This week David Smith, from Voluntary Action Leeds, started a six month secondment to West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner. David tells us how is it going so far.
It's day two of my secondment and instead of my usual desk at Stringer House in Hunslet, I am sitting in an office in Ploughland House, near Wakefield City Centre. Once inside it's crammed with desks everywhere they can be fitted in. The atmosphere is busy, purposeful and quite informal - which doesn't mean it isn't business like.
First few days
My first couple of days have been similar to those experienced by any new starter - getting my work station sorted out, the laptop connected to the system, and taken through an induction into everything you need to know to work from a new base.
In and amongst the settling in there has been plenty of work to do, especially preparing for Wednesday's meeting of the Third Sector Advisory Group set up by Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL) last year. Initial work funded by the Home Office and by the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) led to this full time secondment to make sure the third sector is fully engaged with developments across the criminal justice system.
Let's face it the proposal for elected PCCs didn't exactly set the heather on fire when initially announced, and the very low turn out in the elections in November 2011 didn't help matters. But since then I have found people who have come into direct contact with our PCC, Mark Burns-Williamson, getting a lot warmer to the notion. He has won over people by talking common sense, admitting there are often no easy answers, and talking up the role of the third sector.
The Third Sector's view
From the sector's point of view, Mark has followed through commitments he made at a Q&A chaired by Bishop John Packer shortly before the election. He has given the sector a place at his Partnership Executive Group, provided funding to co-ordinate the sector's engagement, and signed the Compact. He has made a commitment to a new grant programme as well as giving us the opportunity to compete for contracts.
Now he must be one of few PCCs in the country to have a third sector advisor, employed by and accountable to the sector, co-located in his main offices in Wakefield.
No-one really knows what the future holds for PCCs. What matters is that the sector and our PCC are taking the opportunity to recast relationships, in a spirit of civic enterprise.
As I left for secondment last week, I did remind colleagues in Leeds that half the crime in West Yorkshire is committed in the Leeds district, and much of that in only eight or so wards. That represents misery for tens of thousands of people day in day out, night in night out, unable to experience the "quite enjoyment" of life that is a fundamental human right. Yes crime especially burglary has seen welcome reductions in recent years - but West Yorkshire is still way down the league table compared to other metropolitan areas.
Get in touch
The Third Sector contributes so much to this agenda, and has the potential to contribute more. I will be blogging here when time allows to share my experiences, and ideas. The news and events section of DoingGoodLeeds will keep you updated as things develop.
In the meantime, if what I have said here has chimed with your experience or annoyed you, please comment and contribute to a dialogue about the role of the third sector in reducing crime, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. It's too important an issue to leave to the criminal justice system - and it can't solve many of the problems on its own. My email address if you want to contact me directly is firstname.lastname@example.org.