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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

Case Study: Universal Credit – A simple process for people experiencing multiple needs?

VOICES case study 03
Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit that has recently started to be rolled out nationwide, the aim to replace 6 existing means tested benefits. According to the Gov.uk website, ‘you can claim UC if you have a health condition or disability which prevents you from working or limits the amount of work you can do. UC provides you with a simple system of financial and work-related support.’   I have been supporting a customer to apply for UC following their release from prison. The customer has found the process to be difficult, and not simple as explained.   Step one: Initial online claim I supported the customer to attend the Job centre on the day of prison release and supported him to complete the initial claim online. The customer was faced with many barriers, the first one being completing the address field. The customer was homeless and tried to type in ‘no fixed address’. The system would not accept this as it wanted a valid post code. The customer had to use one of his support service’s office address before he could proceed with the application. The next barrier was completing the email address field. The customer did not have an email address and… Continue Reading

Case Study: Housing First

VOICES case study 02
Transcribed from audio recording   So, you gave me some great news yesterday, that you were approved for a property through a private landlord. What were some of the struggles that you faced with the administration process, as I know you had some issues with your benefits, tell us what happened there   Yea, I gave them my benefits letter, but it had run out and I had to get a new one. Once I’d got that they could process it then.   OK, and I know one of the issues you had was not having much ID, was that something you’ve faced a lot dealing with other agents/agencies when you’ve been applying for properties?   Yea, all the time.   So what ID did you use this time?   Well they wanted photo ID, but I told them I haven’t got it, so they just accepted my birth certificate and a benefits letter.   Throughout the application process, how were you liaising with the letting agents?   Just all through e-mails, it was just direct answers and questions through e-mails.   Did you find that an easy process?   Yea.   Did you set up an e-mail address specifically for this or did you already have one?   I already had one.   I know that you intend to keep your new property safe, how… 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

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

Is out of the area accommodation a reasonable offer?

VOICES case study 2
Homelessness in Stoke-On-Trent is on the rise.  Even when you take into account homeless shelters, hostels, supported housing, council housing, social housing, and private rented properties, there is not enough accommodation available for everyone who presents as homeless. People who have been entrenched rough sleepers for many years, who have had regular, short stints in accommodation, but have lost this accommodation for some reason. Often the reasons can be traced back to poor mental health, inability to maintain a tenancy, lack of support, or offending and re-offending.  One solution being offered by Local Authorities that I have experienced when providing support to people presenting as homeless is an offer of accommodation out of the area. This is usually offered when there is no space at local hostels or night shelters or the customer is being refused access to these.   Service Co-ordinator Rachael Quarmby discusses a typical example and questions whether this is sometimes merely the least worst option.   A woman presented as homeless after being evicted from her property.  She was assessed as not being vulnerable compared to an ‘ordinary person’.  This was despite a history of substance use and mental health difficulties. She was offered out of area accommodation and advised… Continue Reading

HMP Dovegate NPS Learning

VOICES NPS dovegate
NPS is a major concern in our prison.  The Substance Misuse team at Dovegate took action and organised a learning opportunity for prisoners to attend aimed at raising awareness of the issue.  The team invited Voices and Expert Citizens C.I.C.  to contribute to the event held in June this year.   Over 50 individuals attended and listened to Expert Citizen, Lee Dale about his experiences with NPS and how you can overcome it.  Lee also shared his experiences of being a Peer Mentor, supporting people experiencing multiple needs.  Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager at VOICES gave a presentation to the attendees about the impact of NPS in the community.   By Expert Citizens C.I.C. and VOICES attending the event it has promoted the work that they do and has given prisoners an insight into the support available on release to the Stoke-on-Trent area.  One prisoner is particularly keen to volunteer when he is released with a longer-term goal of becoming a Peer Mentor.  Individuals who gave feedback stated that they “found the speeches and presentation really beneficial”.   We hope VOICES and Expert Citizens C.I.C.  are back soon at HMP Dovegate.   Alison Barnes Health Promotions Practitioner Care UK HMP Dovegate… Continue Reading

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