Community hubs – ‘a significant shift away from office-based supervision’

Independent research has shone a light on the use of community hubs in probation.
The Centre for the Community, Gender and Social Justice at the Institute of Criminology within the University of Cambridge undertook a six-month study into community hub activity being delivered by Working Links across Wales and the South West of England.
Community hubs are multi-agency settings where a range of organisations work together, to provide joined-up services in one location. In Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, we currently work from 9 community hubs – including women-only hubs – helping to deliver rounded services to individuals.
Each community hub aims to provide access to a range of services including housing and debt support, addiction services and employment, volunteering and training opportunities. In addition, many provide additional services and facilities, including mentoring, health and wellbeing, refreshments, mental health services, credit unions and other practical provision. Often this type of support will help to reduce reoffending.

The research found that:
  • Community hubs are more than neighbourhood reporting centres. However, their location is important for service user compliance and engagement. Service users like having services close to home.
  • Community hubs represent a significant shift away from office-based supervision practice.
  • Supervision at community hubs can provide individualised support for change and enable service users to make community links that will last beyond their contact with the CRC.
  • Community hubs don’t have to be the same. A one-size-fits all approach doesn’t work.
  • The characteristics and skills of the people who work in community hubs are paramount. Service users spoke about the importance of professional relationships and clearly valued their interaction with CRC people at the hubs.
  • Service users responded positively to workers who were welcoming, warm and reliable. They appreciated consistency of staffing and avoiding the need to tell and re-tell their personal story.
  • The community hub model increases service user awareness of the work of other agencies and smooths, speeds and sometimes does away with the referral process to these services.
  • Open-plan hubs make it particularly easy for individuals to interact with a range of services.
  • The key areas of support are those that address criminogenic issues, including housing and homelessness, drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, employment and training.
  • Community hubs strengthen inter-professional relationships. People working at the hubs explain that they know more about the work of other agencies and benefit from opportunities for informal discussion. 
Talking about the partner agencies involved in community hubs, one service user said: “They’re all there and it’s all in the one room and you can hopscotch from one desk to the other. And, when I leave, I feel like I’ve achieved something.”

Another said: “The access to the services is great. The staff that I’ve dealt with are great. And, as I say, having all the services in one place is like a one-stop-shop.”
Trevor Gardner, Community Integration Manager at Working Links, said: “Community hubs help to take away the badge of ‘offender’, and support them to access a range of services, facilities and opportunities within a community setting, ensuring that the problems people often face can be responded to in one place. This enables people to access services close to home, which is known to be an important part of rehabilitation and preventing further offending behaviour”.
“We look forward to continuously developing our community hub model with our partner agencies to ensure our delivery is as effective as possible in reducing reoffending.”  
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