Patrick Murray, Mayday Trust’s Vice Chair, offers his opinion on LankellyChase’s recent ‘Hard Edges’ report and shares his aspirations for the future of advantaged thinking.

“Too many people fall between the gaps in our society and end up experiencing homelessness, develop substance misuse problems, or end up offending. Understanding the overlap between different problems and services, has always been challenging. This is because traditionally different services have acted separately – treating a specific problem such as homelessness, rather than looking at the person they are trying to help.

However, thanks to some groundbreaking research led by LankellyChase, the picture is now clearer. Their report, called Hard Edges, brings together the different data and sets out where people have come from and what services they end up in. Depressingly, LankellyChase found that every year in England 586,000 people in England have contact with at least one of the homelessness, substance misuse and criminal justice systems, 222,000 have contact with at least two, and 58,000 people have contact with all three. It is obvious somewhere along the line our systems are failing and people are falling between the cracks of services that see one specific problem to be treated, and don’t really offer a joined up approach around a particular person and their circumstances. The report rightly identifies that we desperately need new systems built around individuals and not the needs of a particular government department or funding stream.

But the most interesting observation to me is the following paragraph from the report:

‘People with lived experience have commented that the picture painted by the statistics tells only half the story and doesn’t reveal the nature of the support they actually need. In particular, it focuses on risks, deficits and problems, and tells us little about the people’s aspirations, strengths and priorities. This is the inherent challenge of data that is generated to meet the needs of systems, not necessarily of the people themselves. Open and integrated data is crucial but is only part of the solution if we don’t also improve the data being gathered.’

This outlines the challenge for those of us who want to see public systems change and break away from the basis of need. Indeed, throughout the time I have been privileged to work with Mayday I have met many people using our services and been inspired by their talents, aspirations and ambitions. Most recently I went to our scheme at Broadmead Court and met young people who are keen to discover what they have to offer the world and what they can do with their lives. I didn’t meet a collection of needs or problems, I met people with hopes and dreams for the future. That’s what I care about, and that’s what Mayday is all about too.

So I was delighted to see the recognition from Lankelly Chase that the data public services collect is only half the picture. We need to understand the talents and aspirations people have, and then build our services around them. That to me is what advantaged thinking is all about, and my hope and aspiration is for one day all our services that support people to reach their potential are built on that principle.”