Fulfilling Lives Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham

The challenge

Fulfilling Lives Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham (LSL) is part of a national Fulfilling Lives programme, testing new ways of supporting people experiencing multiple disadvantages so that they are better able to access and navigate the support system that is often failing their needs. Fulfilling Lives LSL works with people in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham who have interconnecting experiences of mental ill-health, homelessness, drug and alcohol use, and / or interactions with the criminal justice system, and seeks to influence the support system to better meet their needs. It is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Fulfilling Lives LSL contracted NPC, Groundswell, and The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University as research and learning partners. The unique partnership brought an academic, system thinking, and co-production lens to the research, all of which reinforced the core aims of the programme. The partnership sought to build an understanding of the current system of support in Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham, explore how it could change for the better, and share that learning across the system. These lessons are crucial to helping services, commissioners, and other stakeholders work together to support people more effectively—ultimately helping more people to lead more fulfilling lives.

The approach

Our research had two main phases. The first phase focused on understanding the current support system for people experiencing multiple disadvantages in Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham. We looked at what was happening, how it was happening, and why it was or was not working for people. This involved a variety of research methods including a literature review, systems mapping, and peer research.

We then developed a shared understanding of the issues in the current system for people experiencing multiple disadvantages in Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham. This provided a solid base for the second phase of the research, where we explored how the current system can change. We investigated places in the system where small changes could have a great impact. We also looked at innovations or good practices in the current system that could be replicated or scaled up, including examples from Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham—such as Fulfilling Lives LSL’s model of relational, person-led support—and those from further afield.

The result

Throughout our research, we heard from people about a range of issues within the current system and ideas for how it could change for the better. Our findings encompassed many levels of the system: from people’s experience of services; to the behaviours and incentives for practitioners, service providers, and commissioners; and the funding flows and policy decisions that shape the way the whole system works. We also learnt that the existing system is held in place by intangibles, such as power dynamics between practitioners and people accessing services, relationships between service providers and commissioners, and stigma surrounding issues like mental ill-health and drug and alcohol use.

We synthesised our findings into five core issues in the system, alongside recommendations for how each one can be addressed. These systemic issues are deeply embedded, yet our research shows how change is possible. A concerted effort by policymakers, commissioners, and service providers to improve access to and transitions between services, meet people’s specific needs, deliver person-led services, invest in practitioners, and improve funding and policy decisions has the potential to shift the way the system works. These changes will enable people experiencing multiple disadvantages to receive effective support and reach their full potential.

The reflective systems spaces convened by NPC brought together different experiences and perspectives from across the three boroughs; commissioners, practitioners, and people with lived and learned experiences. All the parts of the system were there—that’s really powerful and provides equity in a shared space creating a depth of understanding to explore behaviour and mindsets. Embedding co-production, academic research, and system thinking alongside Fulfilling Lives LSL system change projects created a unique and valuable partnership. The partnership did a fantastic job bringing a much-needed space to reflect and explore how the different parts of the system do and can behave together.

Diane Elizabeth Smith MBE
Head of Programme, Fulfilling Lives LSL

The Fulfilling Lives LSL programme ends in June 2022; their website will be open and sharing its outputs until June 2023.

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