With twenty years of experience working in the criminal justice system I was curious about the opportunity presented by the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) to co-opt two new board members from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) to represent Devon and Cornwall. Having worked in partnership with Hannah Hart who is the Business Manager for the LCJB before on various partnership projects I knew roughly what the LCJB had responsibility for and what their priorities were. I reflected that having worked for 14 years in statutory services and 6 in the VSCE I would have the right sort of experience to work in this forum. I'm also fiercely passionate about getting it right for the people who come into contact with the criminal justice system and saw this as an opportunity to influence change and better represent the people we work with. Therefore, I applied for the role and am delighted to have been offered the Devon position. The aim of this blog is to share my journey with you as I take on this new role. I want to demystify the work which is being done, share with you the progress that is being made and highlight some of the challenges to our sector and that of statutory services with the express aim of reducing misunderstandings and fostering a collaborative enterprise. I will try to offer personal reflections and share with you what I have learnt in this blog and some of the implications for my practice and leadership. I will try to avoid jargon and say it like it is. 

My first board meeting will be in August, but I have already begun to get stuck in by trying to deepen my knowledge about the broad VCSE sector in Devon and the South West. Looking at the pivotal and highly useful yearly survey published by Clinks called The State of the Sector[i], it is clear to me that the VCSE and statutory services share some of the same significant challenges like working relentlessly in difficult circumstances to support increased numbers of people coming to their services with more complex and urgent needs. However, unlike statutory services organisations in the VCSE sector have no recourse to public funds and often must rely heavily on philanthropy and grant funding to do the vital work they do. But given these challenges there are still great opportunities to collectively make a difference together for those most affected by the criminal justice system. One opportunity can be found in the richness, depth and variety of VCSE services delivering in our area. The VCSE is no longer the poor partner, it is vibrant, innovative and far from ‘old fashioned’. This was shown in the last CLINKS survey in 2018, where our area operated a good number of available services in a considerable number of related and interconnected fields. However, given our unique geographical challenges the reality is that services may not be available across the entire area and may be either isolated or concentrated in more urban areas which complicates the potential connectivity and collaboration which could be achieved. 

Many years ago, in the sector we used to have a good idea of who was doing what and there seemed greater opportunities for networking, collaboration and partnership engagement. But of course, times have changed, and resources are stretched. But there is hope as we look toward the innovative work which is going on in places such as Plymouth where an alliance of VCSE and statutory services have formed and are now working together to deliver support services for people with complex needs, trying always to keep them and their needs at the heart of the partnership. I feel immensely proud to work in a charity which is part of this alliance and I am hopeful that other partnerships of this nature will form in the county. 

So I look ahead with apprehension, excitement and an open mind. I feel empowered through this appointment to work with the most senior of leaders in the criminal justice sector to influence decision making, identify opportunities for collaboration and most importantly be the conduit in which the people most affected by the criminal justice system can have their voice heard. I hope you will join me on this personal and professional journey of discovery. Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog.

In the meantime, I would be delighted to hear from you about your thoughts and how we can work together. I want to hear your experiences; the good and the bad. I want to hear about what drives you and what challenges you about working in this sector. What feels good and what doesn’t. I want you to help me to identify opportunities and threats so that I can keep the LCJB appraised of the state of our sector. You can contact me through email, social media, on the telephone or come and say hello if you see me out and about.

Twitter: @DavinaCull Email: [email protected] Phone: 07398177765

[i] https://www.clinks.org/publication/state-sector-2018