Heriot-Watt researchers involved in report on severe and multiple disadvantage in England



LankellyChase Foundation with Heriot-Watt University has released the most robust research to date on severe and multiple disadvantage in England.

The research draws together previously separate datasets covering homelessness, offending and substance misuse service systems. It also takes into account available data around mental health and poverty. It delivers the latest and most comprehensive statistics on people facing severe and multiple disadvantage; where they live, what their lives are like, how effectively they are supported by services, and the economic implications of the disadvantages they face. LankellyChase calls for far-reaching changes to address this issue from Government, local authorities and the voluntary sector.

Key headlines reveal:

  • There is a huge overlap between the offender, substance misusing and homeless populations. Local authorities which report the highest rates of people facing severe and multiple disadvantage are mainly in the North of England, seaside towns (Blackpool tops the list) and certain central London boroughs. However, even in the richest areas, there is no part of England that is untouched by the issue of severe and multiple disadvantage.
  • People found in homelessness, drug treatment and criminal justice systems are predominantly white men aged 25-44.
  • As children, many experienced trauma and neglect, poverty, family breakdown and disrupted education. As adults, many suffer alarming levels of loneliness, isolation, unemployment, poverty and mental ill-health. All of these experiences are considerably worse for those in overlapping populations.
  • The majority of these men (60%) are in contact with or are living with children.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Director of I-SPHERE (the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Environment and Real Estate) at Heriot-Watt University, said, “The research shows the damaging cumulative effects of multiple disadvantage. As researchers it also demonstrated to us the sometimes patchy and intermittent nature of data collection and tracking of outcomes by agencies. Policy makers and service providers should think systemically about how to ensure that data collection reflects the full, complex picture of service users so that their needs can be met in a coordinated way.”

Julian Corner, CEO LankellyChase, said, “This research reveals the true extent of overlap between the homeless, offender and drug misusing populations. It makes a nonsense of the separate strategies pursued by Government departments and agencies, who continue to think and act as if they weren’t dealing with the same people. I welcome recent initiatives on multiple disadvantage in the voluntary sector, such as Making Every Adult Matter, Fulfilling Lives and LankellyChase’s own Promoting Change Network. But as the Autumn Statement acknowledged, statutory agencies in particular need to change radically if they are going to catch up with the reality of the people they serve.”

He went on to say, “The media itself plays a role in maintaining these artificial siloes, with the ‘homeless story’ or ‘offender story’ of the day, rather than conveying the messy human complexity found in the real world. It would be a big step forward if the media routinely challenged the policy narrative, rather than mirroring it”.