Neighbourhood Watch newsletter #35

Hi folks,
Welcome to LNWA Newsletter #35. ACPO, the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office, the Neighbourhood & Homewatch Network and LNWA

Introduction –
the voice of Neighbourhood Watch membership has found a significant, new expression. In just 12 months from April 2009 to March 2010 the voluntary movement one of the biggest in the country  has seen one of the most important developments in its 28-year history. Thanks to Home Office investment to build up and renew its structure, the movement has a new national, umbrella organisation to link, support and advise its 173,000 local groups.

‘Having a national umbrella to support and represent local groups is key’, says Marion Lewis, the first elected Chairperson of the new, national organisation, recently awarded an OBE for her work in promoting community safety. ‘The Network exists to support local volunteers with resources, to help them share best practice and also to enable us to collaborate with other organisations.’

Research has shown that Neighbourhood Watch is an effective way of protecting communities. Crime is reduced where residents are actively engaged in caring for the place they live in and where locals have places to meet and to work creatively together. A local Neighbourhood Watch is a partnership where local people come together to make their area safer. Residents typically work with police, community safety officers, and other voluntary organisations to protect their homes and reduce the risk of fire and damage to property. This is achieved by promoting safety awareness, greater vigilance, accurate reporting of suspicious events and acting as a focus for neighbourhood activity. Local Neighbourhood Watches also provide ready-made and responsive routes directly into communities for the police to consult, engage and tackle problems with local people  more crucial than ever since the roll-out of Neighbourhood Policing, the single most important development within the delivery of policing services in recent years. As concern about crime continues to remain top of local concerns, how has the new organisation come into being and how can it help support local groups to make their neighbourhoods safer?

Creating a new network – the Neighbourhood Watch movement has been around since 1982. A previous national body folded and, by 2007, many members felt the need for a new organisation to share best practice, foster peer learning and to provide a voice for the movement at a national level. Fortunately, a national forum existed to respond to the situation. Since 2004, with the support of the Home Office, the National Strategy Group on Watch Issues (NSGWI) has met to look strategically at how Neighbourhood Watch could work with other agencies to improve life in local communities. The NSGWI supported the movement through the difficult times. But, because its membership included representatives ranging from the police and fire services to local government, business, housing and tenants organisations, the group could see how – with the right national structure in place – the movement could do much more.

‘We could see the potential’ says Mark Custerson of Hertfordshire Police, representing ACPO on the National Strategy Group. ‘So in 2007 we funded three symposia around the country for local members to express their ideas for the movement’. Those who came to the symposia agreed that a new way of organising themselves was necessary. They didn’t want an expensive top-heavy system, but they did want a national representative structure for the movement to enable members to consult and to pass information and highlight issues that could then be dealt with at the right level. A system of representation at force and Regional level was quickly agreed upon and the Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network born. Now, Neighbourhood and Home Watch members in each of the 9 English Regions and Wales can elect their own representative to sit on the national body. By early 2009, it became clear that, in order really to make its mark in terms of supporting local members to fight crime, the national body required investment to build capacity.

Building national capacity to equip local groups – in 2009 the Home Office set aside £500,000 to fund local projects run by Watch schemes as part of the ‘Securing Homes, Action Against Burglary’ initiative. Recognising the potential of NHWN to nurture schemes and increase the diversity of the network the Home Office made a further £500,000 available to develop the national capacity of the movement. The investment strategy built on existing work of the NSGWI to grow, develop and diversify the membership of the movement and the NSGWI continued to be involved throughout the planning, delivery and management of the capacity building programme. But with funding only available for one year, the network would need to be transformed into a national organisation built to meet the needs of local groups almost from a standing start. There were a number of challenges. NHWN needed to be formally registered as a charity, its constitution worked out, systems developed to communicate with, grow and extend the diversity of the 173,000 local schemes, and a clear brand established. NHWN also needed to act as a means of sharing best practice around the movement. With an ambition on this scale it was clear that it would no longer be possible to run the organisation simply on a voluntary basis and that a small staff team and back office facilities would be needed and it would all have to be accomplished within 12 months. Putting in place the right support for the volunteer regional representatives was key so the Home Office engaged Capacitybuilders to act as a partner to manage the development grant on the department’s behalf and to work in a hands-on way with the network to deliver all the strands of the programme of activity. Capacitybuilders is a non-departmental body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office, which funds improvement and modernization in civil society organisations, as well as building up the evidence base of what works. In addition, the ACPO representative, Mark Custerson, was seconded to be programme manager for one year, to work closely with the Chair, make sure the various strands of activity were on track and report back to the NSGWI.

NHWN began working with the Design Council to find ways of reaching out to the widest range of potential members. Capacitybuilders also involved the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Their work was to help develop important aspects of the governance for the new organisation, including developing the charity’s mission vision and values, forming the board, creating policies and procedures, business planning and human resourcing and recruitment.

‘With all this activity we needed to make sure that the membership was fully engaged in the process’ says Marion Lewis. ‘So, with Capacitybuilders’ help, we organized five conferences around the country. These allowed members to feed directly into the policies and business plan of the organisation. Having the full support of activists has given us the confidence that we were creating something people really want, with priorities that make sense to them.’ Capacitybuilders engaged a research organisation to compile examples of good practice, including work to increase the diversity of the movement in local communities. By March 2010, there were 37 such examples, which now form the core of a range of tools to help groups raise their game. To equip local groups further, the year saw a series of peer visits between groups. These helped local members to learn directly from people in other communities facing similar issues. All this learning will feed directly into new training resources which the organisation will launch in the second half of 2010. And with a view to improving the training role of the organisation still further, work was also completed to consider the feasibility of specialist training for local members to be formally accredited as a Vocationally Related Qualification. This intense activity, to join-up and strengthen the movement’s internal core, began to realise its potential in terms of external partnerships. During the year, Age UK approached NHWN to help it engage local groups to meet the needs of elderly people. Recognising the potential of Neighbourhood and Home Watch groups to look out for vulnerable elderly people and help them improve the safety of their homes, Age UK worked collaboratively with them to produce a specially targeted toolkit. Training roadshows were quickly booked and copies of the toolkit were requested from every part of the country. So where is the organisation at the end of this period and where might it go next?

Twelve months on civil society gains a new resource – crucially, the new organisation itself has come into being. The Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network is one of the UK’s newest registered charities. It has a governing body, drawn from the elected regional representatives and if it needs to, it can draw board members from other areas to bring specific skills and experience. The systems, processes and financial controls which an organisation needs to be transparent and compliant are in place. In its own words, it exists ‘to improve community life across England and Wales…by listening to and supporting grassroots members, coordinating national activities on their behalf and representing them so that their voice is heard.’

The work of the last year places the charity in a strong position to achieve that mission. Work with the Design Council will soon create a clear brand image and a new website. These will enable messages and statements to resonate with as wide a group of potential members as possible. The work means that people can easily access the information they need quickly and simply so they can get involved and begin to make a difference. The case study resources mean that there is now a strong body of accessible, tried-and-tested examples of how local Neighbourhood and Home Watch schemes can work in partnership with the police and other organisations. Continuing to build on this resource and presenting it in accessible, helpful ways will be one of the key ways the national organisation can directly support local schemes.

One of the most significant tasks of the newly-created board has been to agree a business plan. Written with a five-year horizon in view, the business plan sets out clear goals and actions to help the grass roots grow and increase the movement’s influence nationally. Highlighting the importance of making the organisation more inclusive and representative, the business plan sets out a route map ‘by 2015 to transform NHWN into an independent, credible and effective voluntary sector organisation that improves the quality of community life across England and Wales.’

A newly recruited staff team consisting of an operations director, development manager and information and database officer will provide the support and person-power needed to help the organisation deliver on its ambitions over the next few years.

In terms of investment, the organisation has a grant from the Home Office for 2010/11 to cover the staff costs and fund the projects needed to take forward the business plan in its first year. And after one of the most intense years of engagement and action that the movement has known to date  the organisation is poised to continue its journey with confidence, enthusiasm and ambition.

Where to next? – Neighbourhood and Home Watch may be the largest grass-roots movement in the country with 173, 000 local conveners covering, according the British Crime Survey, as many as 3.8 million households. So the appearance of a national organisation focused on representing and equipping local residents is a significant step in the movement’s history (the Home Office is considering separately how to support Business Watch and similar schemes). Collaboration will be key to making the most of this unique social asset. On the one hand, enabling members to network and facilitating effective two-way communication between the grassroots and their national voice will help ideas, intelligence and skills circulate more easily. With the right web-tools local groups will be able to help each other directly and the membership can increase its reach, diversity and influence. That is why continuing to develop a communication system which joins the national organisation with local members is a top priority for the new support team. But collaboration with organisations and agencies outside the movement will be very important. As the example of the Age UK and NCVO collaborations show, NHWN can both receive help from and bring real value to the work of other Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations.

At a national level policy makers and decision makers are eager to engage with the movement and seek its views and opinions on how local residents can be empowered more effectively to bring crime down. The new regional structure, in place since 2007, already allows more effective partnership working with the police and other strategic partners. The new organisation, with its potential to speak about what works at a local level, can bring even more weight to those discussions. The potential of further collaborations is also at the centre of the new trustees’ fundraising strategy. Neighbourhood and Home Watch occupies a unique place in the VCS and the organisation aims to convince other funders of the importance of that contribution and gain wider financial support for their mission to support the watch movement. The importance of these partnerships is one reason why the Home Office is supporting the organisation with funding for one year to help implement its business plan.

Clearly there are many challenges to come, particularly in the current economic climate. But it is just these sorts of challenges that highlight the potential of Neighbourhood Watch not just to tackle crime but to help create caring and supportive communities. As Alistair McCrindle, the new Treasurer of NHWN, says, ‘We’re really looking forward to the coming years. It’s always exciting when you’ve got challenges you think you can succeed in. We’re here to make a difference, because that’s what Neighbourhood Watch is about.’

With a clear view on strengthening their inclusivity and diversity and building a strong voice for the organisation at both local and national levels, NHWN is well positioned to become the sustainable, effective and creative organisation the trustees aim for. One that can support local people to take action against crime in a way that is right for their communities.

In a speech on Monday 19July, the Prime Minister outlined the Government’s plans for the Big Society. He suggested the Government would seek to empower communities by involving people in running and controlling local services. The success of the Big Society will depend on the daily decisions of millions of people  on them giving their time, effort, even money, to causes around them – so government cannot remain neutral on that. It must foster and support a new culture of voluntarism, philanthropy, social action.

An excerpt from the PM’s speech identifies that Neighbourhood Watch has a role to play in contributing to the Big Society by helping to empower local communities; (to quote: “for instance, starting a new neighbourhood watch scheme, youth club or an after-school club if they realise that’s when most of the trouble begins”).

NHWN is encouraged by the support from the PM and other ministers which clearly evidences the role the Watch movement across England & Wales can play in helping to empower local communities. Exciting new initiatives from NHWN, including the launch in the autumn of a new, updated, national website will assist in providing timely and valuable information to grassroots Watch members and Watch Associations at local, force and Regional level to ensure that, wherever possible, the Neighbourhood & Home Watch movement can become active contributors to the Big Society. The full text of the PM’s speech can be found at:
The Home Office has launched a consultation paper
Policing in the 21st Century: Reconnecting police and the people. Key elements of the new strategy include:

· first election of police and crime commissioners to hold police forces to account and strengthen the bond between the police and the public in May 2012; · a powerful new National Crime Agency to lead the fight against organised crime and strengthen our border security;
· greater collaboration between police forces to increase public protection and drive savings;
· phasing out the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA);
· cutting bureaucracy, removing restrictive health and safety procedures and freeing up officers’ time; and
· a clear role for everyone, including members of the public, in cutting crime through beat meetings, neighbourhood watch schemes and voluntary groups.

The consultation, which will run until 20 September, is broken into 5 chapters. You can see and respond (either as a whole or taking one chapter at a time) at:
Thames Water is currently involved in an on-going campaign to reduce the number of distraction burglaries in the Thames Valley region (including Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, London and Guildford). Campaign material includes communication of the key message “If Unsure Don’t Open the Door”, Door Step Password Scheme, access to a direct dial hotline number, especially for vulnerable customers to check the genuineness of a water company caller at the door, and the extra care service for customers who are elderly and/or disabled.

Watch schemes may order posters for distribution and member events, which can also be altered on request to reflect local schemes and current issues around bogus callers. Leaflets should also be available. For a more in-depth discussion about how Thames Water may assist your area with tackling distraction burglary and to order campaign material, please contact Chris Betteridge, Customer Diversity Manager on 01793 476051 or email or visit

The Metropolitan Police have recently posted some advice on the News section of the MPS website to help Londoners keep their homes secure this summer to help reduce a seasonal increase in burglaries where thieves get in through open windows and doors. You will find it at:
If you would like to receive regular news updates for publication throughout your Borough, you can sign up for them at:

Rather than highlighting individual scams this month, I thought I’d point you to NatWest’s excellent web pages on this subject. You don’t need to be a NatWest customer to follow through the explanations as nearly everyone has been targeted and the information is relevant wherever you bank. Go to:

Here is also a link to The Job, issue 49 August/September 2010, dealing with policing issues around Brick Lane.


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