Homelessness, isolation, drug use: Government must form one plan to help North East people

Three council areas in the North East sit in top 25 for people facing severe and multiple disadvantages like mental health problems and poverty

MP Chi Onwurah
MP Chi Onwurah

Far-reaching changes are needed to help a growing number of people in the North East who face severe and multiple disadvantages, it is claimed.

Homelessness, substance abuse, committing crime, poverty, social isolation and suffering mental health conditions, violence or abuse are among the problems classified as severe disadvantages.

New research has shown three council areas in the North East are among the top 25 for its proportion of people tackling two or more

Newcastle sits at tenth and South Tyneside at 24, while Middlesbrough was the second highest for its prevalence of people suffering severe and multiple disadvantages.

The Lankelly Chase Foundation said the issue is rooted in a huge overlap between drug use, crime and homelessness and men aged between 25 to 44 are the most likely to fall through the cracks.

As children, the charity says these groups are more less to have experienced extreme poverty, family breakdown and disrupted education.

Then, as adults, the research showed the same people are more likely to suffer loneliness, isolation, unemployment, debt and mental distress.

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, said the research, which collects from a cross-section of agencies made for grim reading.

Chi Onwurah MP at her childhood home at Hillsview Avenue, Kenton
Chi Onwurah MP at her childhood home at Hillsview Avenue, Kenton

She said: “It makes it clear that one of the challenges is that agencies need to work better together,” she said.

“The drastic cuts to local authorities and public services by this government is making that harder and harder to achieve, and as these figures date back three years, things will have got worse and not better.

“We need better working across local and national government agencies and stop this fragmentation of services to support people in need.”

The research showed the majority of the men (69%) are in contact with or are living with children and that the support available from services was short-term.

Alice Evans, the foundation’s director, said Government policy must be overhauled to reflect the messy human complexity of the problem.

She said: “This research reveals the true extent of overlap between the homeless, offender and drug misusing populations. It makes nonsense of the separate strategies pursued by Government departments and agencies, who continue to think and act as if they weren’t dealing with the same people.

“I welcome recent initiatives on multiple disadvantage in the voluntary sector, such as Making Every Adult Matter, Fulfilling Lives and LankellyChase’s own Promoting Change Network. But as the Autumn Statement acknowledged, statutory agencies in particular need to change radically if they are going to catch up with the reality of the people they serve.”

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt University said: “The research shows the damaging cumulative effects of multiple disadvantage.

“As researchers, it also demonstrated to us the sometimes patchy and intermittent nature of data collection and tracking of outcomes by agencies. 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.”


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