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Supporting people with multiple needs: A project’s view

12 February 2014

Sue Northcott is the WY-FI (West Yorkshire Finding Independence) project manager at DISC (Developing Initiatives Supporting Communities)

Sue NorthcottWhere we work, in West Yorkshire, there’s about 2,425 people classed as having multiple problems. These are real everyday problems like drug or alcohol addiction, homelessness, people who find themselves in and out of prison and people who have mental health problems. Lots of people have two or three of these problems which compound each other, dragging the person further and further away from the community.

Sadly, people with these problems are the most likely to fall through the cracks in services, so I strongly suspect the real figure is far higher. And for each and every person  with multiple needs, there are countless others — children, husbands, wives, parents etc —  all caught up in their loved one’s personal turmoil.

There’s about 2,425 people with multiple problems in West Yorkshire — 60% of which do not receive any help. More than a third of these live in Leeds. A recent survey there showed  more than 50 per cent of people with multiple needs live with at least three of these problems, whereas in Wakefield, the figures are nearly 80 per cent and stand at 95 per cent in neighbouring Kirklees.

Local research among people with these problems revealed that 85 per cent said they experienced substance misuse, 81, per cent mental health problems, 65 per cent offending or probation, 51 per cent had experienced homelessness.

In the six weeks running up to the study, in August last year, 30 per cent had slept on the streets, 29 per cent had appeared in court, 26 per cent had attended A & E. 18 per cent had travelled in an ambulance.

This is why our Big Lottery funding is crucial. DISC and its partners are those best placed in the area to help a small but significant group of people with very complex needs get back on their feet and turn their lives around, enabling many to make a positive contribution to their community. The problems these people encounter are far too complex for any one service, such as housing, probation, drug treatment or mental health services to fix on its own. And this is why we need to guide and connect services so people with multiple needs and their friends and families get the help they need to live peaceful and fulfilling lives. And it can and does happen – and we can draw on the expertise of people who have them recovered. And with these amazing people behind us we know we can take advantage of this unusual opportunity to do something groundbreaking.

Sue Northcott is the WY-FI (West Yorkshire Finding Independence) project manager at DISC, (Developing Initiatives Supporting Communities), a northern charity working across West Yorkshire. DISC has tackled deprivation and social exclusion for three decades. DISC leads a partnership of 14 local organisations focussed on helping people in West Yorkshire with multiple needs. The West Yorkshire partnership has received £9.8m from Big Lottery.

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