“Multiple needs should be everyone\u2019s business”

February 27, 2015

Jonathon Graham | Voices from the Frontline team

Last Thursday, MEAM was delighted to host a conversation between Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, and a collection of people with first-hand experience of multiple needs, either as an individual service user or frontline worker.

The meeting was hosted in Emma’s constituency by Depaul UK’s Jigsaw Project and was also attended by representatives from MEAM Sunderland and the Gateshead Fulfilling Lives programme. It was one of a series of discussions with MPs from all political parties as part of our Voices from the Frontline project.

Emma meeting with participants in Voices from the Frontline
Emma meeting with participants in Voices from the Frontline

Over the course of the meeting, Emma heard from each of the attendees about their work and how they believed support for people with multiple needs could be improved. Together, they discussed the importance of understanding how people’s personal circumstances can affect their ability to interact with different services. For example, when people lead chaotic lives, greater flexibility around things like appointment times can regularly make the difference between securing the support they need and missing out completely.

The group were also keen to highlight the need for consistent support from the same staff. It can take time for people to build up the kind of trust needed to discuss the serious, and often traumatic, events in their lives, which have led them to develop multiple needs. One participant described his their experiences of having to see several different Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs) after being released from prison and how this had prevented them from engaging effectively.

Several of the attendees spoke of the problems they had faced in establishing productive cross-sector partnerships, specifically the difficulties associated with making referrals into mental health and drug and alcohol services. The consensus was that more needed to be done to highlight the benefits of working together, both in terms of the improvements made by people with multiple needs and the financial savings delivered to the public purse. As Joe from MEAM Sunderland put it, “Multiple needs should be seen as everyone’s business.”

As well as hearing from all the attendees, Emma invited the group to make specific suggestions about what she and other politicians could do to help support people with multiple needs more successfully, and promised to take these back to Westminster colleagues. A number of interesting proposals were made, including:

  • The need for a greater emphasis on prevention work to stop people’s needs from becoming too complex.
  • An acknowledgement at a local level that tackling multiple needs is a long-term commitment and that commissioning should reflect this.
  • Beginning a national Parliamentary conversation on how best to support those with the most complex needs in our society, building on the announcements made as part of the 2014 Autumn Statement.

Emma mentioned that many of the issues raised and the suggestions made echoed what she has been hearing from all corners of the voluntary and charitable sectors. This indicates that while these issues are of particular importance to individuals with multiple needs and those who support them, they are far from isolated concerns.

Voices from the Frontline would like to thank Emma for taking the time to come and meet with the attendees and discuss the pressing issue of multiple needs. We also greatly appreciate her offer of future involvement with the project.

We hope to hold many more of these conversations with MPs, Parliamentary candidates and other policymakers, and invite anyone who is interested to contact Andy Kempster (a.kempster@mind.org.uk).