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Ensuring our customers achieve their financial entitlement with a SAWBA

VOICES courtroom
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Benefits Advisor, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent At VOICES the customer risk assessment process involves giving much consideration to a person’s levels of safety and wellbeing in addition to other risks identified and is termed a Safety and Wellbeing Assessment (SAWBA) in preference to ‘risk assessment’.   Each SAWBA identifies the level of risk to: the emotional well-being physical health of the customer risks associated with their substance misuse, behaviour, offending and homelessness / housing risks from others   The SAWBA also considers the financial capability for each person. These are all highly relevant factors for PIP and ESA claims and can be used to support entitlement and other criteria; for example:  evidence of why a customer is unable to attend an assessment and / or evidence of why a customer is unable to return a completed form in time.  The SAWBA includes information contained within each risk category that provides the reader with valuable context, background and history.  Being able to communicate a ‘bigger picture’ is particularly useful when medical evidence is not available. Once a SAWBA is completed I am able to use the information to prepare for my first meeting with the customer. It provides me with… Continue Reading

Exciting Opportunity – Join the VOICES team

VOICES team
VOICES is a partnership of voluntary, statutory, and private sector organisations that works to create cultural and systems change in the way that services are delivered for people experiencing a combination of homelessness, addiction, mental ill health and offending. People with multiple needs often encounter difficulties in accessing support and often experience exclusion from services. VOICES supports its partners and relevant agencies in their efforts to engage people with multiple needs and to articulate an authentic and legitimate ‘community voice’ for people with a lived experience of those needs.   Working as part of a vibrant and supportive team we are now recruiting for the following key positions:   1 x Service Coordinator, Salary: £20,971.60 plus benefits.   Working as part of a vibrant and supportive team of System Brokers, Service Coordinators, Community Development Coordinators, Expert Citizens, Students and Volunteers you will be creative and understanding of the needs of customers who are experiencing multiple needs. You will be proactive in developing effective service coordination plans and advocate the case for customer access through the available service systems by encouraging a focus on their strengths and assets as appropriate.   Closing date for the post is Monday 30th April 2018, at 5pm.   Interview date (if shortlisted) for the… Continue Reading

Stoke-on-Trent CoP – Past, Present and exciting future

VOICES CoP
by Steve Freeman, Chair, Stoke-on-Trent Community of Practice Communities of Practice (CoPs) generally and Stoke-on-Trent Community of Practice (StokeCoP) specifically have an impressive pedigree. From community development projects in America to the harnessing of technical expertise in the UK CoPs have been harnessing untapped resources for years. The Little Miracles report from 2013 describes a project in which the impact of CoPs was assessed http://www.revolving-doors.org.uk/file/1808/download?token=hADIbO3p. Stoke was one of the research centres and the legacy group was developed by key CoP members Bruno Ornelas and Sarah Wilshaw. Phase two of Stoke’s CoP came with the introduction of a solution focused practitioner as chair/facilitator and the development of ideas from the defunct Staffordshire Community of Solution Focused Practice which had been established and run by Carl Plant and Steve Freeman. So much for the history. What has StokeCoP actually done over the past few years? What difference has it make from its early days? Who has noticed a change? And what have they noticed? One of the most important things has been the development of a discussion forum with measurable impact on systems change and peoples lived experience in Stoke-on-Trent and beyond. This forum has seen a broad range of experience and expertise. Expert… Continue Reading

Housing First for Stoke-on-Trent

VOICES housing first
By Andy Meakin VOICES Director VOICES has been implementing an approach to finding accommodation for some homeless people called Housing First. Developed in the United States, Housing First places Homeless People directly in to permanent accommodation. More than thirty homeless people have benefited from this approach since the beginning of VOICES. The approach is based on the idea that in order to engage in other services effectively, people experiencing multiple needs require a place they can call home. I first remember hearing about Housing First in around 2010 when information began to filter in to the UK of its potential as an approach to tackling single homelessness. Since that time, there have been several pilot projects throughout the country. To date, the most comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of Housing First in the UK is from the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York. The reputation of the Housing First approach for effectiveness can be seen in the fact that the model featured in the manifestos of both major parties at the recent General Election. “Housing First services were successfully engaging with long-term homeless people with often very high support needs, delivering housing sustainment and showing progress in improving health, well-being and… Continue Reading

Community Development Update

VOICES allotment
By Ben Wilson A warm welcome to Helen Bailey  Joining the VOICES team is community development coordinator Helen Bailey. Helen writes, “I have been really excited to be shadowing our partners to see what they have been doing. My first thoughts were wow, there is much amazing stuff happening that I wasn’t aware of. Partners were really listening and working with customers to get them the best outcome. I am so excited to be in a role that allows me to communicate and share all the positive practice across the City.”   Re-Launch of Peer Mentoring  Service Working with local evaluator Becky Rice we recently conducted interviews of our customers, focus groups with Peer Mentors and Staff. We found that our main challenges were sustaining matches between peer mentors and customers. Matches that became sustainable were due to customer and peer mentor sharing an activity or interest. These allowed for change talk to happen, and were also fun for both people. With these findings we will be changing the way it offers Peer Mentoring to VOICES Customers. Using the learning from the last 4 years we found the most effective change came from using activities as a medium to talk about to change. This new offer… Continue Reading

Peer Mentoring Training

VOICES mentoring
Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager – VOICES, and Penny Vincent, Senior Lecturer Community Engagement and Community Partnerships – Staffordshire University From co-production to co-delivery VOICES worked with Expert Citizens and Staffordshire University to coproduce an accredited Peer Mentoring course at level 3.  Our collaboration developed over six-months. This was between myself for VOICES, Penny Vincent of the University, with Rachele Hine and Michelle Daniels leading for Expert Citizens.  Rachele and Michele used their know-how to steer the group with the design of the course as we co-produced every aspect of content during the development phase.  In July 2017, the first pilot course began to live test the content with six-students.  Penny describes the process, outcome, and next steps:   “I am privileged to have a role at Staffordshire University which involves me in developing community partnerships for mutual benefit. I have met people from Voices and Expert Citizens on various occasions since 2014: in connection with the 1000 Lives Network and with Staffordshire University’s CHAD centre on a research project of City Centre Street Activity.  Co-production is my specialism – I am a community development worker by background, so I was thrilled to be able to work closely with Rachele, Michelle and Sharon, with my… Continue Reading

Take home Naloxone kits are saving lives

VOICES naloxone
Author: Dean Spruce, Comms & Media, VOICES Naloxone Training Last week the VOICES team received vital training from Stoke on Trent Community Drug and Alcohol Service alongside NHS Combined Healthcare about Naloxone, the emergency antidote for overdoses caused by heroin and other opiates/opioids (such as methadone, morphine and fentanyl). The main life-threatening effect of heroin and other opiates is to slow down and stop breathing. Naloxone blocks this effect and reverses the breathing difficulties. Naloxone is a prescription-only medicine and cannot therefore be sold over the counter. It can however be supplied without prescription by drug services and can be used by anyone to save a life in an emergency. Delivered by Stuart Fisher, Steve McDonald and Allan Sargent the training talked the team through how the antidote works on the body and what to do in an emergency situation, including the safe administering of the drug. Following a short test all who attended were issued with a certificate and an emergency Naloxone kit to be carried whilst working on the front line and out in the community. Since December 2016, 500 kits have been distributed by the trio and to date there have been 13 known (recorded) reversals from overdose. In addition to… Continue Reading

New Psychoactive Substances – N.P.S. – Real Experience’s

VOICES handshake
Author: Sharon Sharman, Learning & Evaluation Manager, VOICES Expert Citizens, VOICES and RE SOLV have co designed and recently co delivered a learning opportunity to the VOICES partnership. Lee – Expert Citizen and VOICES peer mentor, and Dan from RE SOLV designed the course to incorporate professional training with insight from lived experiences.  The course covered: What do we mean by the term ‘legal highs’/NPS? What substances are currently being abused and what are the effects and associated risks? Stereotypes, prevalence and reasons for use Comparisons of use to illegal substances Mortality statistics and associated dangers Manufacturing and availability Challenges facing the control of NPS through legislation Effective interventions and treatment options Risks to health and harm reduction Best practice guidelines   Attendees all stated that, following the session, they had increased knowledge, increased understanding and increased confidence to support customers who are at risk of using NPS or are currently using NPS.  Feedback comments included: “The session was extremely informative and all of the topics were covered in depth”          “I Feel a lot more confident in this area specifically about identifying use & giving advice for users”Continue Reading

Homeless people have the right to register with a G.P

VOICES GP access cards
Author: Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES Expert Citizens, Healthwatch Stoke-on-Trent, and VOICES have launched a card designed to help homeless people register with a doctor. The card is designed so that homeless people and their support workers can easily remind GP practice staff that they have a right to access the primary healthcare that they need.  NHS England sets out clear guidance stating that homeless people do not need to provide proof of identification when applying to register with a NHS doctor. Despite this, homeless people are often asked to provide identification documents as a condition of registration with a practice. People experiencing homelessness are among the most at risk of premature death. “Homeless people are more likely to die young, with an average age of death of 47 years old and even lower for women at 43.” Crisis & University of Sheffield (2012), “Homelessness Kills”, page 4.   Andy Meakin, Project Director at VOICES, said: “The support of a GP is often vital for homeless people to secure access to other needed services.  This includes mental health support, drug or alcohol treatment, or a social care intervention, for example.  However, a GP may also be able to help people access housing and welfare benefits by providing evidence of their… Continue Reading

All together now

VOICES all together now
Author: Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES I read an exciting document about commissioning today. You’re thinking ‘yeah, right’. But, it’s true. The New Local Government Network and Lankelly Chase have put together an excellent pamphlet published in April 2016. It’s called “All Together Now: Whole Systems Commissioning for Councils and the Voluntary Sector.” This document articulates many of the thoughts that have been mulling around in my head for about a decade. No one organisation has a hand on all the levers necessary to deliver a truly effective response for people with multiple or complex needs. Yet, commissioning processes continue to operate in silos. These may be organisation or discipline based. Similarly, they pursue a paradigm where efficiency and value emerge through the competitive processes of the market. Performance measures are set at the level of individual service providers. Contract management is often target driven and follows a conformance to specification model. Commissioners themselves are tied up in short-term cycles for services that are meant to be tackling long-term social problems. Inevitably, the emerging dynamic is a process driven system that encourages blame shifting behaviours. ‘All Together Now’ argues for a new commissioning paradigm. It is a vision characterised by cooperation and coproduction between people,… Continue Reading

Listening, learning, and leading through the lived experience of local people with multiple needs.

Coordinating services with people experiencing homelessness, mental-ill health, addiction, and offending in combination.

Our friends at Emmaus Potteries Furniture Mine are looking for volunteers. Furniture Mine supply a range of high quality used furniture and white goods to thrifty people across the area. A very worthwhile contribution to the community. See the image for details.

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