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Mapping Britain's Unmet and Emerging Needs

Author: Cate Newnessmith
Published Date: 2 October 2007

A two year research project using multiple innovative methods to uncover unmet and emerging social needs in Britain with a particular focus on the most marginalised individuals and groups.

Aim of the programme
The research programme will involve carrying out a regular survey of Britain's changing social needs. It is supported by leading UK foundations, as well as the Economic and Social Research Council and the Big Lottery Fund. The aim of the survey would be to identify priority areas for action by foundations, government and others - combining assessments of which current needs are not being met, with a guide to which needs are becoming more acute. The survey would: address psychological needs as well as material ones; combine quantitative and qualitative methods; and bring together a synthetic overview of needs with more detailed analysis of specific issues, groups and areas.

A smaller scale exercise conducted by the Young Foundation for the Commission of Unclaimed Assets which reported in 2006 helped clarify methodology and sources of data. A broad framework of the variety of ways people meet their needs enables us to clarify the gaps and identify those who are failing to do so and point to key reasons: lack of money, political power, social networks etc. This research pointed to the changing character of need in six main categories: progress and prosperity, classic poverty, inadequate family and support structures, globalisation, psychological needs and violence. We define need as what, if not met, can cause serious harm or socially recognisable suffering whereby harm can be anything from illness to depression.

The project is supported by an advisory group of leading academics and policy makers including: Lord Claus Moser, Professor Ian Gough, Karen Dunnell, Norman Glass, Professor Danny Dorling, Rogert Jowell, Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby and others.

Three main approaches to the research will be taken to explore these categories:

  • Quantitative sources: reviews and integrating of standard statistics on poverty, literacy, mortality etc. Stratifying variables alongside time series analysis will be used. Data sets held by companies like Experian, MORI, Local Futures Groups and others will be drawn upon.
  • Subjective/qualitative sources: broad range of sources of perception of needs from organisations taking an overview of need (charities and grant maker officers with extensive knowledge about needs, government departments); frontline officers in local CABs, social services etc; interviews with people in priority groups; other ethnographic methods.
  • Deeper investigations: investigations through case studies of particular groups experiencing new or multiple needs, and in a small number of localities. Particular attention will be give to patterns of social exclusion and poverty.
  • A map describing the changing patterns of need will be developed. The project will also analyse new emerging patterns of multiple need and deprivation.

    The work will look at patterns of correlation and causation to help to identify the most effective places for intervention.

    Outcome and outputs
    The flagship output will be a major report to be published in the Summer of 2009. It will focus on current needs but the methods used will map likely patterns of change and potential scenarios over the next 5-10 years.

    We would anticipate that this project will have far reaching influence on a wide group of people in the UK. By drawing attention to multiple emerging needs, governments, foundations and local agencies will be in a better position to act more proactively to address them. A comprehensive overview of multiple needs in Britain and more specifically in Greater London, will add value by providing local services with a more inclusive picture of how different needs interrelate and affect groups at risk.