HomelessMaking Every Adult Matter (MEAM) and their coalition partners (Clinks, Homeless Link and Mind) have published a resource explaining how devolution to local areas will affect those with multiple needs - such as homelessness, substance abuse and mental health - and the services who work with them.

In England, an estimated 58,000 people face problems of homelessness, substance misuse and contact with the Criminal Justice System in any one year, a majority of whom will also have experienced mental health problems. These individuals are often in contact with many local services but do not receive the help they need, at significant cost to themselves, local communities and the public purse.

Over the last year, government have begun granting various spending and decision-making powers to local authorities, including a £6bn devolved health and social care budget to the Greater Manchester Devolved Authority. MEAM suggest in their briefing, 'Opportunity knocks', that devolution could provide an opportunity for areas to take greater responsibility in designing their approach to multiple needs, and provide new powers that give them greater control over how services are commissioned and funded. MEAM's briefing has the following aims:

  • To introduce the idea of devolution and how it is developing in England
  • To explain why it is relevant to people experiencing multiple needs
  • To explore experiences of devolution in local areas so far
  • To suggest how devolution can be a useful tool (although not a prerequisite) for joining up local services to better support people with multiple needs

Contributor Dr Henry Kippin, executive director of Collaborate, said: "Too often, the estimated 58,000 people experiencing multiple needs in England receive support that feels fragmented, uncoordinated and, at times, distant from their needs. There is no doubt that some of the solutions to this – pooling budgets, sharing service sovereignty and integrating front line services – could all be accelerated by devolved government. A focus on multiple needs is not only important in its own right, but in creating growth and reform possibilities that treat individuals like ‘whole people’, with assets, agency and something to contribute."

To ensure that devolution assists those with multiple needs in the right way, MEAM make the following recommendations:

  • Combined authorities and others involved in negotiating deals need to ensure there is a clear, transparent route for the voluntary sector and the people it supports to engage in the devolution process
  • Voluntary sector organisations should take pro-active steps to engage with councils and combined authorities that have secured devolution deals
  • In areas that do not have a devolution deal, all stakeholders must consider what new powers from central government could help address multiple needs locally and make a strong case for them