POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER FOR BEDFORDSHIRE
Title and Reference – PCC/D/101
Subject: Allocation of funds for Independent Needs Assessment/Research to inform 24/25 Commissioning
Report of: Police and Crime Commissioner
A comprehensive Needs Assessment to be completed by an external academic body, potentially a local university/ academic body, to analyse criminality in Bedfordshire to inform future commissioning intentions in conjunction with the Police and Crime Plan 2021-24 and the 3 Local CSP Priorities. Consideration will be given to specific crime types and emerging themes where prior research/ data collection activity has suggested a trend.
The research will be commissioned with a view to begin activity from 1st October 2023, to complete prior to 31st March 2023.
It is important for the research to fully consider, understand and report on the demography of Bedfordshire, acknowledging the differences between the local authority areas, the emerging communities within and the onward impact to demand and to ensure service delivery is proportionate to the demand seen across the county. With a diverse community, particularly in Luton and areas of Central Bedfordshire, an in depth understanding of the diversity of the communities within and how they interact is important, to ensure that service provision is not only accessible psychically but also in terms of community connectivity.
A decision paper was presented to and approved the PCC in quarter 4 of 2022-2023, outlining the below context of themes that are to be considered within the research with a focus on.
Independent Needs Assessment to inform 24/25 Commissioning – CSF B990 – £25,000
The Community Safety Fund is utilised to contribute to reducing crime, crime prevention, reducing reoffending and community safety.
The new commissioning strategy developed in 2022 outlines the need for all funded services to be commissioned based upon an established evidence base and a detailed needs assessment. It is important that the OPCC leads strategically in determining how funds are allocated using a whole system view rather than responding to funding requests of individual charities and organisations.
An internal needs assessment was completed by the commissioning team in October 2022, with a view to informing funding allocating for 23/24 however there is a need for an independent review of demand across Bedfordshire to inform the allocation of CSF funding in the longer term. The independent review will provide due diligence, robustness, and transparency for future commissioning processes, ensuring that providers who are unsuccessful can be provided with feedback in an objective and impartial way.
The research piece will build upon the CSF Needs Assessment completed by the Commissioning team and will encompass areas outlined in the Police and Crime Plan which have not yet been researched.
The research must include the following emerging themes gleaned from the internal needs assessment.
Homelessness + Substance Abuse
Bedfordshire has many vulnerabilities such as domestic abuse, substance misuse and trafficking and exploitation, all vulnerabilities which can influence homelessness. It is also known that homelessness impacts criminality, with the Queens Nursing Institute reporting that 30% of rough sleepers admitting to committing a “minor crime” such as shop lifting or ASB and a 1/5 had committed an imprisonable offence with the aim of receiving a custodial sentence as a means of ending their housing problems. Currently NOAH are partially funded to support those at risk of homelessness through their welfare centre, in the first quarter of 2022 they supported 416 people, many of whom had vulnerabilities such as substance abuse.
Through quarterly monitoring meetings with providers from 2022 to present, vulnerabilities such as alcoholism, substance misuse and ACEs are discussed in terms of the impact of criminality and also the impact on victims and the services they require. Further understanding is required into the true and developing impact of vulnerabilities on crime types and the level and type of support required by victims. The commissioning team have a responsibility through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) funding allocation which is the largest funding allocation through the office to provide victim services. It is important that the MOJ funding is awarded in a way that correctly responds to demand.
Anti-social behaviour (ASB)
In Bedfordshire, 15,306 crimes were reported in relation to ASB, robbery and theft, 30% of all crimes. The Police and Crime Plan stated that ASB was one of the most commonly reported crime types for Bedfordshire Police. The Athena data evidences this and also suggested that a great amount of ASB, robbery and theft offences are reported in the South of the county, with the majority of crimes reported in Luton. Additionally, the Victims Needs Assessment identified that victims of ASB felt unable to access safe spaces during this time and ASB victims often felt overlooked and that there was little support available, this is compounded in cases where there is no criminal element as the victim does not meet the criteria for the Victims’ Code of Practice.
ASB is often reported as a victimless crime, however consideration should be given when funding services, to ensure that victim services offer appropriate and proportionate support to all crime types and victim needs. An understanding of the impact of ASB crimes on victims is imperative when understanding practical support options for victims.
Cybercrime has risen at an alarming rate according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales. Computer misuse was seen to increase by 89% from 2019 to 2021 with a large number of reports relating to hacking incidents. Bedfordshire Athena data shows that 1717 crimes were recorded as online crime. Online crime has a vast victim demographic with victims varying between the age of 2 to 100. A majority of victims are female, there are 776 female victims and 513 male victims, the remaining 428 are not stated. The Police and Crime Plan recognises cybercrime under priority 7.2, cyber-crime is also recognised as an emerging priority for Central Bedfordshire Council, their Safer Central Strategy identifies cyber-crime as an emerging priority with a focus on resolving the issues through early identification and intervention.
The Victim Needs Assessments identifies that many victims have experienced a reduction in resilience since the pandemic and some victims felt unable to receive support for the crimes the experienced as services were not as easy to contact during lockdown situations. Additionally, the office for National Statistics states that the pandemic impacted patterns of crime, reducing crimes such as burglary and theft from the person however this was disproportionality impacted by the rise in criminality regarding computer misuse as social contact reduced and people remained in their homes.
Further to impacting victim resilience and crime types, the pandemic also impacted capacity and demand for health services, the charitable sector and the court systems which have an onward impact on the commissioning cycle and service provision. Research into the impact of the pandemic is required to understand where victim engagement has changed, where needs have changed and where additional vulnerabilities are present. Additionally, there is a need to understand new trends following the pandemic such as home working and AI/ reliance upon internet networks which may influence criminality and victim engagement.
Cost of Living Crisis
As a result of societal changes such as the pandemic, the emerging conflict between Russia & Ukraine and protests regarding the use of fossil fuels, the cost of living has risen with inflation rising to 10.1% in September 2022, largely above the anticipated 2% inflation target. Inflation in fuel prices, the cost of goods and the cost of rent has impacted many families and it is noted by the Institute for Government that poorer households are experiencing higher inflation which is leading to food poverty and increasing the risk of homelessness, these are vulnerabilities which are known to influence criminality.
Research into the impact of the cost-of-living crisis is required to understand the influences on crime types as well as understanding the additional vulnerabilities put upon victims of crime.
Wider consideration should also be given to the impact on national funding bodies such as the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Home Office which are required to amend their funding arrangements to cover core/ immediate costs such as salaries of government employees, while balancing the increasing need for victims services with increasing demand being seen numerically in terms of referrals and in length of support required.
Fraud increased during the pandemic, with £1.3 billion stolen by criminals through authorised and unauthorised fraud in 2021, including remote banking, internet banking, telephone banking, mobile banking, and cheque banking fraud. In Bedfordshire only 99 fraud crimes were recorded between 1st April 2021 and 31st April 2022, this suggests underreporting as fraud is an increasing crime type. For Bedfordshire, the victim demographics are vast varying between 22 years old and 85 years old. Where data was recorded, all victims were either White British or from a White other background, and only 7 males and 5 females were reported. This suggests an issue with underreporting.
Trafficking and exploitation
Emotional, practical, and therapeutic support is required by victims of trafficking and exploitation.
Such crimes can have profound and long-lasting impacts for victims and this service is focussed on often vulnerable service users with a high level of complex needs, who must at all times be treated in the upmost dignified and respectful manner.
The service must adopt an evidence-based approach using:
Bedfordshire NRM referral analysis, Bedfordshire third party modern slavery referral data and Police recorded crime & local intelligence.
The ‘Slavery and Trafficking Survivor Care Standards’ from the “Human Trafficking Foundation” should be applied to ensure the service addresses the needs of this complex client group effectively by utilising best practice approaches.
Given that Bedfordshire has good commuter links via rail and road travel to London and London Luton airport that serves roughly 17 million passengers a year making it the 4th largest airport in the UK. London Luton Airport travels to over 30 countries and 70 unique destinations across Europe including Albania, Slovakia, Poland, and Romania which are in the top 20 non-UK countries of origin for potential victims for modern day slavery.
Police and Crime Plan:
Priority 4.2 of the Police and Crime Plan stipulates that the Community Safety Fund should be used to support offender management and prevention of criminality. Additionally, the Community Safety Fund should be allocated in such a way that each community-based priority within the Police and Crime Plan is considered. The Police and Crime Plan alludes to the need for preparedness, priority 7.3 states that beyond the Strategic Policing Requirement, the Police and Crime Plan must support a response to matters of crisis.
Considerations of Partnership Work:
An academic partner will be approached to complete this research, the academic body approached will have relevant and local knowledge of the complexities within Bedfordshire. Partnership engagement with current funded providers and Local Authorities will be required to support this research. It would be advantageous for the provider to be locally based as it will be imperative for them to have an in-depth understanding of local complexities.
Route to Market/Delivery:
A direct award will be made to a nominated academic body with relevant and local knowledge and exceptional research capabilities, having completed research on similar research topics.
Long Term Considerations:
This is an independent piece of work that will not be completed each year. Given the development and speed of societal changes, it may be suggested that this work is completed on a cyclical basis, every 3 years ahead of a PCC election process to inform future funding processes, outlining the demands of the county which can inform future PCC Plans.
The process will be completed in line with the OPCCs commitment to working closely with 7 Force Commercial Services, ensuring that the Commissioning Team and wider OPCC adhere to the local Financial Regulations and Contract Standing Orders which set out the following financial thresholds:
£0-£5,000 – one written quote required to commission services
£5,000 – £50,000 – three written quotes required to commission services
£50,000 and above – services to be commissioned via competitive tender.
For this process, the allocated budget was restricted to £25,000 therefore the appropriate process will be to obtain three written quotes. Three written quotes will be obtained from local academic bodies such as local universities and colleges to ensure local accessibility while providing assurance on quality with experienced researchers completing the piece.
It is recommended that the successful academic body be awarded based on their ability to access information, meet the timescale proposed and has expertise/ previous experience in sociology, economics, victim care or criminality.
The research will build upon the needs assessment generated by the commissioning team, covering the topics detailed above and will form a usable document to inform future commissioning cycles, development of the police and crime plan, inform collaborative conversations and to support lobbying of funding authorities.
To note decision
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner
I hereby approve the recommendations above.