In our final blog of 2020, the Fulfilling Lives national evaluation team offer our collective highlights and reflections on what has been a most extraordinary year.

  • The Fulfilling Lives programme provides much-needed support for people facing multiple disadvantage. This year the programme passed the 4,000 mark for numbers of direct beneficiaries.
  • There is great energy across the local partnerships to drive work to change the system of support for people facing multiple disadvantage, both at local and national level. Read about the partnerships’ systems change priorities here.
  • One of the priorities shared across partnerships is improving access to services, in particular mental health support. At the start of the year we published a report exploring the barriers to accessing mental health support along with five case studies showing how Fulfilling Lives partnerships have tackled these.
  • Earlier this month, the Changing Futures fund was launched. This is a £46m scheme to help provide effective and coordinated support for adults across England who are experiencing multiple disadvantage. The announcement was welcomed by Fulfilling Lives.
  • The year has been dominated by COVID-19. The pandemic continues to create challenges for all of us. However, during the early lockdown we saw movement on issues that partnerships have been working towards for some time. The ‘Everyone In’ initiative demonstrated that, with sufficient political will, long-term rough sleepers can be accommodated.
  • Not being able to meet with people face-to-face for much of the year has been hard. It also emphasises the importance of building relationships – both between organisations providing support and between support staff and people facing multiple disadvantage. A friendly call from a support worker can make all the difference. You can read our initial report on the response to the pandemic here.
  • Challenges and setbacks are common for those working within the field of multiple disadvantage. It takes persistence and dedication: “I think the resilience of everyone, under often quite harrowing circumstances, stood out to me.”
  • The role of the multiple disadvantage navigator is a key feature of Fulfilling Lives. “The opportunity to hear and learn from the direct experiences of navigators, the issues that they face on a daily basis and how they respond to complex challenges really made an impression on me.” We’ll be publishing a briefing on multiple disadvantage navigators early in 2021.
  • We have also keen the benefits of involving people with lived experience in systems change activities. Experts by experience provide a powerful and authentic voice and can help pinpoint areas for change. As one of our team reflected, “You can read about situations and experiences but it doesn’t quite have the same impact as hearing about them first hand.”
  • We have been taking a closer look at our data on patterns of homelessness and rough sleeping. We’ll be publishing a detailed report in 2021, but it is clear that homeless and rough sleeping have reduced among programme beneficiaries, with more people moving into supported accommodation and their own tenancies.
  • Fulfilling Lives was always a time-limited programme that aimed to test new approaches and explore what works. As the programme enters the final few years, we collected learning from four partnerships on how best to wind up beneficiary support.
  • We are eager to ensure learning and evidence from the programme is communicated widely and informs policy and practice. This year we presented at events including Pathways from Homelessness and Kings College’s seminar series on mental health, and had an article published in the Howard League for Penal Reform’s ECAN bulletin.
  • Behind Fulfilling Lives there is a passionate team of individuals, committed to improving the lives of people facing multiple disadvantage: “Meetings such as the National Expert Citizen Group, System Change Action Network (SCAN) and the Evaluation and Learning community of practice are brilliant examples of the national programme coming together to learn and support one another. I always leave these meetings feeling inspired.”
  • As well as publishing four thematic studies this year, we heard from 32 different speakers over the course of six separate webinars. With everyone moving to online meetings and events this year, we’ve seen a big increase in attendance at our webinars. You can watch them all here. To hear about forthcoming webinars and reports and to keep up to date with the Fulfilling Lives programme, sign-up to our quarterly newsletter.

Our thanks go to the staff, volunteers and experts by experience at the Fulfilling Lives partnerships, National Expert Citizen Group, Evaluation Steering Group and The National Lottery Community Fund for your support this year. We wish you all a safe Christmas break and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2021.