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Community Justice - A new approach to making communities safer

Since 1st April 2017, West Lothian Community Planning Partnership (CPP) has been responsible for developing Community Justice in West Lothian. Following several years of discussion and planning, the Scottish Government and Scottish Community Planning Partnerships have now completed the launch of Community Justice as a new way forward for Scotland.

This is about delivering services for people who offend, and, even more importantly, also about widening our vision about ways to make our communities safer and more law-abiding places. The information below gives more detail on Community Justice and how it is being developed with the CPP in West Lothian.

In Autumn 2016, a number of West Lothian justice partners launched a survey to find out people's views about a range of issues relating to community justice.  This involved gathering the views of residents of West Lothian, including those who receive services and those who deliver services. The findings from this survey can be found in pdf icon Community Justice and Community Engagement in West Lothian [171kb].  This information will help to inform the development of future plans.

What is Community Justice?

There are several components to the concept of Community Justice. Reducing offending is very important in this, not just by helping people with convictions to change their behaviour, but by helping them to be (and to be treated by others as) ordinary members of the community.

However there is a broader agenda for Community Justice, which is about reducing crime and the harm it causes to individuals and communities. This is partly about helping communities develop knowledge, resilience and empathy in managing the behaviour and problems of their own residents. It is also about having the right things in place to divert towards more socially responsible activities those people who are at risk of behaving inappropriately or doing things that harm others.

Who is responsible for Community Justice?

The body that is leading this change in West Lothian is the Community Planning Partnership (CPP) - a body that uses the collective talents and resources of local public services and communities to bring about positive change as it addresses local priorities. 

Partners in the CPP each bring to the table a wealth of knowledge about the needs and the hopes of West Lothian's people and communities; each partner also brings along a range of resources that can be co-ordinated to provide the most benefit for everyone. Crucial in this is an emphasis on reducing inequalities.

What are the wider responsibilities of the Community Planning Partnership?

Community Planning is not a new concept - the original Act of Parliament that authorised it was passed in 2003. However, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, which replaces the earlier Act, makes a number of significant changes to community planning legislation.

First of all, the 2015 Act gives community planning a statutory purpose for the first time.  This focuses on improving outcomes and tackling inequalities in achieving outcomes, and particularly considers localities whose communities experience the poorest outcomes.

Secondly, the number of statutory partners for Community Planning has been expanded. The expanded list of bodies in the 2015 Act includes, for example, Health and Social Care Partnerships, Integration Joint Boards, regional colleges, Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage. All the partners can contribute to the shared task of making our communities better places to live.

Thirdly, there is a legal duty upon CPPs to engage with and consult with a wide range of partners. This is not just about formal bodies, but any group that may have views that should be considered.

What are the benefits of partnership and community engagement?

CPPs need to know that they have taken into account as much information as possible about problems in their areas and about existing approaches to these. They also need to acknowledge that part of the solution is likely to lie within communities and the resources that these communities can marshal. They therefore have to be sure that proposed methods of addressing these problems are seen as appropriate by the people who will experience them and who will help resolve them.

How does the CPP tell people what it is doing?

The CPP is required by law to report on its activities, and to demonstrate how it is progressing with the activities it has identified as important. This is to be done in various ways; the CPP must:

  • prepare and publish a Local Outcomes Improvement Plan (LOIP) which sets out the local outcomes which the CPP will prioritise for improvement. It has been agreed that pdf icon West Lothian's Single Outcome Agreement constitutes our LOIP [1Mb].
  • through identifying smaller areas within the local authority area which experience the poorest outcomes, prepare and publish Locality Plans to improve outcomes on agreed priorities for these communities (these outcomes may be the same as or different from those in the LOIP)
  • review and report publicly on progress towards their LOIP and locality plans, and keep the continued suitability of these plans under review.
  • in relation to Community Justice, prepare and publish a Community Justice Outcomes Improvement Plan and relevant progress reports. The CJOIP will relate to the CPP's Local Outcomes Improvement Plan, but will focus on expanding the range of our techniques to achieve justice outcomes. Read the pdf icon West Lothian Community Justice Outcomes Improvement Plan [683kb]
How will CPPs support the development of Community Justice?


In summary, the model now being implemented involves Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) taking on responsibility for local planning, management and delivery of a range of services focusing on reducing re-offending and creating safer communities. There is a newly-created central organisation, Community Justice Scotland, that offers national leadership and co-ordination, development and roll-out of best practice, and an interface with the Scottish Government.

What will our Community Justice approach look like in practice?

There are a number of ways to approach this agenda. We should acknowledge the high standard of services already provided locally to help people change their patterns of offending and to keep our communities as safe as possible. Among the organisations that carry out this work, we already have very good partnership working.

Staff in the Criminal & Youth Justice Service manage statutory orders from courts and the Parole Board. This involves helping people to change unacceptable patterns of behaviour, monitoring some of these people to reduce to the minimum the impact of their behaviour upon their communities, and providing opportunities for people who have offended to make amends with their communities by carrying out Unpaid Work as part of a court order.

To do all this, they need to work closely with a wide range of colleagues from other local and national organisations, including Police Scotland, local substance misuse services (from both the statutory and non-statutory sectors), providers of other health services, and a number of other service providers who can help individuals with a range of personal problems. A number of community groups are key partners in this, by offering opportunities for people on court orders to carry out Unpaid Work.

However, managing people who offend is only one part of the wider agenda for Community Justice. We need to continue to expand our vision. We should be able to identify a range of activities that we will continue to carry out or that we will begin to do - activities that will enhance the wellbeing of our communities and the individuals living within them, both in terms of reducing re-offending and further improving public safety.

We acknowledge that this requires all partners to adopt a better understanding of what they could achieve. We need to 'work upstream' - putting services in place, often from when a child is young, that encourage families and individuals to develop a positive regard for their community and the people among they live.

What does 'working upstream' mean?

We know that the 'upstream working' approach works - we have been steadily increasing its use in West Lothian for at least a decade. We understand that it can reduce the likelihood of the subsequent behaviour of these individuals being an issue for themselves, for their families, and for the wider community.

At the same time, we need to acknowledge that setting someone off on the right path is not sufficient - we have to ensure that pathways continue to be available for them to travel along, in whichever direction they want to travel. This makes demands on a wide range of services - both those provided by statutory bodies, and those provided by communities themselves.

Who will be partners in carrying out this 'upstream working'?

Organisations that currently provide services will continue to have a role - communities need support through the provision of skilled educators and providers of health care, they need public protection through the presence of police and justice services, and they need a range of facilities that are of importance to the community, such as roads and social housing.

But at least as important is the encouragement of initiative among members of our community - the people who provide leadership, personnel and fund-raising for the many dozens of organisations in West Lothian that provide a huge range of general and specific services for local people.

What about the costs of this work?

There is of course a significant problem - the fact that providing services, facilities and opportunities is not a cost-free enterprise. Whoever takes responsibility for these activities, basic requirements for them to happen are money and time, two things that are generally in short supply both for organisations and individuals.

However both within the Scottish Government and at the West Lothian level, there is an acknowledgment that we can achieve more by innovative use of the resources that are available to us. Partner organisations employ staff who are flexible and inventive in their approaches to problems. We also know that there are many people - volunteers - working hard within our communities to make a success of providing a wide range of services - offering support of many different types, or running activities to encourage other people to participate in learning, developing skills, and simply enjoying themselves.

Effective sharing of these resources - skills, knowledge, experience and enthusiasm more often than money - is seen as the key to success. Known for short as 'leverage of resources', this concept can clearly help our communities cope better and become more resilient.