Viewpoint: Understanding the link between trauma and multiple disadvantage

Ruth, Innovation and Evaluation Lead, Fulfilling Lives (Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham)

Our goal is to make it easier for people experiencing multiple disadvantages to access support services. To make this happen we need a better understanding of how and why some people find themselves dealing with a difficult combination of issues, such as homelessness, mental ill health, drug use and gender-based violence.

Over the course of the programme, Fulfilling Lives LSL has been applying a ‘systems thinking’ approach to understand the impact of trauma and the bearing it can have on individuals, their relationships and their interactions with the system. Trauma underpins people’s experience, but also experiences of multiple disadvantage are traumatic themselves, for example violence and abuse or the removal of a child.

Our recent research revealed a high prevalence of trauma amongst people experiencing multiple disadvantage, and how, for many, interactions with the system can re-traumatise. We found that services did not always understand how trauma manifested in people’s behaviour and that women who have experienced trauma are in danger of being labelled as hysterical or manipulative.

Looking forward, it’s imperative that services and systems recognise the high incidence of trauma among people experiencing multiple disadvantage and adjust their support accordingly. To support this process, we are setting up an Informed-Approaches Champion Networks within Fulfilling Lives LSL and partner organisations, as well as delivering workshops about the importance of a trauma-informed approach to key stakeholders that have an interface with people experiencing multiple disadvantages across Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.

Read more about our research and development of a more trauma-informed approach:

What did we learn from a peer research project? | Fulfilling Lives (

Understanding Models of Support for People Facing Multiple Disadvantage: A Literature Review | Fulfilling Lives (

Dealing with trauma and trauma informed care | Fulfilling Lives (