In this guest blog, Jon Snow, News Presenter and Chair of the New Horizon Youth Centre, gives his thoughts on BigLF’s Multiple and Complex Needs investment and its potential impact upon those it reaches out to.
I write as someone who has worked one way and another for some four decades in a project that works with vulnerable and homeless young people.
I started, long before I became a journalist, working as Director of the New Horizon Youth Centre in 1970. I had just come down from university in Liverpool. I had no idea what I was getting into. I worked there in this role for three years.
But from that time until now, I have rarely ever come across funding that is targeted directly at supporting people of any age with multiple and complex needs.
That’s why I am so excited and energised by the creative thinking and action that has gone into the Big Lottery Fund’s radically new approach to put up to £100 million behind bringing the assorted services together behind this needy but difficult group of people.
For years New Horizon was classified as a ‘drug project’. But of course, whilst some of our young people were substance abusers, many were not.
Then we became known as a ‘homeless project’. Yes of course ‘accommodation’ is a persistent problem. But for us it was only in a fraction of cases that it was THE problem.
So, were we perhaps a ‘young offenders’ day centre? Yes, we see young offenders but that represents perhaps twenty five per cent of our client base.
Over time we have come to understand that we are all of these things. A place of refuge too for youngsters out of care; young people with mental health issues; young people deprived of a family environment in which to develop.
I have been the Chair of the project now since 1986. It has taken even me, with my history of involvement with New Horizon, many years to accept that we are hard if not impossible to compartmentalise.
I don’t think you can imagine what inspiration we derived from the Big Lottery Fund as they set out on their mission to respond to the provision of support for places, like New Horizon, working to support people with – yes, at last – ‘multiple and complex needs.’ That’s what we do!
It’s hard to estimate in how many people in the UK fit this description of need. Some talk of 60,000. I think it is many more.
We see some 1,500 a year – 90 a day. It is complex and challenging work supporting them. It is expensive, and to many funders, difficult work to fund – precisely because we don’t fit any one category.
I believe this initiative is going to make life changing differences to the lives of very many people previously regarded as on the margins of life and of society. We do reconnect so many with the community. I wouldn’t still be committed to New Horizon if we didn’t.
I’m particularly attracted to the way the Big Lottery Fund has engaged the client groups themselves in designing services and identifying the diversity of need.
In austere and difficult times, the Big Lottery Fund is laying the foundations towards making a profound difference. We at New Horizon have worked with an array of governments and local authority administrations whose commitments constantly change through the electoral cycle.
This initiative goes beyond that with an urgently needed long-term commitment and sustained work, which will produce long-term improvements in the lives of people that the rest of society has often already written off. I’m honoured to support their endeavour.