On Friday 5th December I attended the launch of the West Yorkshire Finding Independence (WY-FI) project, led by our members DISC. This project is a partnership of many inspiring voluntary sector organisations working in the region, including Clinks members Together Women, Barca Leeds, Touchstone, Shelter, Community Links, Foundation, and Bridge; and Spectrum. With funding from Big Lottery, the aim of the project is to help over 1000 people in the region, who are experiencing multiple needs, over the next 6 years. Multiple needs are defined by the Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) coalition as when someone experiences different problems at the same time, including homelessness, mental ill health, drug use, and contact with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). (Click here for the Making Every Adult Matter coalition's explanation of multiple needs)
Although a relatively small number of people experience multiple needs, this group are the most likely to fall through the net of existing service provision, and are among the most vulnerable. This partnership of services aim not only to improve the often chaotic lives of these service users but to also change the system for the better.
Experts by experience
The day touched frequently on the importance of service user involvement, with presentations and workshops with service users or experts by experience. Throughout, their powerful stories were a reminder of the daily struggles of people experiencing multiple needs, and the issues the project aims to address. In many ways experts by experience are the most qualified to help others experiencing multiple needs, through sharing their stories, providing support, being a much needed source of inspiration for people, and so much more. Through a theatrical performance, an endless cycle of problematic drug use, sleeping rough, and low-level crime was played out for the audience. For one speaker, this cycle had repeated for over 20 years, before peer mentors and others from the voluntary sector supported him to 'break the cycle'; he’s now employed by Leeds Community Drugs Partnership, and through sharing his story with others provides the inspiration some need to change and see themselves in a different light.
Re-thinking service design
LankellyChase Foundation’s Chief Executive, and Clinks Trustee, Julian Corner spoke on what’s needed to re-think service transformation for people facing multiple needs.
He welcomes the announcement in the Government’s Autumn Statement of the commitment to ‘developing and extending the principles underpinning the Troubled Families programme approach to other groups of people with multiple needs’, but warns that although this approach could be successful for the target group, there is an inherent problem in ‘targeting’. The over reliance on targets and outcomes used by funders might be causing more problems than it solves. Whilst services are rushing to meet targets and reach outcomes by project deadlines we might be ‘rescuing’ people in the short-term, rather than ‘enabling’ them for the long-term. Julian’s written a blog about these issues here
Women with multiple needs
Together Women, a gender specific service aiming to address the complex, multiple needs that can often lead women to offending, held a workshop at midday which provided a good opportunity to hear from some of the project’s experts by experience. After sharing their stories of previous violent relationships there wasn’t a dry eye in the group; these women had all been victims of abuse, most have had contact with the CJS, and the women’s centre has played an important part in their recovery. Their gender-specific service was described as a ‘second home’ by one woman, who said how they might not be here today without their support. These shocking statistics also stood out from the session:
- Women experiencing domestic violence are 15 times more likely to have a drinking problem
- Only 9%of children stay in the family home when a women goes to prison
- 33% of women who are rough sleepers are also engaged in sex work
- Women are the most at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder after trauma, with a 20% risk for women, and an 8% risk for men
The Ministry of Justice have recently updated their statistics on women in the Criminal Justice System, available here
If you provide gender-specific services, improving the health outcomes for women offenders, please tell us your views. Click here to respond to our survey
Re-writing the script
Fergus McNeil, Professor of Criminology and Social Work at University of Glasgow and a former Clinks trustee, gave a presentation in the afternoon introducing his work on the desistance process and providing some academic theory around how people, including those with multiple needs, can lead crime free lives. In order to achieve desistance people not only need to change their behaviour, but also need a new sense of identity, coupled with a sense of belonging. He argues that incarceration and institutionalisation go some way to undermine this process by breaking people’s social ties, reinforcing the ‘offender’ label, and taking away their maturity; all at the detriment of good rehabilitation. Linking in with the personal stories heard previously in the day, he says that hearing positive stories are for some an important part of their desistance process; they are examples of how they too can have a positive future. These stories help people break the cycle by ‘re-writing their script’.
The MEAM Approach
The event ended with a video created as part of the MEAM approach work taking place in York...
Clinks is one of the four partners that forms the MEAM coalition, along with Drugscope, Homeless Link and Mind. To find out more about the MEAM Approach work, please click here.
Latest on Twitter
It is imperative that government prioritises and resources the tackling of race inequality in the criminal justice system. It is crucial that voluntary orgs led by and focussed on racially minoritised people are listened to, taken seriously and consulted in these conversations. https://twitter.com/HMIProbation/status/1451073306791223296