, trading standards and police to eradicate the problem of underage drinking and associated anti-social behaviour.
Baroness Newlove said:
"I promised that my report would be a springboard for further action, supporting those inspirational people who, having seen their neighbourhoods deteriorate, have decided to do something themselves rather than sit back and let someone else 'fix it'.
"From meeting committed people up and down the country, I know there is more Government can do to unlock the system and bust the barriers that get in the way of successful community activism.
"I am delighted that two sources of government funding will support this work and I encourage grassroots activists everywhere to apply. Choices and the Innovation Fund from the Home Office are there to supply £14million of 'fuel' to set this country alight with innovative, inspirational local projects and activities to bring fun and friendship, and in turn safety and security to our neighbourhoods everywhere.
"And I am grateful that the private sector is also rallying round. The £800,000 pledged for the extension of Community Alcohol Partnerships will help drive down crime and disorder associated with alcohol abuse and make life safer and more pleasant for everyone.
"We need to build on the excellent work already out there and replicate it elsewhere. One of the biggest hurdles to getting things done is the complex public sector language and bureaucracy that locks ordinary people out with jargon and regulations. That's why I am working with government to tip the scales. Government should be there to help communities to help themselves, not complicate things and so frustrate and alienate good citizens.
"The new home for community activism will mean no one will be more than two clicks away from simple, easy to use practical help and resources. Our great public servants will be able to get out of Whitehall and the town halls, and use their experience to help in their communities. We're all in this together."
Writing in the foreword to the report the Prime Minister said:
"Helen Newlove is a remarkable person. She brings a special brand of passion, determination and common sense to public life. She has demonstrated true courage in turning a tragic act of violence into a force for good.
"Grassroots community activists across the country can take confidence from having such a strong voice in Whitehall and Westminster.
"I'm delighted therefore with the progress she continues to make, as set out in this report. Like Helen, I am passionate that we work in partnership with communities across the country to develop strong families and strong neighbourhoods as the foundation of a bigger, stronger society."
In addition to the three priorities Baroness Newlove has identified, a range of activity is underway across Government to drive up community activism, build safer neighbourhoods and allow communities greater control or influence over the budgets used to tackle crime.
Baroness Newlove intends to publish a review of progress on delivering her priorities and on championing active, safer communities more widely in Spring 2012.