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Taking stock to avoid a postcode lottery

Did you know that Colchester and Guildford are the most dangerous places in the UK for learner drivers? And that Peterborough and Darlington are the safest? No, me neither. According to a review of data relating to the rate of accidents per 10,000 provisional licences held in these areas, Colchester is a place where there were 25.5 road accidents per 10,000 whereas in Darlington the rate is less than 1. It’s not clear as to which year these statistics supplied by the Bill Plant Driving School apply, but on the surface, the variation is dramatic.

I spotted this in a free paper I picked up at my local Sainsbury’s at the weekend and it was the only item of passing interest. On the same day, I read about huge regional variations in the use of Stalking Prevention Orders. These Orders are designed to implement measures that can offer more safety and assurance to people who are affected, both in an attempt to prevent escalation and at a stage prior to possible prosecution. Some police forces had not issued any between when they were introduced in 2020 and 2021, despite the fact that two police force areas have witnessed large spikes in reports of stalking in the same period. In addition, the Orders have been criticised for the seeming slowness of the application process.

Health services research can also tell us about better surgical outcomes in some areas, and judicial sentencing surveys show where a custodial sentence for a similar offence is more likely. All in all, it seems that the postcode lottery (and not the widely advertised ‘People’s’ one) still exists and how you fare at a time of personal crisis or trauma may depend on where you live.

Just over four years ago the Methodist Council agreed to a new plan for the establishment of a Connexional Safeguarding Team that would supervise the work of District Safeguarding Officers. One rationale for the scheme was that it would create a consistent and standardised approach to the work, so that from Newcastle to Newquay, Dundee to Dover and all points in between, the Church would respond to safeguarding concerns in broadly the same way. Survivors would be assured that common standards of professional practice would be applied, and the revamped training programmes would spell out to all, our policy requirements and what support local churches could expect to receive. The overall aim was to develop and promote an improved culture of safeguarding that would be recognisable across the whole Connexion.

Four years on, it’s time to test whether the Church has achieved its goal of consistency and avoided geographical variations in practice. So next month the Methodist Council will study outline plans that have been drawn up with the intention that they will help the Church take stock of itself and identify where in safeguarding it is either doing well or needs to do better. Some in London will be aware of the work that Becky Skinner and Karen Stapley have done already in this field, and how vital such processes are. The Connexional plans will likely dovetail well with what Districts are currently committed to doing, and there will be scope to shape the details over the coming months. This is an important project for the Methodist Church as we anticipate more scrutiny of what we do following publication of the final IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) Report, expected in the summer.

So, if you want to avoid a road accident, it seems overall, and according to Department of Transport figures published this month, Blackburn and Darwen is the most dangerous place to drive in the UK, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan are the safest. You have been warned.

Oh and how did last week’s conference go, you ask? A summary next week.

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