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Multiple Needs Summit 2017: Challenging Perceptions

Earlier this month, Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead travelled down to Milton Keynes for the annual Multiple Needs Summit, organised by the MEAM Coalition. The annual two-day event brings together practitioners from across sectors to identify how we can collectively organise to better deliver integrated services, which can make a real difference and gain political traction for multiple disadvantage. Here, System Broker Richy shares his experiences of the first day at the summit.

The Multiple Needs Summit was opened by our very own Terry Nelson, former member of our Experts by Experience group and now Development Manager at Jigsaw Recovery Project CIC. Terry set the scene for the event and asked all the delegates to challenge perception, identify ways of working better together and to always be mindful of the people we are there to support, stating anything is possible. Sharing his own story with the room, Terry qualified this with the statement:

“2 years ago I was sleeping in a doorway, last night I slept in the Hilton.”

Our first day in Milton Keynes was crammed full of master classes, and my only regret was that I could only be in one at a time! Choosing from such a great line up was extremely difficult, debating whether to attend classes where I could have an input – as the topic linked to our Fulfilling Lives programme and our four key areas of focus – or going into a session where I was going to learn something new.

My first class was ‘Working With Health to Address Multiple Disadvantage’, which was split into two parts. We started by looking at the health data of people with multiple needs. We all know that people experiencing homelessness and other complex needs have poorer health than the rest of the population, and this has been highlighted in Homeless Link’s Homeless Health Needs Audit. So I questioned the researchers leading this session about data on health related outcomes for people in recovery.

From my own experiences working with multiple complex needs, people who get into recovery fail to focus on their physical health: such as rapid weight gain, smoking or vaping, and increased exposure to the sun and sun beds. This can sometimes be reinforced by people telling people in recovery how good they look, mainly due to the weight they have put on, failing to recognise that they are at higher risk of CVS disease, cancer and obesity.

Opportunity Nottingham, another Fulfilling Lives programme, facilitated the second part of this session. They told us about a great project going on in Nottingham where they have funded 15% of a mental health team/service that only accepts referrals from Fulfilling Lives: an absolutely genius idea! It’s great value for money and a perfect example of system change.

My next session was called: ‘Understanding the Whole Person: What Are the Common Concepts for Recovery and Desistance across the Fields of Mental Health, Substance Use and Criminology?’ This session looked at the similarities and conflicts between someone’s focus on recovery and their desires to avoid unhelpful behaviour such as offending.

We were set the task of identifying barriers from a case study of a person in recovery focusing on mental health. A prominent theme we found was stigma and the potential barriers in accessing employment. We had a lengthy discussion around recovery theories and what that does for someone’s chances of employment, and the support needed when in employment. I think we agreed to disagree that an unhealthy amount of time in and around recovery could have different outcomes and people often don’t have time to find themselves if they go straight from treatment into recovery, however some people see their employment as a part of their recovery and this works for some people.

The third and final workshop of Day One was ‘Developing a Place-Based Approach to Reducing Health Inequalities Amongst Those in Contact With the Criminal Justice System’. We were presented a model showing how place-based care involving a variety of services can work for someone exiting prison and getting support in the community whilst in the criminal justice system. Services included multi-disciplinary teams covering housing, health, police, social services and others, that work with the person alongside the Through The Gate teams.

You’re probably thinking that you’ve heard this before, and so was I. This ‘innovative’ new idea is almost identical to the DIP model we used to have and used to work well. I asked if there was any data to show how people’s health had been affected since the decommissioning of the DIP model, and I was left feeling a bit perplexed and underwhelmed by the response of ‘it would be too complex to access that data’.

Our first day in Milton Keynes ended with a great line up of guest speakers including Lord Victor Adebowale (CEO of Turning Point), Dr Beth Watts (Heriott Watt University) and Kate Allsop (Mayor of Mansfield). The conversation focused on doing what we already know is best and celebrating the good work that we do. There were some honest challenges of charities and public sector organisations emphasising that some aren’t up to scratch, but this is in no way the norm. What I took from this conversations was that we need to focus on campaigning and challenging commissioners more often.



Like this? Read Richy’s blog about Day Two of the Summit here.