Many people in contact with the criminal justice system face a series of simultaneous challenges. These can include poor mental health, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse. Our research shows that, year on year, as the number of people within the criminal justice system continues to rise, their needs are becoming more complex and urgent.
Today in England, an estimated 58,000 people are experiencing these multiple needs. They fall through the gaps between services and systems because they are assessed on specific issues, rather than their overall need. Whilst they may not meet the threshold for one service, their overall need can be severe. This makes it harder for them to address their problems and escape chaotic lifestyles.
A lack of co-ordination between services means that:
- People are turned away from services because their needs are judged either too mild to meet a threshold, or because of their other needs. For example, counselling services turn away those with substance misuse issues. However, without the counselling, the individual may not be able to address their substance misuse issues.
- Organisations don’t communicate with each other to ensure that an individual’s full range of needs are met.
- Local areas fail to manage crucial transitions, for example from the youth to adult estates, or as people leave the care system or prison.
The human cost is considerable. People experiencing multiple needs are likely to live in poverty, experience stigma, discrimination, isolation and loneliness. Of people experiencing the most severe multiple needs, 90% are out of work. Only 16% report good or very good quality of life, compared to 70% of the general population. It is equally costly to the taxpayer, with estimates suggesting costs of between £1.1 billion and £2.1 billion per year.
The voluntary sector has led the way in piloting new approaches that break down the barriers to services. Our State of the sector research finds that voluntary organisations are working hard to meet the ever changing and complex needs of the people they engage with. They have created new partnerships with a range of organisations from all sectors, set up new services, involved people with lived experience in their design and delivery, made their approach more flexible and changed their culture to get people the support they need. These new approaches are changing the way local systems work for the better.
The MEAM Approach helps local areas design and deliver better co-ordinated services for people with multiple needs. It is currently being used by many of our members, in partnership with statutory services, across England.