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Meeting need

Understanding Britain's unmet need
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At Big Lottery Fund, we want our funding to help communities and people most in need. To do this, we need to understand what those needs are.

Considerations of ‘need’ have often focused on material need: health care, housing and income have frequently been the focus for assessing need. Yet this can overlook psychologically needs such as when:

  • people face changes in their lives
  • dealing with mental illness
  • people find themselves isolated and lonely.

Widening our understanding of need helps us to understand the real nature of need in Britain: while some areas may be improving, others are worsening.

We can increase our understanding of need through research and involving beneficiaries in how we fund. The Young Foundation’s Sinking and Swimming: Understanding Britain’s unmet need report is a key piece of research in this area.


The Young Foundation research has identified a number of recommendations for funders like us. These can help shape our funding to ensure we can better meet Britain’s needs:

  • support organisations that provide preparation, bridges and support for people going through difficult transitions
  • back projects that tackle isolation
  • support projects that provide people with access to services, and in particular services that help deal with people’s needs holistically
  • support projects that help people to cope with shocks and to become more resilient
  • use the concept of well-being to rethink welfare provision
  • support the provision of both new and old necessities.

More about the research

We are one of the many funders that contributed to the Young Foundation’s research. They reviewed the state of material and psychological needs in Britain and how they interrelate.

The study was launched in 2009 and inspired new understanding and debates about need in Britain.


Sinking and Swimming: Understanding Britain’s unmet needs