Janine Green Chats….The Community Trigger

Episode 2 of my podcast (Janine Green ASB Chats…….) saw me welcome Jenny Herrera as my guest. Many of you will know Jenny as the Chief Executive of ASB Help, a charity which advocates for improved support for victims and witnesses of anti-social behaviour (ASB).

Way back in 2012, we were presented with the white paper called “Putting Victims First”. This was the first time that we really became aware of the Government’s intention to overhaul the ASB legislation, resulting in the ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The title of this paper seemed to make clear the main reason for this overview: ensuring that victims were at the heart of cases of ASB; action could be taken quicker and easier and that victims would have more of a say in how their case of ASB was dealt with.

One of the tools that was designed to achieve the above was the Community Trigger. Attracting the most media and public attention when the white paper was published, it allowed for a resident to request a review of their case of ASB, should they feel that it had not been dealt with properly.

This tool has been of great interest to Jenny and her charity since its inception. Clearly, the reasons for it’s creation align greatly with the purpose and mission of the charity; ensuring that victims receive the best possible service and the harm they are experiencing stopped as quickly as possible. The charity first published a report on the tool in 2016, which can be read in full here: https://asbhelp.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The-Community-Trigger-Empowerment-or-Bureaucratic-Exercise-Sept16.pdf. In summary, the report found that the Community Trigger was being under-utilised, the awareness of it was low and the satisfaction levels of those using it poor.

Earlier this year, a decision was made to revisit the tool and see whether the picture looked brighter. Rather frustratingly, the situation appeared largely unchanged. A copy of the report released in March 2019 can be found here: https://asbhelp.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ASB-Help-The-Community-Trigger.-Where-We-Are-Today.pdf

It clearly identifies a number of issues still remaining, particularly around accessibility of the process and accountability. This blog does not seek to repeat what can be read within the report and I would encourage you to spend some time looking over the report for yourself.

What this blog does intend to do is sum up some of the practical guidance that Jenny and I discussed in the podcast episode:

1. Accessibility

One of the key issues that Jenny found when conducting her research was that activating the trigger process was really rather difficult. This was for a variety of reasons including: the information being difficult to find, call handlers not knowing what the Community Trigger is and long waits on hold if using a telephone number as means of making contact (particularly where the Police 101 number was given as the point of activation).

Jenny’s advice in relation to this included:

o Trying to avoid using the 101 number as the point of activation. Quite simply, the telephone number experiences a high demand and victims may be likely to give up if it is taking them a long time for the call to be answered
o Ensuring that the information contained on websites and other public facing resources is clear. ASB Help are currently working on preparing some example wording that is clear and can be used by organisations when promoting how to access the trigger. I will ensure that this is shared with my mailing list when it becomes available.

2. Thresholds

The research showed quite clearly that different areas have slightly different thresholds. This is of course to be expected when the legislation allows for such local flexibility. There were issues however of areas making the threshold particularly high, or insisting that a case had to be closed in order for it to be reviewed. When we consider that part of the rationale for the introduction of the Community Trigger was to ensure that tragic cases like that of Fiona Pilkington did not occur again, clearly these level of criteria are dangerous.

There is a real need for areas to reflect on their thresholds and decide whether they really are in the spirit of what the Community Trigger was intended.

3. Awareness

The amount of Community Trigger applications has been low, with over 40% of Local Authority areas reporting no activations within the year 2017-18. Because of this, the fact we are 3 and a half years down the line and staff changes have occurred, people are no longer aware of the Community Trigger. In addition, few call centre staff are aware which is problematic considering they are often the first point of contact within a Council or Police force.

The advice is clear: make sure that information about the community trigger is contained in the induction and training programmes of all relevant staff, including call handlers, as well as ensuring that there are regular refreshers.

4. Purpose

Two key things came out of Jenny’s research: firstly, that there was some confusion over the difference between the organisation’s complaint process and the Community Trigger process; secondly, that organisations and practitioners still feared the Community Trigger as another means to rap them over the knuckles for not doing their job well enough.

Best practice is seen where an organisation understands that the complaint process is designed to deal with service complaints, such as where a member of staff has been rude or a policy has been breached. The Community Trigger doesn’t focus exclusively on whether an organisation has acted correctly and in line with their policy, rather whether there is anything else that can be done to resolve the issue. It is surprising how many complaints teams are not aware of the community trigger, meaning they can not suggest it as an option to the complainant, if more suitable.

Jenny is also keen for organisations to see the trigger as a means for reflection and learning, a chance to think creatively about possible solutions and really take a partnership approach.

5. Communication

Jenny found some examples of good practice within her work. Cases where the Community Trigger worked well, and the victim was most satisfied, all had one common element at their core: good communication with the victim. Too often the victim who had activated the community trigger stated that the process after was difficult to understand and they did not really receive any information about the outcome.

Examples that did work well occurred where the victim was contacted on receipt of their application form, were kept fully up to date with the manner in which their application was progressing, were invited to part of the review meeting and were given full reasoning for the outcome.

What is really clear is that the community trigger process is flawed; it is simply not achieving the things that it set out to do. Sadly however, there is real evidence that where it is utilised effectively it can have numerous benefits for not only the resident but also the organisations concerned. Above all else, let’s use 2019 as the year to review our local Community Trigger processes and embed some of the learning arising from the work of ASB Help.

Do let me know if you have any thoughts about future podcast subjects or guests. If you wish to join my mailing list and be first to receive copies of my blogs, resources, news stories and podcast episodes then please sign up here: https://mailchi.mp/ad14bc02b848/janinegreenasb

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