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Improving Fair Access to Services through the Citywide Learning Programme

VOICES fair access to services

Author: Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES


In October 2020 VOICES and Expert Citizens C.I.C. launched several systems change legacy projects as the focus for the final year of fulfilling lives:  supporting people with multiple needs in Stoke-on-Trent. The legacy projects include


·         Valuing Lived Experience

·         Citywide Learning Programme

·         Telling the Story Once

·         Housing First

·         Legacy Conference

·         Evaluations

·         Fair Access to Services


The ‘Fair Access to Services’ project involves several workstreams supporting improved legal literacy and providing support and advocacy tools:


VOICES table
* Multi-agency Resolution Group (MaRG) information to be distributed soon


To improve legal literacy around homelessness, housing, and welfare benefits advice, we have been working with stakeholders to develop a learning delivery plan that includes sets of bespoke workshops to be delivered through the citywide learning programme from February through to September 2021. This is how we achieved coproduction of these workstreams:

In early 2021 Anna Mather, Project Officer – VOICES, facilitated several online consultation sessions with key partnership stakeholders; the aim of the sessions were to identify specific learning needs of local services in relation to housing and welfare benefits advice.  This was different to identifying general trainings needs as the themes identified were based on actual real lived examples in which staff had previously received training but became faced with trying to navigate challenging and complex barriers in supporting people with their right to fair and equal access.  Anna collated stakeholder responses and the project team then worked closely with our colleagues from Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent Citizens Advice Bureau.  The housing law and welfare benefits specialists have since designed a plan to co-deliver these learning opportunities along with VOICES Project Officers and Expert Citizens.

Sessions include:


·         The Homelessness journey and Interim Accommodation

·         Housing and Homelessness:  suitability of accommodation and intentionality

·         Universal Credit Migrations

·         Understanding Universal Credit Deductions

·         Sickness and Disability Benefits


To date we have delivered four housing law related workshops and feedback is extremely positive.  Attendees are learning the legal literacy from the specialists, but time is also provided for people to bring examples for discussion,” Being given the opportunity to discuss case studies in breakout groups was invaluable”. (Stakeholder representative).

Delivery of the welfare benefit workshops began in March and are already scheduled through to July 2021.

Available opportunities can be found in the ‘learning opportunities’ section on our website. The website is updated as new dates are agreed and in accordance with project plans – as the courses are in such high demand it is advisable to visit our website for information on a regular basis.

If you have requested your details to be added to the VOICES learning contact list, you will automatically receive invitations to planned events. If we do not have your contact details or you are unsure if you qualify for attendance at the learning programme events please contact our project Assistant, Lynsey Shaw who will be happy to respond;  [email protected]



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