Four charities have launched a campaign aimed at reforming services for adults with complex and multiple problems.
The Making Every Adult Matter coalition, formed of DrugScope, Clinks, Homeless Link and Mind, is concerned that people with complex needs are “falling through the gaps” of a system designed around homogeneous client groups.
The charities, which span drug addiction, offender rehabilitation, homelessness and mental health, aim to tackle social exclusion with a more co-ordinated approach from the voluntary sector, while calling for policy reform at a national level.
The alliance was launched at a conference in London this week, where a top Home Office civil servant admitted that a lack of joined-up thinking in government policy had contributed to the failure to tackle social exclusion.
Julian Corner, head of crime strategy at the Home Office, said: “Systems are not set up for people with complex needs. There have been a number of entirely valid policy decisions that have led to the systematic exclusion of a small but vulnerable group of people.”
Strategies unveiled in the past ten years which had excluded adults facing entrenched problems such as debt, prostitution, offending and ill-health, included the 1999 National Service Framework for Mental Health, he said.
He added that the National Offender Management Service, set up by the Home Office to integrate prisons and probation services, targeted support for people who presented the greatest risk to society, but left out “those presenting moderate levels of risk”.
Corner added that the right frameworks were now in place, and “engineers not architects” were needed to ensure policies worked together to benefit everyone.
Cost to society
A report accompanying the launch of the campaign showed that the number of service users concerned was small – a recent study suggested 66,000 adults in the UK required specialised support for multiple and complex issues.
However, the economic cost of social exclusion ran into billions of pounds, it said, while the “individual and emotional costs” to families and communities were “unacceptably high”.
The report welcomed the government’s Adults facing Chronic Exclusion programme, launched in 2006, worth £6m and being piloted in 12 areas, but stressed that “investment in this area needs to be stepped up”.
The pilots are aiming to improve co-ordination between agencies providing services for socially excluded adults and help service users navigate the system and negotiate difficult times in their lives, such as leaving care or prison, or fleeing domestic violence.
Government minister Phil Hope on plans to tackle social exclusion
Join the debate on social exclusion on CareSpace
Social Exclusion Task Force – information from the Cabinet Office website