Lack of understanding amongst policy makers is leaving the most vulnerable at risk

Monday, 1 June 2015 - 4:57pm

Listening to the views of those with direct experience of multiple needs is essential in improving the way they are supported.  

Photograph: Dave Goehring (Flickr)
Photograph: Dave Goehring (Flickr)

A report launched today by a coalition of charities shows that people with multiple needs – a combination of offending, substance misuse, homelessness and mental health problems –are not getting the support they need because policymakers aren’t consistently listening to them or the practitioners that support them.

Solutions from the Frontline is based on the ideas and experiences of people with multiple needs. It sets out how the new Government, as well as national and local policy makers and commissioners, can act to reduce stigma, improve services, and support people to achieve their ambitions.

In the March 2015 Budget the Government committed to exploring options to integrate spending around vulnerable groups of people in order to improve cost effectiveness. Every year 58,000 people face multiple needs and their contact with services is often ineffective, leading to more urgent and expensive care being necessary. Current estimates suggest that the annual cost of treating multiple needs is between £1.1 billion and £2.1 billion.

The Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) coalition is committed to addressing this by calling for a new approach, where people experiencing multiple needs are placed at the centre of their own support, listened to, understood and have all their needs addressed.

The recommendations include:

Listen to frontline voices and tackle stigma

  • The views of those with direct experience of multiple needs should be integrated into policy-making and the design and delivery of services.

Deliver flexible and more joined-up services

  • Services need to prioritise multiple needs and ensure that they are joined up, flexible and don’t allow anyone to fall through the gaps.

Support people toward independence

  • Back to work support providers and local authorities should improve their provision of personalised support and quality accommodation to allow people with multiple to move towards independence.

Comments on the report from experts by experience:

Lee, who has personal experience of complex needs and helped shape the report, explains why change is necessary: “I think one of the things that struck me is that people aren’t asking for a lot – they’re asking to be treated with dignity and respect. The changes aren’t massive. It’s all doable. It’s achievable – the systems are in place already, it just needs a change in the system.”

Sandra, from Nottingham, outlines one of the problems with services she faced: “When I said that I thought I was drinking too much and I wanted help, they said ‘how much do you drink’, and they said you don’t drink enough to access the service. It’s hard, especially when you’ve admitted to yourself that you have a problem.”

Comments on the report from MEAM’s partner charities:

Clive Martin, Director of Clinks, said:

“This report, and the views and voices from the frontline that are included in it, is an important step towards listening to and improving support for people with multiple and complex needs. This group makes up a significant proportion of those in contact with our criminal justice system and all too often this contact does not recognise nor meet their needs and has a traumatic impact, detrimental to their rehabilitation.

“It is vital that we listen to those with lived experience of these issues to ensure that services either divert them away from the criminal justice system or once they are in contact with it, that their rehabilitation and resettlement into communities is properly supported so they can move on to live independent lives.”

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said:

“Our research shows that more than a quarter of people in homelessness services face a combination of needs relating to mental health, substance misuse and offending alongside their homelessness. A robust plan to tackle multiple needs is vital to ending homelessness.

“As outlined in the Queen’s speech, the new government has committed to giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged. By listening to the views of people with direct experience, developing a new national focus on multiple needs and supporting local areas to deliver better services, the Government can deliver on this pledge.”  

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“We know that dealing with mental health problems can be hard enough on its own, but having to do it whilst facing other difficulties such as homelessness, drug addiction or being in the criminal justice system, can be especially tough. This report shows that people in this situation simply aren’t receiving the support they need. By going out and listening to those on the frontline the report offers clear and achievable solutions for all those involved to improve this support, as called for by those who need it most.”

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Stephen Holland

Stephen served as our Communications Officer until January 2016.