LankellyChase Foundation: “It is critical to listen to and be led by people with real lived experience.”

In her guest blog, Rebecca Fordham, Interim Communications Manager for LankellyChase Foundation tells us why they’ve teamed up with Innovation Unit and User Voice on Hard Edges: Lives Behind the Numbers.

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People experiencing severe social harms such as homelessness, offending or drug misuse mostly face a much wider and complex set of problems. This shouldn’t be news to most people but until recently services set-up to deal with these challenges – and all too often other sectors including academia, parts of the media and governments – have tended to separate these challenges.

As a result we have a siloed and rigid service system, struggling to respond to the challenges that it was created to deal with. The very people with lived experience that need support end up being bounced from service to service, unsure of who to turn to or what to do.

Too often the actual issues and problems are lost and problems entrenched, which is why we launched Hard Edges earlier this year. The most robust data to date on severe and multiple disadvantage in England (produced by Herriot-Wat University). The report created a profile of people who are in contact with all of the following systems: homelessness, criminal justice and drug treatment.

What jumped out of the report was the degree of overlap within the people using the services. Two thirds of people who are homeless are also found in the other two systems. The same is true for people who offend. And one third of people who are homeless people are found in all three systems.

These findings alone call into question the wisdom or usefulness of single-issue strategies, as well as the legacy of separate systems and structures that we have inherited from the twentieth century.

Of course, these overlaps are not news to the people with lived experience of these challenges and social harms, the very people who are trying to access the services. Here at LankellyChase, we know how critical it is to listen to and be led by people with real lived experience. While many that we spoke to welcomed the data, they also noted that it only told half of the picture.

Data alone failed to capture the stigma that is often attached to such issues and, critically fails to reflect the many achievements, coping methods and networks individuals have developed in spite of the barriers that have formed around them.

As Darren Murinas, Vice Chair of Stoke Expert Citizens, a man who has lived experience of severe and multiple disadvantage told us, ‘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.’

To respond to this lack of qualitative understanding and textured narrative of real lives and insight, our approach to data and story telling needs to evolve together. We are excited to have teamed up with the Innovation Unit and User Voice to document and share stories of people affected by severe and multiple disadvantage.

The year long initiative will offer new insight through platforms that engage with those who commission and deliver services, as well as those who influence them.

Our next workshop will take place on Monday 7th September, and will be an opportunity to explore in depth the stories of 12 individuals who have experienced homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and offending. Follow the event and contribute in real time on twitter using the hashtag #HardEdges

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