Introduction – VRU Director

This Violence Reduction Unit Strategic Needs Assessment (SNA) provides a living and meaningful tool to assist communities and partners, working together, to develop Local Plans to prevent the causes of violence and reduce harm.  It does this by identifying the risk factors that drive violence and promoting the protective factors that can reduce the likelihood of involvement in violence, and its impact.  It supports a growing evidence base of evaluated local interventions that specifically target vulnerable individuals, places, and populations in public health approaches to prevention.  It does this by analysing a range of publicly available and securely shared data and information and presenting them in a clear and concise format that is ready to use across a wide range of organisations and community networks.

The SNA therefore has four aims:

  1. To protect our citizens from violence through the sharing and utilisation of data and information from a wide range of partners, in support of Local Plans.
  2. To promote collaborative multi-agency prevention efforts between systems and across sectors.
  3. To prevent people from experiencing violence by providing a framework and template to support evidence-based interventions, and local evaluations of impact.
  4. To identify opportunities to pursue offenders and reduce harm through focussed deterrence, disruptions, diversion and, where necessary, targeted justice interventions.


There are now decades of research and evaluation that together identify what causes the drivers of serious violence that can have such a damaging effect on individuals, their families, our communities, and neighbourhoods.  The VRU pays specific attention to those affecting our most vulnerable populations.  This is especially necessary at the intersections of; poverty, gender, race, and disability, that too often multiply adverse experiences and lead to poorer outcomes in health and social life, and can drive contact with justice services. This analysis has helped us to identify the risk and protective factors that need our collective attention in order effectively to treat disparities that can lead to a carousel of social exclusion and violence.  We do this by accessing the best information that indicates what is affecting people, through our joint Thames Valley Together data project.  This is an innovative approach to the way data and information streams are analysed to inform decision-making. The project is able to collate hundreds of live data feeds from across our local partners; in policing, local authority, education, youth offending, health, and criminal justice services. It provides a single data platform that enables us to create tailored, and accessible, visualisations of our analyses – like this SNA; utilising shared data for public good.

Sharing data and working together in collaborations using evidence based interventions across the life-course, and subjecting these to evaluation, are key parts of a public health approach to prevention.

The underlying principles of a public health approach are that it is:

The VRU translates these principles into practice, as illustrated in figure 1 below, utilising this SNA to support the most vulnerable communities:

Figure 1 VRU translation of a public health approach

In delivering this approach the VRU supports and encourages the development of Trauma Informed Practice and this SNA goes some way to identifying the burden of trauma on our communities and our staff. Trauma-informed practice is an approach that is grounded in the understanding that trauma exposure can impact and individual’s neurological, biological, psychological and social development, thus shaping a person’s world view and relationship development in adverse ways.

Being trauma-informed means assuming that people are more likely than not to have a history of traumatic experiences and that these experiences may impact on their ability to feel safe within or develop trusting relationships with services and their staff.

Trauma-informed practice is not designed to treat trauma related difficulties. It seeks to address the barriers that those affected by trauma can experience when accessing care, or coming into contact with justice services.

Key principles of trauma-informed practice

There are six principles of trauma-informed practice are to provide; safety, trust, choice, collaboration, empowerment and inclusivity. Trauma Informed Leadership promotes and embeds these principles across organisations and communities.

By taking a public health approach and using data, evidence and trauma informed practice within our local place-based systems, the Violence Reduction Unit and our constituent partners seek to deliver earlier interventions, tailored to local need, which are informed by the sharing of information and delivered through strong multi-agency arrangements working with and for our communities. Through this activity, we aim to tackle serious violence earlier by addressing its root-causes, keeping communities safe and healthy, and delivering efficiencies for partners.

Stan Gilmour
Director of the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit