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Neighbourhood Safety Initiative - Focus Tables

Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves

Official policing or law enforcement, even through the facilitative approach of NSOs and SROs, is not enough in itself to deal with the socio-psychological issues that are crucial elements in community instability and unsafety, and a Focus Table provides a practical issue-based bridge between policing and social development professionals.

Objective

To contribute to the safety and quality of life in a neighbourhood by dealing professionally and effectively with individual cases of trauma and distress.

How does a Focus Table operate?

A Focus Table regularly brings together professionals working in the community to focus on individual cases involving social and psychological issues and to make recommendations on appropriate follow-up actions, including referrals.

A Table therefore includes social workers with a variety of professional specialities and responsibilities (for example, early childhood education, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, family dynamics and domestic violence, etc.), representatives of locally based NSOs, Social Crime Prevention officers if locally available (community education, programmes on alcohol and other drugs, etc.) and SROs.

The Focus Table model not only provides a forum for finding appropriate ways of dealing with difficult individual cases, but is also a convenient and unique means of sharing information and requesting or proposing actions across very different sectors working in a specific community (particularly from social workers to police, and vice versa).

This regular but informal sharing strengthens institutional capacity as well as benefiting individual community members.

The Focus Table does not run its own programmes but aims to facilitate the best possible use of existing programmes, resources and skills. It may however make recommendations for improvements or innovations if it becomes apparent that there are clear needs and opportunities to be addressed.

Essential elements of an effectively functioning Focus Table

  • awareness of the common goal: increased safety, social cohesion and quality of life within a designated area
  • regularly scheduled meetings
  • the regular presence of locally based practitioners with relevant professional skills
  • clear definition of the roles of participants
  • respect for the variety of skills and perspectives present
  • clear and informed direction from the Chair
  • an agreed standard format for reporting on specific cases
  • confidentiality: no names of individual cases come to the FT – access to the forms is on a need-to-know basis, monitored by the Chair
  • a person tasked with archiving the Case Reports for summary reporting purposes
  • sufficiently detailed minutes of meetings to ensure follow-up and accountability.

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