Many national and local initiatives to regenerate disadvantaged communities and tackle wider social exclusion are failing to reap the benefits of joined up working. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that the barriers to joined-up working remain formidable and there is much that still needs to be done to overcome them. The barriers stand in the way of more integrated working between area regeneration programmes and wider initiatives, such as ‘welfare to work’ schemes that target individuals.Local Strategic Partnerships in England, Community Planning Partnerships in Scotland and Community Strategy Partnerships in Wales have been introduced to bring greater coherence to efforts to promote social inclusion. But the researchers found that the partnerships, on their own, are failing to deliver partnership working and other practical steps need to be taken to promote joint working.
Central government is urged to set a better example by making its own departments and agencies more ‘joined-up’. In particular, departments could rationalise their differing performance monitoring and auditing requirements that place unnecessary burdens on local partnerships. Departments and initiatives could set joint targets for promoting social inclusion and make organisations jointly responsible for meeting them. There is also a need to give priority in training and development programmes for staff who need skills in joint working and this capability should be made a key component in performance appraisal systems.
At the local level there needs to be a regular exchange of up-to-date information between local organisations involved in area regeneration and those tackling wider social exclusion to help prevent duplication and mistrust. Overlapping board membership for different initiatives would help to spread knowledge about other organisations and promote joint working. Joint local strategy meetings could be held between area regeneration organisations and other social inclusion agencies to identify common goals and complementary services, and to avoid duplication.
The researchers conclude that there is a long way to go to achieving the goal of genuine partnership and multi-agency working.