Partnership working

August 2012

Topic briefing

A briefing on partnership working for senior practitioners and policymakers working in child accident prevention, covering the key issues, the policy context and how to develop effective partnerships.

Key issues in partnership working

  • Effective partnership working is recognised as a key way to reduce the number of children killed or seriously injured in accidents. It should form an important part of any area’s childhood unintentional injury prevention strategy and work plans.
  • Partnership working can help to achieve cost-effectiveness and avoid duplication of effort, making sure that all available resources are used in the best possible way. When organisations and teams are facing immense pressures on budgets and resources, partnerships can be a way to continue making a real impact on the accident prevention agenda.
  • Forming and maintaining good partnerships requires time and effort, but it is an investment that will pay off. Remember that partnerships can take many different forms, from close integration which might involve sharing budgets or jointly funding posts, to loose partnerships and networks that can shift and develop according to the task at hand.

Policy arena

Since around 2008, with the publication of the Staying safe strategy and action plan, national public health and safeguarding strategies have emphasised the role of partnership working in improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people, including reducing unintentional injuries.

Reviews and studies into child accident prevention have repeatedly found that strong local partnerships are the key to successfully reducing unintentional injuries among children and young people.1

The new public health system

Partnership working is at the core of the new public health system, with health and wellbeing boards (HWBs), joint strategic needs assessments (JSNAs), and joint health and wellbeing strategies all providing opportunities to embed partnership approaches to unintentional injury prevention.

HWBs in particular have the potential to drive forward the child accident prevention agenda across a whole range of organisations and stakeholders. While the structures and processes for working with HWBs will vary from area to area, each one should provide the overarching view of local needs and priorities that is critical to planning and delivering activities to reduce unintentional childhood injuries.

Partnership working in road safety

Partnership working is also seen as key for road safety. The 2011 Department for Transport research report Delivery of Local Road Safety states that “partnership working enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of local road safety, and generates cost savings”. It also notes that the benefits of integrating road safety into the broader local authority policy agenda include access to alternative funding streams and the skills and resources of other departments.

Injury prevention co-ordinators

In 2009, a cross-departmental review of child accident prevention recommended that local areas appoint child injury prevention co-ordinators. This approach was further endorsed in the NICE guidance for preventing unintentional injuries in under 15s published in 2010.

Local partnership opportunities

A useful starting point for partnership work on child accident prevention is to create a map of all of the potential partner organisations in your area. Try to think broadly at this stage and avoid making any assumptions about why a particular partnership might not work.

Key organisations and structures

These are some of the main organisations and structures which have a role to play in child accident prevention and may provide good opportunities for partnership working:

Identifying potential partnerships

The following questions will help you to decide which of the organisations you have identified will be the most effective for you to work with.

1. Which organisations are responsible for driving the health inequalities agenda in your area? 

The clear link between health inequalities and childhood accidents should be reflected in your unintentional injury prevention strategy. There may be opportunities to partner on activities that address shared objectives such as reducing hospital admissions among children from disadvantaged families.

2. What does local data tell you about the main causes of serious and preventable childhood injuries in your area and the types of injury that incur the highest costs?

You can use local data to identify organisations that have an interest in issues that relate to your accident priorities. For example, if trampolining injuries are one of your main problems, then you could link up with organisations working on healthy lifestyles – a joint campaign could aim to get more young people trampolining and promote safety at the same time. Or if chip pan fires are an area of concern, you could partner with fire safety and public health teams on a campaign that promotes healthy eating and safe cooking.

3. Which organisations already have good links with the audiences you’re trying to engage?

There might, for example, be a community group that has strong relationships in an area with a high proportion of vulnerable families that you’re keen reach, or a faith group that has strong links to people from a particular ethnic group.

4. Which strategies and programmes have a good fit with the issue of child accident prevention?

There are likely to be local strategies and programmes of work that have a good fit with unintentional injury prevention, and where work on this issue could be embedded. For example, a local Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) programme will be concerned with reducing the cost of hospital admissions while an anti-poverty strategy will aim to reduce inequalities and improve outcomes for disadvantaged children.

There are opportunities to integrate child accident prevention into the Healthy Child Programme delivered by health visitors and to include injury prevention in workforce development programmes for early years professionals.

Taking the next step

Once you’ve identified partners that you would like to explore working with, you can start to consider what might motivate each organisation to link up with you on child accident prevention work, or how to get the issue onto their agenda. Some organisations might be driven by the potential for greater impact that partnership working can deliver, while others may be drawn by the opportunity to work more efficiently or generate cost savings.

Our costs of childhood accidents series will help you to make the business case for investment in prevention activities.

Different forms of partnership working

There is no one set model for partnership working in child accident prevention. A sliding scale of approaches is outlined below and you may find your organisation needs to work with different partners in different ways, or be flexible enough to move between approaches with the same partner or group of partners.

  1. Networking: A loose partnership which is mainly about sharing knowledge, exchanging ideas and meeting new people who you might then form a more involved partnership with. Examples include attending a monthly knowledge-sharing meet up or taking part in online discussions on a networking website. 
  2. Co-operating: The first stage of formal joint working, where all parties share information about their current work and, from this point of understanding, agree to co-operate with each other in relevant areas. Examples include cross-promoting similar events organised by different partners. 
  3. Collaborating: Collaboration involves greater commitment on the part of the members. As well as sharing ideas, it means being influenced by the views of other agencies and working together towards shared goals. Examples include setting up a joint project or sharing training of staff. 
  4. Integrating: The closest form of partnership working. It requires effective co-ordination to make sure that all parties are working to the same brief and have the same goals. Examples include sharing budgets or jointly funding a post. 

What makes an effective partnership?

Some of the factors that underpin strong, long-lasting partnerships are:

  • shared goals and understanding of the purpose of the partnership
  • clear roles and responsibilities for delivering outcomes
  • strong leadership and project champions within each partner organisation
  • allowing time to establish trust and joint methods of working, but not at the expense of action
  • joint problem-solving and decision-making
  • sustained commitment and an understanding that it can take time for partnerships to deliver results
  • sharing budgets, when appropriate
  • good governance and accountability.

How Making the Link can help you

Making the Link is here to support people with a role to play in child accident prevention throughout England. We recognise that effective child accident prevention programmes and strategies happen through successful partnership working.

We’d like to hear about the work you’re doing in your area and what’s worked well, so that we can share the information with other professionals on the Making the Link site.

Email us at info@makingthelink.net to:

  • submit case studies about your child accident prevention work
  • suggest ideas for Making the Link resources that you would find helpful
  • find out more about the project or any of the information on our website. 

Explore the Making the Link website to:

Stay up to date with Making the Link

Useful links

Making the Link site links

CAPT links

External links

Download this topic briefing as a PDF

Notes for this feature

  1. The 2007 report Better safe than sorry states that: “Partnerships are the key to the delivery of strategies aimed at preventing unintentional injury and require cooperation at a local level.” See also the 2009 report Accident Prevention Amongst Children and Young People - A Priority Review.

Updated December 2013