MEAM Approach Network Annual Conference

April 06, 2022

On 30 March we hosted our annual conference for the MEAM Approach network and guests, ‘The Changing Landscape of Multiple Disadvantage’.

The event was attended by people working across the MEAM network, as well as a wide range of people, places and organisations interested in tackling multiple disadvantage.

Together we reflected on what we have learnt so far about tackling multiple disadvantage, explored the key elements that have made local work successful, took a constructively critical look at what has yet to be achieved, and considered where we – as a movement of people working to tackle multiple disadvantage – need to go next.

We hope that the content from the day informs and inspires new and existing areas working to tackle multiple disadvantage. Over the next two years, with support from the National Lottery Community Fund, MEAM will be continuing our work to support the MEAM Approach network and to bring together learning from across other networks and programmes to shape the future.

You can revisit the five conversations that formed the conference here, as well as the opening and closing remarks:

Opening remarks

Speakers: Oliver Hilbery (MEAM), Anne Taylor (Expert by experience)

Overview: The conference was opened by Oliver Hilbery, Director at MEAM. Anne Taylor, an expert by experience, provided the keynote speech, describing what she has experienced in her work to tackle multiple disadvantage and her hopes for the work in the future.

Building and Leading a Healthy Partnership to drive change on multiple disadvantage

 Panel: Richard Merrifield (Devon), Amanda Kilroy (Exeter), Debbie McCallum (Cornwall), Rachel Morgan (Coventry), Amanda Sherriff (MEAM)

Chair: Safia Cragg (MEAM)

Overview: Good partnership working is at the core of all MEAM Approach areas, and we know that the qualities and strengths of these partnerships differ from other multiagency groups. In this conversation representatives from MEAM areas explore what lies at the heart of strong and healthy partnerships, considering issues such as their multi-level nature, creating the conditions for honest and challenging conversations, as well as centring shared purpose and values.  We look at what helps partnerships to drive change and what keeps the momentum going when times are hard.

 Transforming Frontline Support

Panel: Clare Brooks (Hull), Amy Bowman (Hull), Jamie Poole (Windsor and Maidenhead), Carl Brown (MEAM)

Chair: Tassie Weaver (MEAM)

Overview: Across the MEAM Approach, new operational approaches have been embedded in local systems which have allowed people facing multiple disadvantage to have a different and improved experience of “the system”. Many areas have adopted the navigator model to achieve this. In this conversation we explore what the qualities are of a good navigator and what is needed from the wider system to support navigators in their roles. We look at the benefits of partnership working, the importance of relationships, the need for autonomy and importantly, the role of reflective practice for workers.

Understanding Coproduction and Power Dynamics

 Panel: Mero Hassan (Expert by experience), Anne Taylor (Expert by Experience), Tom Tallon (Cambridge), Michael Lawson (Hackney), Anthony Pickup (MEAM)

Chair: Safia Cragg (MEAM)

Overview: MEAM believes in the inherent capability of people with current and past experience of multiple disadvantage to challenge and disrupt systems for the better. In this conversation we explore the panel’s lessons from their experiences of coproduction, the enabling factors for successful coproduction, how to meaningfully share power, and some top tips for getting started.


Systemic approaches to responding to trauma and improving mental wellbeing for people facing multiple disadvantage

Panel: Eleanor Levy (Surrey, Essex and Sussex), Vicky Brooks (Plymouth), Olly Holgate (Norwich), Chris Hancock (Norwich), Amanda Sherriff (MEAM)

Chair: Tassie Weaver (MEAM)

Overview: Practicing trauma informed care is becoming widely accepted as a necessity when supporting people facing multiple disadvantage. Many MEAM Approach areas have gone beyond this and are looking at rolling out a trauma informed approach across and within their local systems as a way of truly transforming how systems work with and for people. In this conversation we discuss the importance of developing a values based approach to change, of modelling the behaviours you want to see and leading the cultural shift from a grassroots position. We also look at what is needed strategically to support a grassroots movement, the time and commitment required to leading change, and the importance of finding allies across the system and continually building your networks of like-minded individuals.

 What has yet to change and where do we go next? 

Panel: Kirby Swales (Changing Futures, DLUHC), Peter Dobson (TNLCF), Jason Burrowes (Expert, Bristol), Gill Taylor (Haringey), Tabz O’Brien-Butcher (GMCA), Safia Cragg (MEAM)

Chair: Oliver Hilbery (MEAM)

Overview: In a change of focus, the final conversation takes a constructively critical look at what has not yet been achieved and where we – as a movement of people working to tackle multiple disadvantage – need to go next. The panel reflect on the question “What is the biggest thing we have failed to do to support people facing multiple disadvantage in the last 5-10 years?”  The discussion covers siloed policy, funding and accountability structures at national and local levels; the importance of leadership; how we can take a more intersectional approach to our understanding of the experience of multiple disadvantage; and how different networks and programmes can work collectively together to shape the future.

The video includes the closing comments for the conference and information on the Expression of Interest process to join the MEAM Approach network.


If you would like to provide feedback about the event, or receive any further information, please contact