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Multiple and complex needs

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A high proportion of people in contact with the criminal justice system experience multiple or complex needs, which means they:

  • experience several problems at the same time, such as mental ill health, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, offending, and family breakdown
  • have ineffective contact with services designed to deal with one problem at a time
  • are often trapped living chaotic lives

Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) is a coalition of Clinks, Homeless Link and Mind, formed to improve policy and services for people facing multiple needs. Together the charities represent over 1,300 frontline organisations and have an interest in the criminal justice, substance misuse, homelessness and mental health sectors.

We continue to work as an 'embedded policy team' with the MEAM coalition partners following on from our work on the  Voices from the Frontline project.

The MEAM Approach

Along with our MEAM partners, Clinks Local Development Team is supporting eleven local areas to co-ordinate existing services better and make them more flexible so that they don’t exclude people, and ultimately to change the way services are organised and delivered so that people do not fall through the gaps so badly in the future. We are supporting two areas (Devon and Sunderland) to implement the MEAM Approach, based on learning from three pilots.

For more information about the support MEAM can provide to local areas using the MEAM Approach please download this leaflet.

We are also providing specialist advice on criminal justice to the Big Lottery Funded ‘Fulfilling Lives’ projects across the country.

Read more about this work in our blogs on systems change and agreeing which clients to work with.

Walking the Frontline

Since the summer, visitors to Birmingham’s Centre for Voluntary Action (home to BVSC) have had a chance to explore Walking the Frontline, an exhibition sharing the ideas and perspectives of people with multiple needs and those who support them.

This exhibition marked the end of our Voices from the Frontline programme and the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our influencing work, both funded by Lankelly Chase

Walking the Frontline: an exhibition about multiple needs from Making Every Adult Matter on Vimeo.

The video above takes you inside the exhibition, featuring interviews with people who attended its launch in July including Richard, an expert by experience who helped design it, and Birmingham’s Director for Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips


Opportunity knocks (August 2016) This briefing introduces the idea of devolution and how it is developing in England; explains why it is relevant to people experiencing multiple needs; explores experiences of devolution in local areas so far, and suggest how devolution can be useful tool (although not a prerequisite) for joining up local services to better support people with multiple needs.

Steps towards employment (July 2016) This briefing explores how people with multiple needs can be supported towards employment. It is based on interviews across England with people seeking work, and the practitioners that support them. It provides recommendations to the Department for Work and Pensions to inform the design of new back-to-work support programmes, and also offers guidance for other key stakeholders, including frontline organisations who work with people experiencing multiple needs.

Policy influencing guide part one: influencing local policy (2016) This is the first part of our policy influencing guides, and aims to help people working with those who have lived experience of multiple needs to influence policy makers. It gives advice about how to engage with the wide range of different bodies and stakeholders across criminal justice, health and housing whose decision making impact this group, to make them aware of the distinct needs of people experiencing multiple needs and to try and ensure they are taken into account in the design and delivery of services.

Policy influencing guide part two: involving experts by experience (2016)
This is the second part of our policy influencing guides and describes how to involve people with experience of multiple needs in policy influencing work.

Solutions from the Frontline (2015) – This report is based on the ideas and experiences of people with multiple needs. It sets out how the new Government, as well as local policy makers and commissioners, can act to reduce stigma, improve services, and support people to achieve their ambitions. 

Individuals with multiple needs - the case for a national focus (2015) -
This briefing paper published by the MEAM coalition and the Gulbenkian Foundation sets out the case for a new national focus for individuals experiencing multiple needs. It is recommended that this should take the form of a national framework and include broad top-level outcomes, targeted funding and evaluation support. The paper is intended to be used to support civil servants as they begin to discuss the next Spending Review.

Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) key asks (2015)The MEAM coalition has published three top-level asks for the next government and will be working with decision makers before and after the election to ensure that these asks, and the recommendations from the Voices from the Frontline project, are considered by the next administration.

Voices from the Frontline (2014) - This report from the Voices from the Frontline project draws on a survey of 140 front-line services and conversations with more than 50 practitioners and the people they support. The report has found that welfare reform and changes to services are having a negative impact on adults with multiple and complex needs and calls for politicians and civil servants to involve these individuals in shaping future policy to ensure it addresses their needs.

Evidence from the Frontline (2014) - This interim report by the Voices from the Frontline project gives the findings from a survey of 140 organisations that work with people experiencing multiple needs. The survey explored two issues; the impact of changes to the welfare system; and the impact of changes to the structures through which services are commissioned.

Progress on multiple needs and exclusions - MEAM has published a joint Progress report on multiple needs and exclusions with partners Revolving Doors. It follows the launch of the cross-departmental Social Justice Strategy, in which the government made a clear commitment to the most disadvantaged adults in our society

In From the Margins (2008) - This report seeks to improve the way people with multiple needs are treated and supported.