250,000 people in England have contact with at least two out of three of the homelessness, substance misuse and criminal justice systems. At least 58,000 people have contact with all three.

Hard Edges, published in January 2015 by the Lankelly Chase Foundation, delivers the most rigorous data to date about people whose lives combine disadvantages such as homelessness, substance misuse and offending. It brings further evidence that we need to move away from systems of support that focus on single issues. But what do we know about what what matters to those individuals? What do we know about the life they aspire to?

Data is a first step to understanding what people’s lives are like, and where systems go wrong. But we also believe that the case for change is best made through people telling their story in their own words. And that we need new ways to value people for who they are as whole persons, with problems, but also with strengths and ambitions.

Over the past year, we conducted participatory research with people with experience of severe and multiple disadvantage, to honour their life journeys and share their aspirations.

We believe these stories need to be heard, and inspire radical change.

Between April 2015 and March 2016, we ran a series of collaborative events bringing together service providers, commissioners, policy influencers, and various experts including people with lived experience, to listen and learn from people’s stories, connect with other change makers, and reflect on how to best put these learnings into practice.


This project was commissioned and funded by Lankelly Chase, and produced by the Innovation Unit in partnership with User Voice. The team included:

Gail Bland, North East & Yorkshire Engagement Team Lead, User Voice

Steve Riley, Engagement Team Merseyside, User Voice

Fan Sissoko, Senior Service Designer, Innovation Unit

Sonia Kneepens, Service Designer, Innovation Unit

Lou Thomas, Communications Officer, Innovation Unit

Francesca Allen, Service Designer, Innovation Unit


Kevin O’Brien, User Voice

Tracey Harland, User Voice

Rebecca Page, User Voice

Aviv Katz, Head of Design, Innovation Unit




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