Substance Misuse & Homelessness

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Lifeline Project Report on Substance Misuse and Homelessness in Greater Manchester

People who are homeless and misusing drugs, alcohol or both are amongst the most vulnerable within our society.

Lifeline’s Data Analysis Unit has published a series of infographics and reports on health, inequality, and homelessness in Greater Manchester, the latest of which focuses on homelessness and substance misuse. This area of analysis was chosen based on Lifeline’s 40+ year history of delivering substance misuse services nationally, and in reflection of the ever-increasing visibility of homelessness on the streets of Greater Manchester.

Although the links between substance misuse and homelessness are widely acknowledged, data regarding the people experiencing both is severely limited. Consequently, the Report utilises the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), to identify the scale of the issue throughout all ten local authorities in the conurbation. NDTMS collects information from specialist substance misuse services and includes datasets on the housing needs of people as they begin treatment.

The data reveals that in 2015/16, 10,108 people entered drug and/or alcohol treatment in Greater Manchester and over 1 in 10 (1,509) of these reported either a housing problem (staying with friends/family short term, B&B, squatting, night winter shelter, or short stay hostel) or had no fixed abode (living on the streets, hostels on a night-by-night basis, or sleeping on a different friend’s floor each night). This equates to 15% of all new presentations, but is lower than the national rate of 17.8%.

The Report also explores how housing need changed between treatment entry and exit, and found that Greater Manchester achieved a 70% decrease in the number of people citing a housing or eviction risk.

Figure: Accommodation need at client journey start – client quantity breakdown

Lifeline substance & homelessness for GM Poverty Action

Although NDTMS provides a vital insight into the size of an often-hidden population, the analysis is restricted due to the highly variable nature of how data is recorded across services and localities. The information presented is for reported activity only, and there is no guarantee that it reflects the full scale of the problem. However, in the absence of a substantive national

dataset on people who are homeless and have a substance misuse issue, we believe that the data is an important contribution to any attempt to understand the scale of need in Greater Manchester.

The report concludes by commenting on devolution and health and social care integration in Greater Manchester, and the potential to be at the forefront of innovative service delivery and new effective commissioning practices that could address entrenched, highly complex problems. Although by no means everyone who is homeless uses drugs and alcohol, and not everyone who uses alcohol and drugs is homeless, the level of complex need amongst those that do is such that the issue cannot be effectively tackled in isolation. Devolution could be the catalyst to allow service providers in the health and social care sector to take an inclusive approach to helping those most in need. Appropriate and robust data on this population is, therefore, vital if we are to understand the full scale of the challenge.

For further information, and to access the full report, please visit Lifeline’s website.


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