Making the wider connections with community-based networks and organisations

October 2012

Here we outline some of the ways in which people working in child accident prevention can build connections with local people, neighbourhood networks, faith groups and others who can champion child injury prevention and act as advocates with and for individuals and communities.

Empowering individuals and local communities to make healthier and safer choices – and giving every child in the community the best start in life – requires innovative and collaborative work involving a range of networks and organisations. With a renewed focus on the local level underpinning the 'big society' vision, collective efforts to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people can benefit from this wider engagement.

Understanding the needs of communities involves a recognition of the often strong links and attachments to particular geographic areas – the sense of ‘place’.

Community engagement

Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility and it’s important to ensure that local people and communities are involved, informed and take ownership of child safety initiatives. The Department of Health’s Health Inequalities National Support Team (HINST) developed the ‘Five Elements’ model of strategic community engagement (see ‘How to Guide 8) to show the mutually dependent and strengthening roles:

'Five elements' model of community engagement

 Communication channels for different types of community

Community typeExampleCommunication channels might include
Communities of place Street, neighbourhood, village, parish, estate, schools Newsletters and notice boards, community centre, tenant, parent or neighbourhood watch groups, ‘school gate’ contacts
Communities of interest Workplace, pubs and clubs, sports groups, social groups, playgroups and childcare, faith communities Informal ‘word of mouth’ contact, meetings, newsletters, regular gatherings or special events
Communities of identity ‘Ages and stages’ (younger and older), ethnicity, disability Newsletters, local online communities, clubs and events, support groups

Ten steps for effective community engagement

The following ten steps for effective community management are taken from the Department of Health’s Guidance on Joint Strategic Needs Assessment:

  • involve: identify and involve the people and organisations who have an interest in the issues which are being explored
  • support: identify and overcome any barriers to people’s involvement (transport problems, timing etc)
  • plan: gather evidence of necessary and available resources and use these to plan purpose, scope and timescale of engagement and actions
  • methods: agree and use methods of engagement that are appropriate
  • work together and with others: agree to and use clear procedures to enable participants to work with each other effectively and efficiently; work effectively with others who have an interest in the engagement process
  • share information: ensure that necessary information is communicated between participants
  • improve: actively develop skills, knowledge and confidence of all participants
  • feedback: share results will all those involved and affected
  • monitor and evaluate: work together to monitor and evaluate whether engagement has achieved its purpose
  • recognise: people are different, and processes and services should take meaningful account of those differences.

Resources and guidance

Community engagement

  • HINST included community engagement as part of its programme of Enhanced Support Programme resources. ‘How to’ Guide 8 covers how to develop and implement a strategic framework for community engagement, including examples of community types and communication channel and the ‘Five Elements’ model of strategic community engagement.
  • In February 2008 NICE published public health guidance on community engagement.

Existing networks

As well as making the most of the smaller ‘grassroots’ opportunities, effective community engagement for child injury prevention needs to build on existing community and professional infrastructures to maximise the reach, impact and connections with wider leadership, partnerships, workforce development and action plans.

  • The Safe Network has developed core standards and guidance for safeguarding children in the voluntary and community sector. The guidance includes information on avoiding accidents and running safe activities and events.
  • Family members, friends or neighbours whose lives have been affected in some way by serious childhood injury may want to campaign or support local prevention work as local injury advocates. Community networks and individuals such as these can be powerful channels for change, public awareness, environmental improvement and injury reduction.
  • Churches and faith communities will often be the focus for a variety of local action, activities and events involving children and parents, family support including single parents, and healthy living. This may involve informal opportunities, such as taking part in information days. To facilitate an understanding of the role of religion or belief in the context of healthcare and equality of outcomes, the Department for Health has published Religion or belief: A practical guide for the NHS.
  • NHS walk-in centres can be a focus for prevention information as well as providing treatment, especially when local campaigns are running. Data captured at walk-in centres can provide a useful indication of trends as well as information about the incidence of unintentional injury. Community pharmacies also have an increasing role in public health.

Engaging ‘hard-to-reach’ groups

  • Research compiled by the Family and Parenting Institute on engaging ‘hard to reach’ families highlights the need for “multiple access points”, outreach work in a variety of community settings, and the involvement of local partnerships and parenting forums.
  • The final report of the Neighbourhood Road Safety Initiative central team (please note that this link opens a PDF) found that, in seeking the views of parents living in low socio-economic areas, researchers were able to tap into the first-hand knowledge which came from witnessing poor driving behaviour and illegal activity at close quarters. Recruited through ‘community gatekeepers’, such as residents associations, school liaison and through other regeneration and community-based initiatives, the parents represented hard-to-reach groups, ethnic minority communities and others who were able to provide fresh insights and evidence of the threats to safety and risks on their doorsteps.
  • It is important to provide easily accessible, basic practical information to help migrant families to settle into a new country and new surroundings. Safety in the home and on the roads are among those essential information needs for children and families. The Local Government Improvement and Development (LGID) website has a range of guidance publications on managing migration, including Integrating new migrants: communicating important information (PDF) and A guide to including migrants in Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

Other local services and organisations

There are a range of other local services and organisations that work with children, young people and families. While they will have different roles, there may be opportunities to build partnerships around everyday safety reminders, family events and community involvement. Examples include:

  • Local businesses and retailers may wish to support child safety messages as part of their local community initiatives. This type of partnership work can provide extra visibility and opportunities for highly targeted outreach to families.
  • Local libraries are focal points for building community links with children and families. Simple safety messages can form part of creative projects, literacy and reading schemes, holiday and fun activities and other learning opportunities.
  • Sports clubs and facilities can offer ‘role model’ support for safety messages. The Department of Health Yorkshire and Humber has worked with local clubs to promote healthy living and safety through sporting links and events. The THINK! child road safety campaign worked with football clubs to help 6–11 year-olds learn how to find safe places to cross the road, after evidence showed that this is a key factor in helping children stay safe on the roads.
  • Play England runs an annual Playday and, with the Play Safety Forum, has developed guidance on managing risk in play provision.
Updated June 2013