How many people face multiple needs?

January 29, 2015

Oliver Hilbery | Project Director

It’s no surprise that robust data on multiple needs can be difficult to find.

The services and agencies that should be there to help people facing homelessness, substance misuse, mental health and offending are commissioned and delivered in silos. They speak their own ‘language’, work to set outcomes, collect their own data, and ultimately fail to provide the coordinated support that people need.

Ask a locality about the prevalence of one issue and you will probably get an answer, but pose the question ‘how many people face all these needs?’ and you will usually draw a blank. Until now.

Today the LankellyChase Foundation publishes Hard Edges, a study which provides a statistical profile of the manifestation of severe and multiple disadvantage (SMD) in England.

The findings are both impressive and wide ranging. By triangulating key datasets from across offender, substance misuse and homelessness services, the report has estimated the annual scale of SMD in England – numbers which it says should be seen as ‘probable minimums’.

We now know that at least 58,000 people face disadvantages under all three domains (a figure similar to the MEAM estimate) and that an additional 164,000 face an overlap of any two. These numbers are important for two reasons: first, they show more clearly than ever before that this problem is large enough (and damaging enough to individuals, their communities and the public purse) that we need to pay solid attention to it as a country. Conversely, they show that it is small enough to be manageable: with numbers like these it should be well within our reach as a society to find a solution.

Crucially, the report also shows that tackling multiple needs should be everyone’s business. All local authority areas in the country have some individuals facing SMD. This suggests that there is no MP, no local councillor or official, no service provider, no business owner, no local citizen who should see multiple needs as something that doesn’t affect them and their community.

The ‘average’ top-tier local authority might expect to have 1,470 active SMD cases over the course of a year with two or more disadvantages, including 385 with disadvantages in all three domains. Those areas at the top of the list have prevalence rates two to three times the average, while those near the bottom have rates between a quarter and a half. The report finds that SMD is concentrated in ‘northern urban areas…some coastal areas…and certain London authorities’ and there is a correlation between the prevalence of SMD levels and low income deprivation.

None of these findings are particularly surprising. But for the first time ever we have hard, bold and robust statistics. They should inspire us – and a growing network of like-minded people across the country – to continue to change services, challenge systems, and improve outcomes for individuals and communities.

Hard Edges can be found on the LankellyChase website:

Join the discussion at #HardEdges #multipleneeds

To see why multiple needs is important, why not watch this video made by our partners working on the MEAM Approach in York