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Category: Web Log

Dates for your diary…

VOICES dates for diary
Multiple Disadvantage Day 2019 Over the last year the National Communications Group, comprising of representatives from all 12 fulfilling lives areas, have been in consultation with key stake holders and the National Expert Citizens Group and will be launching a dedicated Multiple Disadvantage Day, on July 3rd 2019. As a national voice for change we hope to raise awareness of the complicated and interconnected nature of the issues faced by some of the most marginalised and vulnerable members of our community, in a bid to reduce associated stigma and increase understanding as to why a person may find themselves experience multiple and complex needs. The campaign launches on Monday 3rd June 2019 so keep your eyes peeled on social media for material and information leading up to the big day on Wednesday 3rd July when Events will be happening across the UK.   Watch this space for updates and further details…     National Co-production Week 2019 National Co-production week is returning for its fourth consecutive year from the 1st – 5th  July 2019 an this year’s theme is ‘sharing power’. “For the fourth year running, Co-production Week will celebrate the benefits of co-production, share good practice and highlight the contribution of people who use services and carers to developing… Continue Reading

Universal Credit and Universal Credit Housing Costs: Prisoners

VOICES UC and prisoners
By Karen Dunn, Specialist benefits advisor, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent In this months installment from our resident benefits expert, Karen looks at the most up to date definitions and information around how prison sentences can affect Universal Credit claims and claimants. Prisoners For Universal Credit (UC) you are counted as a prisoner if you are: Detained in custody – whether pending trial, pending sentence, on conviction, or sentenced by a court; or On temporary release (home leave or release on temporary licence).   You cannot get UC standard allowance if you are a prisoner or a hospital detainee.   You can continue to get UC housing costs for the first 6 months if: You are single and were entitled to UC immediately before you became a prisoner; and The calculation of that award of UC included a UC housing costs element; and You have not been sentenced, or have been sentenced to a term that is not expected to exceed 6 months.   You do not count as a ‘prisoner’ for UC housing costs if you are detained in hospital (therefore if UC housing costs is in place when detained in hospital this will not be affected and will remain in pay)   Once you are… Continue Reading

Not just for Christmas…

VOICES not just for Christmas
By Dean Spruce, Communication & Media Coordinator, VOICES   The month is January, it’s cold, there’s snow on the ground, the Christmas holidays already seem like a distant memory and people have returned to work and to their regular routines. For some people however, the Christmas period doesn’t promise a welcome break, nor time spent with family or turkey dinners.  For those that find themselves outside, by which I mean sleeping rough, it represents the most difficult of all challenges – staying alive.  There is little time to worry about gifts or any of the other distractions that most of us are more than willing to engage in, when you have nowhere to go, no money and potentially only the clothes on your back to keep you warm.  For these people the Christmas period is most definitely not over.  The weather is getting worse as we head into 2019, the cold snaps temporarily delayed by the unusual lasting warmth of the previous summer have now firmly set in, and the risk to human life is high. Poverty in the UK is on the rise, recent figures published by Crisis revealed levels of rough sleeping – including sleeping on public transport and in tents – had doubled in… Continue Reading

Personal Independence Payment Assessments: Mental Health and ‘Good Reason’

VOICES pip good reason
A common issue arising from our work with VOICES is getting benefits reinstated or a claim re-opened, where a customer has not been able to take part in the face to face assessment process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).  It can also apply to assessments for Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit limited capability for work/work related activity.   It has been said that the current assessment system inherently discriminates against people with mental health illness.  It is often the very symptoms of the person’s mental health that cause them such levels of distress that either they cannot attend the assessment at all, the assessment is stopped by the assessor or, the person walks out.  In our experience the situation concludes with a case manager at the DWP issuing a negative decision usually along the lines of, “we couldn’t complete the consultation because you didn’t fully take part and we don’t think you’ve given us a good reason for this” or, “your claim to benefit has been disallowed for failing to complete an assessment.”  Such decisions appear to reach the conclusion that non-attendance is due to a conscious choice rather than to any physical or mental health condition preventing their attendance… Continue Reading

Valuing lived experience and busting the lifestyle choice myth

VOICES lifestyle choices
Photo: Andy Meakin congratulating Jason Smith on his speech and poetry performance By Andy Meakin, VOICES Director This year’s national Insight Conference and Awards from Expert Citizens was spectacular.  From the moment our friend Bishop Geoff Annas opened proceedings, the event delivered one powerful message after another about lived experience as a vehicle for systems change. Jason Smith told his story of reflection and redemption from a prison cell.  Unable to free his body, Jason decided to free his mind.  The walls and bars could not confine his search for wisdom which began in the pages of comic books, then travelled through reading philosophy, and ultimately to self-expression through writing and performing poetry.  His journey of learning and growth is a humbling testimony.  People can and do change when the tools and services are accessible. Rideout, B-Arts, and Expert Citizens delivered a thought-provoking forum theatre based on real stories and experiences.  This demonstrated the barriers that people too often experience to both accessing services and to moving on from homelessness in to accommodation then employment. It would be difficult to overstate the powerful story told by Sammy Woodhouse of her experiences as a survivor of the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham.  Sammy chronicled in… Continue Reading

Welfare Benefits – Hints and Tips: Help to Save Account

VOICES help to save account
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Welfare Advisor, SNSCAB & Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   Help to Save is a new savings scheme for people on low incomes who are claiming certain benefits. Help to Save gives you a bonus payment from the government of up to 50% (half) on savings paid into the account.   How it works Help to Save is a type of savings account. It allows certain people entitled to Working Tax Credit or receiving Universal Credit to get a bonus of 50p for every £1 they save over 4 years. You get bonuses at the end of the second and fourth years. They’re based on how much you’ve saved. You can save up to £50 each calendar month. Help to Save is backed by the government so all savings in the scheme are secure.   What You Need to Apply Government Gateway User ID and password Details of your UK bank account.   Eligibility:  You can open a Help to Save Account if you are: entitled to Working Tax Credit and receiving Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit payments claiming Universal Credit and your household income in your last monthly assessment period was £542.88* or more living in the UK:  if… Continue Reading

Supervision: More questions than answers?

VOICES reflective pratice
Steve Freeman, Solution Focused Practitioner. www.stevefreeman.org.uk This article is late to press. It’s very, very late. I could claim that this is due to pressure of work, putting family first and any number of other reasons. The truth, however, is that the topic is overwhelming. This is the latest of several attempts that I’ve made at writing about supervision. And even now as the article is ready to submit I haven’t entirely succeeded. I’m the first to recognise that I should know better. I’ve been using, providing and researching supervision for decades. And yet…..when it comes to summarising the available information I’ve been stumped. For this reason I’ve decided to give a personal overview of the topic based on my reflective practice portfolio. This is produced as part of my nursing registration process. The contains a few references and other anchor points and observations of what works well. These are based on observation and feedback from both people that I’ve supervised and colleagues who work as supervisors. It’s worth considering what ‘supervision’ means. It isn’t ‘clinical supervision’ as described in much of the health related literature and yet it has common factors with it. Definitions of supervision vary greatly. For many practitioners supervision is… Continue Reading

A visit to Wrexham NPS taskforce and community hub

VOICES NPS taskforce
By Steve Willis, Service Co-ordinator, VOICES   Stoke-on-Trent Police recently organised a visit to Wrexham where they have set up a taskforce to address the difficulties faced by the rise in use of Novel Psychoactive Substances. I attended this on behalf of VOICES to find out more about what has been done, it’s effectiveness and what could be learned to help problems with NPS that Stoke-on-Trent is currently experiencing.   18 months ago Wrexham was gaining infamy amongst the national and international press for their ‘Spice’ problem which seemed concentrated in their town centre, most notably around the bus station. Initially the Police had tried to combat the issue by using Public Space Protection Orders resulting in fines for individuals going against the requirements of the order. They found this route to be ineffectual; most individuals did not have the money to pay the fines and instead it served to put them into deeper debt than they already were. Ultimately it had no effect on the behaviour of individuals involved and no clear results for businesses suffering the ill effects of anti-social behaviour. The Police were finding that most of their time was being taken up with this and repeatedly with the same small… Continue Reading

The benefits of checking benefits

VOICES benefits of checking benefits
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Benefits Advisor, Citizens Advice Over the last four years VOICES and Citizens Advice Staffordshire North & Stoke on Trent have worked in partnership to provide in house specialist benefits advice for our customers. Working this way provides VOICES customers with the expert advice and support that they need, when they need it, ensuring claims are up, running and correct and any queries or appeals are dealt with promptly.   Karen Dunn, specialist benefits advisor of the Citizens Advice Bureau, explains why ‘getting it right’ the first time and checking/maintaining claims is so important, as well as the interconnected nature of access to finances and other potential support needs.   The advantages of resolving welfare benefits issues for customers experiencing multiple complex needs is widely recognised however, when support workers are few on the ground understandably the focus can be on the more visible needs of the customer.  Add to this the complex system of welfare benefits (Universal Credit has not simplified things at all) and, new entitlements are missed, existing awards are not maintained, and claims are terminated or sanctioned.   For example, a customer moves into supported accommodation, they are asked if they are receiving any benefits, and quite rightly, a claim… Continue Reading

Trapped in unemployment

VOICES trapped in unemployment
By Steve Barkess, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES   Throughout the UK there are many people who reside in supported housing and may also receive a support element to this to assist their transition to live an independent and fulfilling life.  For many, this will mean finding employment, either full or part time, depending on their circumstances.  Many housing providers and associations provide intensive support to their customers to help them to develop these new skills; and over the years there have been many work-based programme’s which aim to support people back into education, training and/or employment.   For much of my career I have worked alongside projects of this kind, which are usually aimed at some of the most vulnerable people within our community, many of whom live in supported housing. So, what is supported housing?  The basis of any housing support service is to provide support to people with a variety of needs.  Within my own experiences this has focused on multiple and complex needs such as homelessness, addiction, mental ill health and those within the criminal justice system.  Not only will support be provided to access appropriate services, but often resettlement or supported housing services will work towards training and employment, which is… Continue Reading

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