Rebalancing Act

Paul Anders

Today sees the launch of Rebalancing Act, a resource produced by Revolving Doors Agency with support from Public Health England and the Home Office.

Rebalancing Act builds on Balancing Act, published about 4 years ago. That briefing was published to mark changes to the health and criminal justice systems; this resource seeks to move the agenda on by looking at more concrete ways in which partnership and collaboration can be strengthened to address the health inequalities faced by those in contact with the criminal justice system.

We’re very happy to have had the enthusiastic support and involvement of Public Health England and the Home Office through the process of developing the resource, and we’re grateful for the many people who have contributed through being involved in the round table event held in 2016, or through commenting on early drafts.

The people who have reviewed the resource are broadly reflective of the intended audience – Police and Crime Commissioners and their teams, public health specialists, people from local authorities, and stakeholders from many parts of the criminal justice system. We hope that their involvement and contributions have helped to make the resource relevant.

The briefing contains an executive summary, and there is little point in reiterating it here. One observation I would make, however, is that the development of this resource has, in a way, highlighted the need for one of the main changes that we call for.

Despite the help and support of the Home Office, PHE and other government departments, the amount of publicly available national data that we could identify is limited, and the amount of local data variable. In some cases we’ve had to use relatively small scale studies for illustrative purposes. In others, such as the prevalence of mental ill health among the prison population, we’ve had to use larger, but old studies, carried out when the prison population was smaller, and different. We’ve also spoken to stakeholders in various parts of the system who not only hadn’t had sight of, but who also weren’t aware of the existence of some of the data resources that they should receive as a matter of course.

This highlights the need to work collaboratively to pull disparate data together, and to ensure that gaps are filled where practicable. The place-based planning hubs we describe need high quality local data to stand a chance of assessing levels of need and, critically, to be able to measure success against a broad range of indicators.

As we suggest in the resource however, getting the data is only one part of the story. Other vital ingredients include working together to foster the deep understanding that true partnership can bring, being able to analyse the data effectively, and delivering evidence-based interventions. As the evidence of ‘what works’ can be patchy, this may mean being willing to innovate and thoroughly evaluate progress made. Involving service users and, where applicable, their families, friends and communities, in each stage of the process can help to provide a more meaningful and three dimensional picture.

Rebalancing Act hopefully makes an interesting contribution to the debate, but the central point is that the debate has to happen locally with strong local leadership. We’d be delighted to be part of any discussions, and also to hear about any examples of good, innovative or interesting practice that you might be involved in. If you’d like to speak to us about any of this, please drop Paul Anders a line at: