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Improving access to mental health services for those experiencing multiple disadvantage

Rachel Moreton (CFE Research, Leicester, UK)
Jo Welford (CFE Research, Leicester, UK)
Beth Collinson (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Laura Greason (Making Every Adult Matter Coalition, London, UK)
Chris Milner (CFE Research, Leicester, UK)

Housing, Care and Support

ISSN: 1460-8790

Article publication date: 5 August 2022

Issue publication date: 25 November 2022




This paper aims to explore the barriers to accessing mental health support for people experiencing multiple disadvantage along with some potential solutions for attempting to overcome these. It draws on evidence and learning from 12 voluntary sector-led partnerships in England funded by the National Lottery Community Fund’s Fulfilling Lives programme.


Qualitative research was undertaken with frontline staff, senior leaders, volunteers, beneficiaries and stakeholders from Fulfilling Lives partnerships. This comprised focus groups (21 participants) and individual face-to-face interviews (41 participants), both of which explored barriers and local solutions to accessing statutory mental health services. Following a thematic analysis of transcripts, research participants and stakeholders were invited to a face-to-face workshop to review and validate emerging findings (34 participants).


People experiencing multiple disadvantage face significant barriers in accessing support for their mental health. These include a complex system that is difficult to navigate, long waiting lists, high eligibility thresholds and models of support that lack flexibility. Fulfilling Lives partnerships have had the funding and the flexibility to trial different approaches. Promising solutions to barriers include the use of navigators, person-centred support and multi-agency networks and training. However, overcoming systemic barriers remains the most difficult challenge.


Fulfilling Lives was a rare example of substantial and long-term (eight years) funding to work with people experiencing multiple disadvantage. This provided a unique opportunity to try different approaches and gather learning. The programme evaluation provides insights into the experiences of people facing multiple disadvantage and those who support them and offers evidence-based suggestions for policy and practice.



The authors would like to thank the Fulfilling Lives partnership staff, volunteers, experts by experience and beneficiaries for giving up their time to take part in the research on which this article is based. Particular thanks to partnership staff members who arranged visits for the research team and put us in touch with interviewees. We would also like to thank members of the Systems Action Network, Evaluation Steering Group and the team from The National Lottery Community Fund for their support in helping to shape the research and reviewing and commenting on our draft findings.


Moreton, R., Welford, J., Collinson, B., Greason, L. and Milner, C. (2022), "Improving access to mental health services for those experiencing multiple disadvantage", Housing, Care and Support, Vol. 25 No. 3/4, pp. 138-152.



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