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Learning from people who work within the system

Fulfilling Lives LSL team

By Fulfilling Lives LSL team 17 March 2022 4 minute read

In this guest blog by the Fulfilling Lives Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham team, they share their experiences of working with people experiencing multiple disadvantage. Fulfilling Lives Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham is part of a national programme testing new ways of supporting people experiencing multiple disadvantage, so that individuals are better able to manage their own lives. It is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

In response to the synthesis report published by our research and learning partnership with NPC, Groundswell and the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University (CRESR), Fulfilling Lives Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham (LSL) spoke to a range of team members, and they offered their insight into our new report.

The research explored the current system of support for people experiencing multiple disadvantage in Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham and showed that if we give people the space to say what they need, they will tell you.

The team were not only able to support the findings but they also answered our questions below and provided us with evidence from their own experience when working in the system.

1. Would it be better if services worked more closely together?

You need someone that is close to the person to be a connector to all of the other services and can advocate for the person.

Karen, Fulfilling Lives LSL, Innovation Partner

One of the Fulfilling Lives LSL system change priorities is improving access to services for people experiencing multiple disadvantage. One way of achieving this is through navigators, or as they are called in our programme, Link Workers—who link people into multiple services.

Although Link Workers play an important role, when asked, the team recognised that services must take responsibility to help people navigate services by avoiding sporadic communication and recognising that people have more than one need to be addressed at a time. This requires joined-up-working across the system.

An example that was discussed by the team was a need for more multi-agency meetings. This way of working gets a number of agencies around the table to help support a person. Taking a person-led approach to multi-agency working means getting to know the person and understanding how they want to be supported best.

2. How can taking an informed-approach meet people’s specific needs?

People’s underlying experiences of trauma have led them to where they are—we need to recognise that trauma underlies people’s behaviour.

Katy, Fulfilling Lives LSL, Community Programme lead

The team responded stating that it is important to understand the experience of trauma and pain in a person’s life and how this can contribute to the feeling of mistrust, having been let down by the system in the past.

Trauma can also relate to the behaviour of a person but through building trust and offering continuous support we can avoid exclusion and better understand the person’s needs.

The team gave an example of working alongside a person who did not trust staff and missed appointments and the relationship was distant and become hostile at times. But as the Link Worker continued to offer support and build a connection with this person, the relationship developed. The person we worked with admitted that they were ‘seeing how long they [the Link Worker] would last’ and was expecting them to stop offering support. Building that one relationship enabled the Link Worker to connect them to other services in the system that were needed.

3. Would using more of a person-led approach provide better outcomes?

You are there to guide and share information but the person takes the reins

Rebecca, Fulfilling Lives LSL, Senior Community Link Worker

A person-led approach is listening to what the person wants from their support and letting them take the lead, this creates autonomy and pride in their journey.

The team gave an example of a young woman who was street homeless with poor health related to drug use and not engaging with housing and drug services. The traditional response would have been to connect her into the services she was not engaging with, however her main priority was to reconnect with her family as that left a gap in her life which caused pain.

Whilst sleeping on the streets, she was reconnected with friends and family on social media and because of this she was able to start thinking about housing and drug services. A traditional service delivery model would not have worked in this way. In her own time, she was ready to engage with drug and housing support, but only after rebuilding relationships with her family.

4. Can we move away from short-term funding?

Staff need to be nourished and invested with debriefs, reflective practice and meaningful training

Helena, Fulfilling Lives LSL, Quality and Development Partner

The team pointed out that moving away from short-term investment could have a positive effect on staff. It means that they can offer long term and high-quality services for the people they support.

For example, without the necessary resources and longer-term approach, this could lead to staff turnover, compassion fatigue, sickness and contribute to resignations. The team spoke about how the commissioning cycle needs to be longer and move away from traditional outcomes and focus on building relationships.

You need to support your team for them to be able to support people we support; one can’t be achieved without the other

Sharon, Fulfilling Lives LSL, Peer Link Worker

There needs to be a main focus on well-being for skilled staff to maintain resilience and overcome barriers.


We hope that the research can lead to change within the system as the team echoed the findings of our report and supported the recommendations with their own experiences.

The system is made up of people and we must make sure that the voices of lived and learned experience are of equal value, then we can continue, together, to change the lives of people experiencing multiple disadvantage for the better.


Fulfilling Lives and National Lottery Community Fund logos


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