Practice Development Unit

Practice Development Unit (PDU) decorative banner

Sharing learning and good practice around experiences of Severe and Multiple Disadvantage (SMD)

The Practice Development Unit (PDU) offers a unique opportunity for professionals and volunteers from all sectors in Nottingham and beyond, who work with people facing Severe and Multiple Disadvantage (SMD), to connect, learn collaboratively and share good practice and expertise in the field of SMD.

Severe and Multiple Disadvantage (SMD) is generally considered to be an experience of three or more of the following sources of disadvantage simultaneously:

  • Homelessness
  • Substance Use
  • Poor mental health
  • Contact with the Criminal Justice System
  • Domestic Sexual Violence and Abuse

Services and systems are often designed to respond to single issues and repeatedly fail to meet the needs of people who experience SMD.

Description of Severe and Multiple Disadvantage (SMD)

The PDU acts as a collaborative learning platform to improve people’s understanding of how to best help people who experience SMD, and to support services and staff from a wide range of organisations to feel confident to deliver approaches that work.

It is a place to come to learn about SMD for those who are new to this area of work, and also offers opportunities for people with baseline knowledge to develop their practice, skills and competencies.

The Practice Development Unit (PDU) was established by Opportunity Nottingham and continues to be the SMD learning hub in Nottingham City through the Changing Futures programme, delivered in partnership with Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service (NCVS).

Description of how the PDU can help

Learning events and Communities of Practice (CoP)

The PDU facilitates learning events such as workshops, seminars and development days, as well as ongoing Communities of Practice - forums where practitioners, volunteers and people with lived experience come together to share ideas and support each other in implementing best practice and positive system change. Our learning events cover a wide range of topics relevant to practice with people experiencing multiple disadvantage.

By participating in PDU events, you will have the chance to develop your knowledge and skills, as well as extend your professional network and develop closer relationships with workers from other local organisations. This promotes better coordination and more effective sign posting and referrals across services. You will also have opportunities to learn from people with lived experience and benefit from their valuable insights and expertise.

Find out more about the PDU Communities of Practice

View all PDU learning events and opportunities

Online Hub

The PDU hosts an Online Hub, which collates a variety of resources including academic papers, toolkits, reports and best practice guides; all of which reflect the latest local and national research and information on practice within the field of severe and multiple disadvantage (SMD). These are updated frequently and are a great resource to learn about SMD. The PDU Hub also shares webinars of past PDU learning events.

Our learning programme is flexible and designed to respond to topics and concerns that are in demand for our members. Some of our current workstreams include:

  • Psychologically Informed Approaches (including Trauma Informed Care)
  • Service User Involvement and Co-production
  • Housing First and Homelessness
  • Women experiencing Multiple Disadvantage
  • Race, Ethnicity and Culturally Informed Practice
  • Health Inequalities
  • Neurodiversity
  • Safeguarding
  • Gambling Related Harm
  • Modern Day Slavery
  • Employability

You will need to sign up to use our Online Hub in order to access our learning resources. It is free to do so and only takes a couple of minutes.

Become a member of the PDU Online Hub at

View our Online Hub guide to help navigate around the site.


E-Learning Suite

The PDU Hub hosts a free e-learning suite of 20 interactive modules for people to learn about:

  • Severe and Multiple Disadvantage (SMD)
  • Gender and cultural responsivity
  • Trauma informed care (TIC)
  • Psychologically informed environments (PIE)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

These can be accessed at any time and allow learners to study at their own pace.

Read more about the E-learning Suite

PDU Bulletin

The PDU also publishes a monthly e-bulletin to keep you up to date with the latest SMD news, both locally and nationally, as well as upcoming training opportunities. 

Subscribe to the bulletin

Get in touch

The PDU is shared resource for the local system. We are listening to our partners to understand workforce development needs and how learning and information can be shared and delivered so it is helpful for staff and volunteers across the system.

Our platform is participant led, and professionals, volunteers and people with lived experience are encouraged to get involved in shaping and delivering peer learning events.

If you would like to contribute expertise to our platform, as either a facilitator or by submitting content, or have any suggestions / topics you would like us to cover, please email

If you’d like to learn more about how the PDU is impacting working practices in Nottingham, take a look at our Evaluation page.


Upcoming PDU Learning Opportunities