Two years of research – How can the system change for people experiencing multiple disadvantage?

This report summarises the findings of two years of research and learning with our partnership.

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Fulfilling Lives LSL contracted NPC, Groundswell, and The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University as research and learning partners. The partnership sought to build an understanding of the current system of support in Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham, explore how it could change, and share that learning across the system. These lessons are crucial to helping services, commissioners and other stakeholders work together to support individuals more effectively—ultimately helping more people to lead more fulfilling lives.

Throughout this report we link to other resources produced by the partnership, where you can learn more about the research and its findings.

The research identified five core issues in the system, alongside

1. Services can be difficult to access and navigate. This could be due to a lack of accessible information about services, rigid eligibility criteria, or logistical barriers. The research highlighted the importance of collaboration between services and across traditional boundaries to help people experiencing multiple disadvantage access the right services to support them.

2. Services can re-traumatise people and fail to meet their specific needs.
People experiencing multiple disadvantage may need to re-tell stories of previous trauma as they transition between services, which can be re-traumatising and demoralising. In addition, universal services are not always equipped to support the needs and priorities of specific groups of people, such as women or people from minoritised communities. The research highlighted the need for services to take a trauma-, gender- and culture-informed approach.

3. Services and commissioning are not always informed by people’s lived experience. Support services are often designed rigidly, where someone is expected to make linear progress to ‘overcome’ a particular issue. This does not reflect the reality of relapse and recovery for most people. Our research found there is a need for person-led and person-centred services that better match the realities of people’s lives and their goals.

4. Practitioners are not always equipped to support people accessing services. Service providers and practitioners often have limited resources, which makes it hard for them to develop tailored support or take time to develop their practice. Our research suggests that investing in practitioners and organisational capacity has the potential to transform the system for people experiencing multiple disadvantage, by enabling practitioners to provide longer-term, high quality, person-led and person-centred services.

5. Short-term funding flows and siloed policy decisions can lead to ineffective services. Short-term funding creates instability for many service providers, who are often not able to offer staff longer term contracts or offer people accessing services a guarantee that the service will still be there in the future. Siloes between services can mean that individuals receive inconsistent and unconnected support, which does not meet their needs. The research found the need for policymakers and commissioners to take a longer-term and more holistic view, to enable services to provide joined-up support which works for individuals.

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