Having just joined the BSC team three weeks ago, I was keen to go along to see the Board in action and put some names to faces.
Gillian Russell, (Director for Safer Communities at the Scottish Government), reflected on her first year as Chair of the Board and her role as “Champion” for Possilpark. Gillian outlined the importance of way of understanding what matters to a community is to spend time there. It is important to be clear where you as leaders the Board members can add value alongside a range of wider activities and engagements - it’s not always about more money and resources, it’s about using available resources better and in a way that the community wants. Possilpark for example has a lot of assets, but also a lot of challenges. Simple initiatives, such as the creation of a parent council for the local schools can make a real difference to peoples’ feeling of inclusion and ownership. Two good examples that have run over the summer two initiatives have been very positively received. Police Scotland’s kayaking programme, provided and fun and healthy way to engage positively with local young people and a summer programme offered young folks a lunch and a variety of events to keep them busy during the holidays.
The packed agenda also covered a broad range of issues and reflections from Board Members and stakeholders. There was wide agreement that building trust and rapport with the community was key to success. Communities have seen a number of programmes and projects come and go and it is vital to provide sustained, long-term support to have credibility and confidence. The Board also discussed the merits of championing a theme, such as “The Best Start for Children” to help channel funding and resources where they are most needed. The Board will also look at helping communities with evaluation, make links between resilience and improving safety and look to learn from knowledge and experience of “what works”, including the Violence Reduction Unit’s experience in Hawkhill.
David McGown, Director of Prevention and Protection, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, provided an update on the future delivery of Phase 2 of Building Safer Communities, which aims to reduce Unintentional Harm. This included discussion of a summary report of the Strategic Assessment of Unintentional Harm across Scotland. The report outlined the significance of home safety, with falls being the most significant cause of death through unintentional harm, accounting for 42% of all deaths (which is 16 to 18 times the number of homicide victims annually). We heard, again, that simple initiatives can make a real difference to peoples safety and wellbeing. One initiative in Fife offers a “slipper swap” to older people, who may be at risk of a fall in the home.
After a very interesting couple of hours, we were left with some challenging questions: How do we make sure resources are directed to where communities need them most? How do we share best practice? How do we measure success in relation to the Programme? Over the next few months David will be engaging with stakeholders to discuss these issues and identify the way forward to ensure that answers to these questions and more will be forthcoming at future meetings!