Significant multiple disadvantages to be tackled with £3m Essex grants programme

Almost £3m in grants will be spent by Essex County Council on helping people living with significant multiple disadvantages including issues around crime and drug addiction.

The grants, totalling £1.9m from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and £900k from the National Lottery Community Fund, will be spent over the next three years by the authority to help tackle challenges facing the county such as homelessness and substance misuse.

In 2018, a report from the county council estimated there were 3,500 people living with a combination of homelessness, offending and substance misuse in Essex.

Making Every Adult Matter, a coalition of charities, has estimated a cost to public services per individual with significant multiple disadvantages (SMD) of £41,124 per year excluding benefits.

What are the plans?

The Changing Futures programme will work with adults experiencing SMD who are not receiving or engaging with services. They may also have learning disabilities, financial issues, physical health needs or other accommodation issues.

A proportion of the money will be spent with charity and housing association Phoenix Futures, who have demonstrated a high success rate in their work providing services for people affected by substance use.

To deliver the Changing Futures programme, the current £7m Offenders with Complex and Additional Needs contract between ECC and Phoenix Futures will be increased by £300k so it includes adults experiencing SMD.

Another £2.5m will be spent on other areas – including 900k to increase the capacity of support from district and borough councils and £470k on mental health and wellbeing posts.

It is estimated that only 16 per cent of people facing two or three severe multiple deprivations consider their quality of life to be good or very good, compared to over 70 per cent of the general population. Furthermore, only six per cent of those are reported to be in employment.

A statement to the county council’s cabinet said: “Individuals with Significant Multiple Disadvantage i.e. those in contact with the criminal justice system (both perpetrators and victims), coupled with substance misuse and/or mental ill-health and/or homelessness, will invariably have poor health outcomes, and experience health inequalities.

“One of the main challenges is services being generally equipped to treat or support single issues, rather than being able to address multiple needs at one time.

“Services are too often focused on the problem and so neglect the multiple factors involved and fail to resolve those issues, leaving people revolving between services, as well as often falling below eligibility thresholds, leaving for example mental illness untreated and without providing the support they need.

“One consequence of this is that, for example, they end up being admitted to Accident and Emergency, or arrested by the police and taken into custody.

“Due to their multiple needs, those with SMD are then prevented from successfully engaging with treatment or support, and so fall through the gaps. For example, a person with substance misuse issues may be refused mental health support. Similarly, those with mental ill-health may be made homeless/prevented from accessing housing support due to the manifestation of that mental ill-health and lack of necessary support to help them sustain a tenancy.

“There is evidence that this disjointed and ineffective approach also has a detrimental impact on wider society, for example, with the effect on children of parents with SMD.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter