20 Years of Challenging Hate #8: The jigsaw puzzle of effective partnership working by Andrew Bolland

Andrew BollandHi, my name is Andrew. I’m proud to have worked for Stop Hate UK for 6 years and have had varied roles within the organisation and am currently Partnerships and Contracts Manager; I believe it’s really important to work with other agencies to ensure victims can receive the best support possible.

Central to everything we do at Stop Hate UK are the people who take that, often difficult, first step to tell somebody about the hostility they are facing and the impact it has had on their lives. When somebody does contact us via one of our helplines, our team, who are there throughout the day and night, offer the very best of help – giving service users the time to explain what they have been going through, listen to how they have been affected and discuss what help they need to stop the abuse and allow them to move on from the abuse they have been facing. We discuss the different options that are available to provide support and offer referrals to specialist organisations. Whilst I am sure the direct emotional and practical support we offer is of great assistance to victims, I equally recognise the value of the services offered by partner agencies and how by working together using a holistic approach we can ensure that the best possible support is provided.

So who are the partners we work with and what makes the partnerships work effectively? We work with not only with statutory agencies such as local authorities, the police and Police and Crime Commissioners but also with other national and local voluntary sector agencies, community groups, social housing providers and specialist service providers.

So how do we ensure our partnerships work effectively? Effective partnership working relies on a number of factors:

Having a common objective – This goes back to the essence of why we are all here – we’re here to support victims, families and communities who are affected by discrimination and hostility. Partnership working allows us to concentrate and focus our efforts on specific objectives and outcomes jointly with other agencies who are delivering complementary services.

Understanding partner agencies – Every organisation is different. They have their own vision, aims, unique story and identity, culture, ethos, way of doing things and provide a range of specialisms and services. Different agencies will have differing service delivery targets and funding mechanisms. Also, organisations are made up of people – so it is important to understand the structures in place within partner organisations and the role and remit of key contacts within the organisations. Having this understanding enables us to show respect to other agencies and develop relationships that are constructive and deliver outcomes for victims that allow each organisation to achieve their overall objectives and together provide the support that is needed by people.

Knowing your place in the partnership – Working in partnership is similar to building a jigsaw puzzle; individual organisations, the pieces, are put together and when complete, produce an outcome, effective support for victims that enables them to cope and recover – a picture. When a piece of the jigsaw is missing, for instance – an organisation providing their unique and specialist services, the outcome may not be as good as it could have been. For example, Stop Hate UK could (and do!) provide the very best of reporting and support services via our helplines and dedicated team; but, if we were not able to work with partners delivering specific and specialist services such as – the Police who can investigate incidents, housing providers who can respond to tenant issues, voluntary agencies who can provide ongoing emotional support, advocacy assistance etc. , we would be less likely to provide the victims with outcomes that fully meet their needs.

Trust – Ultimately partnerships rely on trust. An understanding that agencies within the partnership deliver effective services; some partners may be better placed to deliver tailored support to the person who has been affected by Hate Crime than others – other partners need to be willing to refer or signpost on when appropriate. Partners need to be comfortable sharing information to ensure services work effectively and able to have constructive discussions about ways in which individual partners can work better together developing and improving their services further so that service delivery for individual service users is optimised.

So there it is successful partnership working in a nutshell! But, clearly there are pressures that sometimes make things more complicated.

In recent years we have all gone through a period of austerity that has put pressure on organisations; less funding for services leading to fewer staff and in some cases the loss of vital organisations and services. Fewer staff means increased pressure on those remaining – more varied job roles, more work and less time to do it in! Sometimes individual agencies find themselves competing against each other for funding or a higher profile; and sometimes it may feel easier to concentrate on our own core services rather than spend time in meetings with other organisations trying to develop joined up approaches. It’s a viewpoint I guess – but let’s go back to the jigsaw metaphor and ask ourselves “Does my organisation have all the knowledge, skills and abilities, experience, systems, services and time to deliver all the support that a victim of Hate Crime needs?” I know my answer would be no – I and my organisation can play a part, yes we can help – but without other organisations we could never deliver all the outcomes that will help someone truly recover from the impact of hostility.

So can partnership working really work? For us, yes it can. For example, 18 months ago Stop Hate UK were commissioned to provide our Stop Hate Line Service throughout Merseyside. The service is funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) with active support from the Merseyside Criminal Justice Board, their Hate Crime sub-group, Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. In addition to our reporting service, Merseyside Police, the PCC and local authorities across Merseyside have also been active developing and promoting a large number of community based third party reporting centres who signpost people to the helpline. These centres based in housing offices, libraries, museums, local authority offices, fire stations and hospitals. Additionally, funding has been provided to the Anthony Walker Foundation (AWF) to coordinate ongoing advocacy support to victims of Hate Crime. AWF work with other specialist organisations to ensure tailored and holistic support is provided to meet victim’s needs whatever the hate motivation is based on – someone’s disability, faith, gender identity, race, sexual orientation or other aspects of identity. This support is further aided by the referral of cases to multi-agency case review meetings to access assistance from other agencies as appropriate. It is no coincidence to me that, as a result, we have seen a significant increase in reporting both to the Stop Hate Line and direct to the police in Merseyside. Local communities have become more confident reporting incidents and they recognise the coordinated multi-agency activity that is taking place to challenge hostility, increase reporting and support victims.

So, my final thought? When I have to be on a train at 6am in the morning to get to a meeting in a distant part of the country to meet organisations who we work with – do I feel tired? Yes, of course. Is it worthwhile? Yes, of course it is. When those meetings lead to ongoing positive relationships that facilitate joint working to support people who are suffering the impact of discrimination and hostility – it’s a small price to pay!

 

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