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A Model of Specialist Welfare Advice and Advocacy at VOICES

VOICES CAB report
VOICES Stoke-on-Trent seeks to empower people with multiple needs such as mental ill-health, substance misuse and homelessness to change their lives and to influence services. The programme is aimed at testing alternative approaches to supporting people with multiple needs through casework and assertive advocacy to help people access services, with Service Coordination being at the core of the programme.   A Citizens Advice (CA) adviser in work and benefits from Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent (CASNS) is funded by VOICES and embedded full time in the VOICES team. This report presents the findings of a small-scale independent evaluation of this model of  providing benefits advice to people with multiple needs. The findings are based on analysis of monitoring data, case studies and interviews with the CA Adviser, a VOICES Service Coordinator and the VOICES Director.     To find out more about how VOICES and Citizens Advice North and Stoke-on-Trent are working together and how this impacts on the support we are able to provide click here and read the full report.… Continue Reading

Small change to system change in Stoke-on-Trent

VOICES small change to system change
Lee Dale – Expert Citizens C.I.C. Mandy Jago – Volunteer VOICES and Expert Citizens C.I.C. Board Member Sharon Sharman – Learning and Evaluation Manager VOICES   A Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE) “…is one that takes into account the psychological makeup – the thinking, emotions, personalities and past experience – of it’s participants in the way that it operates” (Robin Johnson http://pielink.net/ 2012).   Many of the customers homeless services work with may seem to have difficulty managing their emotions, can appear impulsive and may not consider the consequences of their actions.  They may also appear to be withdrawn, isolated and seemingly reluctant to engage with support and / or exhibit anti-social type behaviours.  The purpose of PIE is to help staff understand where these behaviours are coming from and, therefore, work more creatively and effectively with people. (adapted from Psychologically Informed Environments; Westminster City Council 2015)   How can we create a psychologically safe environment in our Emergency Department for people who have experienced multiple emotional traumas and are experiencing homelessness?   This conversation started some time ago with Julie Norton, an Accident and Emergency (A and E) consultant from the Royal Stoke University Hospital.  Julie had approached VOICES to seek ways of supporting departmental staff in developing best practice to support… Continue Reading

Hard Edges 2018 – Stoke-on-Trent

VOICES Hard Edges 2018
In 2015 Lankelly Chase published the Hard Edges report to explore the prevalence, nature, geographical spread and costs associated with severe and multiple disadvantages (SMD) in England. The report had great resonance with those seeking to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness, substance misuse and offending in our city.   In 2016 Hard Edges Stoke-on-Trent was produced (which can be found here), based on data from 22 customers of the VOICES service, replicating the methodology used by Lankelly Chase. This work was well received and constituted a useful way of describing the impact of Service Coordination though the lens of customers’ service contact and the potential financial implications of this.     VOICES, in partnership with Lankelly Chase and Expert Citizens, have recently repeated this exercise in Hard Edges 2018, with a larger cohort of customers and longer observation periods giving more robust findings. Click here to read the full report      … Continue Reading

Access to Primary Care Services for Patients with “No Fixed Abode” – A follow-up to the Gatekeepers Report

VOICES GP report 2
Over the past 18 Months our partners at Expert Citizens have been host to 2 rotations of 5, year 5 GP students from Keele University. The first rotation – August to December 2017, conducted research to gauge the reach of the GP cards produced as learning from the original report (which can be found here). These cards were distributed across the city for those who were finding it difficult to register with a GP. The cards state that the person wanting to register does not require identification or an address to register.   The second rotation, December 2017 to March 2018, reviewed findings from the first rotation and studied the Gatekeepers report (2016). Together with Expert Citizens, they agreed to duplicate the mystery shopping exercise. Using the same script as in Gatekeepers (2016) the student group evidenced their findings as a direct result in the following report.   The aim of this project is to evaluate access to primary care services for patients with no fixed abode and to establish if there has been any change in the willingness of primary care services to accept NFA patients compared to when the first Gatekeepers report was produced back in 2016. Click here to read the full… Continue Reading

City Centre Life Project – A new initiative to support people in the city centre

VOICES city centre life project
By Steve Barkess, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES & Lisa Tomkinson, My Community Matters   A new project based in the city centre is currently being piloted to help people who are street homeless or presenting as homeless in the Hanley area. The initial project is to engage with individuals who would ordinarily have nowhere to go and to allow peer led learning. This project has been commissioned by the City Centre Task to Finish Group and is being hosted and delivered by Community Ventures.   So, what is this all for? The aim of this service is not only to give people an opportunity to get some respite from residing on the streets but also to allow them to find a safe space to relax and make some social connections and access meaningful activities. The hope is that those who attend will help to shape the way the group works and make decisions on what they would like to do. Currently there are opportunities for people to get refreshments have a conversation with the staff and maybe play a game or two whilst having the opportunity to connect with new people. The hope is that they will soon be able to get other advisory services involved… Continue Reading

Services for people experiencing homelessness in Stoke-on-Trent

services for homeless people
By Dean Spruce, Communication and Media Coordinator, VOICES   Back in 2008, following the tragic death of two rough sleepers in a disused building, Stoke-on-Trent city council, Fire Service and Brighter Futures produced a series of posters and leaflets that provided all the important emergency contact information for people who are faced with the prospect of rough sleeping.   This information has proved invaluable to those directly affected by homelessness, as well as organisations and services that work in and around homelessness, but also to commercial businesses and other public services in the city that may not necessarily have been aware of the support networks in place to assist in the event of homelessness occurring. Unfortunately the posters and leaflets were eventually discontinued,  but in 2014 the VOICES project relaunched this initiative, and we intend to maintain this valuable resource, adapting it to a wallet/purse sized format and keeping the contact information as up to date as possible.   The latest version of the ‘Services for People experiencing homelessness’ fold out directory is now out, with a fresh new look, comprising of a comprehensive list of appropriate services, and including a full colour map.   VOICES have already distributed a significant amount of these to the various services around… Continue Reading

Co-Creation – So much more than consultation

VOICES Coproduction
Dr John Wheeler, Associate Dean in the School of Law, Policing and Forensics at Staffordshire University explains why.   On 28th June 2018 Staffordshire University held its annual Teaching and Learning Conference.  This is an opportunity for colleagues to share with each other the best practice that they have developed through their own teaching on our vast array of subjects and courses.  This year’s Conference had an emphasis on ‘co-creation’ of learning opportunities and teaching methods between staff of the university and a range of other stakeholders, including academic partners, employers, professional bodies and, of course, students. I was privileged to be asked to chair one of several parallel workshop sessions during the Conference.  The first presentation of this session was entitled “Peer Mentor training: from co-production to co-delivery”.  This was facilitated by three people – Penny Vincent, who is extremely active in community-based work and who I know well as we have both worked at the University for many years, Sharon Sharman – Learning and Evaluation Manager from VOICES – a Big Lottery Funded project that I was unaware of until now, and a guy called Dan Jones, more about him shortly.  From start to finish I was very impressed with this… Continue Reading

Novel Psychoactive Substances: practice implications and solutions

VOICES NPS
By Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES A multi-disciplinary community of practice   VOICES is hosting a Community of Practice to look at the issue of novel psychoactive substances (NPS), the implications of use for practice, and potential local solutions.   The event is aimed at professionals with interest in NPS use and its implications for practice, social policy, or strategy in the context of health, social care, criminal justice, or community safety.  We will be inviting people with lived experience of NPS use to participate in the community and give their perspective on this topical issue.  Previously referred to as ‘legal highs’, last year the sale of NPS was banned by Parliament in May 2016.   NPS use has been portrayed in the popular media as an epidemic of criminality and antisocial behaviour.  In March 2017, the Daily Mail ran an on-line story under the headline “Rise of the zombies”.1  The article states that, “drug experts are warning of a Spice epidemic that is spreading from the North-West, driving a wave of crime and casualties that the police and emergency services are struggling to cope with.” Since the introduction of the ban, many observers note that the price of these substances has fallen while availability has increased.  It’s argued… Continue Reading

Evaluation update

VOICES eval
By Becky Rice, Local Evaluator   In the coming week’s two outputs from the local evaluation will be published on the VOICES website:   Hard Edges in Stoke-on-Trent (ii) explores how contact with criminal justice and some health services has been impacted by customers engaging with VOICES. Once again, data shows that service coordination reduces customer’s contacts such as A&E attendances and arrests.   The second report will explore the role of the CAB specialist advisor within the Service Coordination Team at VOICES – this approach has had many benefits for customers and the team are keen to share learning from the experience.   Please look out for the VOICES stakeholder survey 2018 – it’s that time again, we will be seeking feedback from a wide range of stakeholders about our work. This is essential to help us learn and improve – and to feedback to our Big Lottery funders.… Continue Reading

Transatlantic Practice Exchange 2018

VOICES transatlantic practice exchange
We would like to give our congratulations to our very own Steven Barkess, who has been awarded a placement on this year’s programme. Steve is one of only five lucky individuals who will be adventuring to the United States this spring in order to share good practice and exchange learning when working with homelessness and its surrounding issues. The Transatlantic Practice Exchange 2018 is supported by the Oak Foundation and delivered in partnership with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. We would also like to extend a warm welcome to Jessica McKown, all the way from Pennsylvania, who will soon be joining us here in the office, hosted by our partners at Expert Citizens.   We look forward to getting to know Jessica during her time with us here in Stoke and hope we can support her in her learning around the impact of co-production.   The UK participants are: Ed Addison, St Mungo’s in London – responding to long-term street homelessness through multi-disciplinary outreach Flora Newbigin, Cardboard Citizens in London – using theatre to involve people with lived experience Rachel Inman, Elim Connect Centre in Wells – peer support and community involvement in rural homelessness settings Rachel Woolf, The Manna at St Stephen’s in London -… Continue Reading

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