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Get Talking Hardship

VOICES Get Talking Hardship
By Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES   This may be an apocryphal story, I can’t remember where I heard it, but it illustrates a point… A doctor was about to do a first shift in charge of a busy A&E department and expressed some anxiety to their supervisor.  Their supervising consultant offered some coaching through the following advice: “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, under pressure, so you don’t know where to turn, or what to do, if you feel lost and alone.  Don’t hesitate to cope.” The message was that struggle is normal, rely on your training and skills, rely on your network of colleagues, overcome problems, grow, and be ‘resilient’.   Promoting resilience has become an inescapable message of public dialogue on hardship and wellbeing.  I think we need to re-examine this refrain.   The implication of the resilience narrative – for some – is that the solution to hardship and poverty is found in the individual.  And, that hardship and poverty, as well as its consequences for physical and mental wellbeing, is the result of ‘lifestyle choices’. Our popular dialogue on the subject tends to organise – consciously or otherwise – into categories of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor.  Sadly, we sometimes see these judgements documented in eligibility criteria that… Continue Reading

Get Talking Hardship: July 2019

Get Talking Hardship was a community research project commissioned by the Hardship Commission in Stoke-on-Trent and funded by The National Lottery Community Fund through VOICES. The research was led by Staffordshire University.… Continue Reading

Hanley week of action

VOICES a week of action
By Steve Willis, Service Coordinator, VOICES   During December PC James Howard of Hanley Police led plans to set up a week of action to help the homeless at Christmas. The aim was to provide a location for people experiencing homelessness to access a warm safe space where they could have a hot drink, food and engage with support services. A mobile Police station was set up on a carpark at the top of Lichfield street, just opposite Hanley Bus station.   Representatives of VOICES, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Housing Options, Brighter Futures Rough sleeper team and the Macari Centre frequented the location through the week alongside PC Howard. There were a lot of donations made for the van by the Brighter Futures Rough Sleeper’s Team, Hanley Bus Station, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Stoke Community Drug and Alcohol Service, The Royal Voluntary Service, The Police, Number Eleven and the Macari Centre. These donations included food, clothes, handwarmers, foil blankets and shoe boxes gift wrapped containing useful items. Over 25 people attended through the week (we lost track of the exact number due to times when the van was very busy and literally overflowing). Throughout the week 8 people were accommodated and more were accommodated soon after as a… Continue Reading

Connecting and Learning with Local Organisations

VOICES staffordshire university
*Article originally featured by Staffordshire University, School of Law, Policing and Forensics Written by Sarah Page, Senior Lecturer Sociology & Criminology, Staffordshire University Staffordshire University works in partnership with Expert Citizens C.I.C. and VOICES; a local Big Lottery funded project in the national Fulfilling Lives: supporting people with multiple needs programme. Customers of VOICES experience a combination of homelessness, mental ill-health, substance misuse and offending. Their lives have been seriously affected by events and conditions over a prolonged period and, as a result, may present frequently at emergency health care facilities, drug and alcohol services, homelessness or mental health services. Recently, Anna Mather (VOICES) and Lee Dale (Expert Citizens C.I.C.) joined our Sociology and Criminology undergraduate students to talk through the Solution Focused and Asset Based Approach that they use with customers. Students had the opportunity to learn from customers about their experiences of substance misuse and they found out about services at VOICES and in Stoke-on-Trent that have helped them to significantly change their life. VOICES and expert Citizens C.I.C. use customer stories to help to improve services across the City and to educate people in the issues faced by customers experiencing multiple needs. The group of Sociology and Criminology students – from within the School… Continue Reading

Making Sense of Social Prescribing

VOICES social prescribing
By Steve Barkess, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES This month as a member of the community development team here at VOICES I attended a workshop focusing on social prescribing. For Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire this new approach will look at different and more holistic methods of supporting people who are experiencing mental ill health, loneliness or isolation to replace sometimes unnecessary medical interventions. The concept of social prescribing recognises the various factors that contribute to a person’s overall health. This includes the socio-economic and psycho-social factors of everyday life for people of all ages by utilising what is available within the local community and how this can be accessed. Individuals will be referred to social prescribing by a healthcare professional such as GP, health visitor, or community nurse as an example. The event: The social prescribing event was well attended, which demonstrates the range of public and third sector organisations that have a keen interest of this model of support. To kick start the day we were provided with evidence based presentations of pilots throughout the UK which showed that this model has the capacity to work well not only for patients but also to reduce the pressures on already stretched GP and frontline services.… 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

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

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