Our latest publication, Challenges and Opportunities, draws together key experiences from Fulfilling Lives areas on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated measures to control its transmission have created challenges and opportunities for partnerships supporting people facing multiple disadvantage. In particular, the pandemic has created movement on issues that partnerships have been working towards for some time, such as taking more collaborative and person-centred approaches. As we transition out of lockdown, it is important that the learning from the pandemic is captured and used to inform more positive models of working in the future.

The pandemic has engendered a sense of urgency and rapid responses to need. Service providers have shown greater flexibility and creative solutions have been developed to meet need. It is to be hoped that the increase in flexible and collaborative ways of working can be continued post-lockdown as there are clear benefits for people experiencing multiple disadvantage. For example, Fulfilling Lives partnerships report improved access to opioid substitution therapy. Beneficiaries have reported feeling empowered and trusted as a result.

Despite the new opportunities and examples of positive practice reported, it is important to recognise that for many people experiencing multiple disadvantage, the pandemic and lockdown have been particularly difficult and in many ways inequalities have been exacerbated. Usual services and support are no longer available or harder to access, mental health problems have worsened and people have experienced relapses in their recovery journeys.

The full report can be read here. We plan to follow this report with a more in-depth study later in the year, incorporating quantitative data on beneficiary wellbeing and service use, national statistics and giving greater consideration to what it is about the nature of the pandemic response that resulted in some the positive changes and flexibilities observed.