A Learning Legacy to promote improved Legal Literacy in Stoke-on-Trent
Author: Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES
As the VOICES partnership is approaching the end of the funding period (March 2022) we have focused our work this year on a series of legacy projects – issues and themes of the projects have been influenced through our external evaluations, our experiences, consultation with stakeholders and local people with lived experiences of multiple disadvantages. One key element across the legacy projects is that they are co-designed, co-delivered and evaluated with Expert Citizens C.I.C. and partners who can contribute their specialist knowledge and skills in the delivery of bespoke learning opportunities and inform us of gaps, barriers and needs within our local system.
Working with our experienced Service Coordinators and Community Development Coordinators we involve stakeholders to coproduce the content and activities for each of the legacy projects. Some projects include several workstreams – for example – ‘Fair and Equal Access’. Workstreams within this project include:
- Embed the Multi-agency Resolution Group
- Improve Discharge from Hospital and Prison
- DITTO (A project aimed at assessing the feasibility of a technical solution that reduces the number of times people have to tell their story)
- Promote Improved Legal Literacy
Promoting improved legal literacy includes the design and delivery of bespoke workshops organised through the citywide learning programme and, so far, has offered the following opportunities to staff across the city:
- Multiple Needs Toolkit: working with members from Stoke-on-Trent City Council Adult Social Care team, Service Coordinators designed and delivered regular sessions to teams across the city with the aim to support services to embed the toolkit into daily practice and to better understand the process following a referral to adult social care. Attendees can contact the Service Coordinators following sessions to request support in using the toolkit in practice to help build skills and confidence in communicating complex and fluctuating needs.
- Welfare Benefits and Housing Law: working with colleagues from Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent (CASNS), Service Coordinators and Community Development team members design and deliver bespoke learning sessions to improve the knowledge, skills, and confidence of attendees from across the city. Within these sessions actual lived experience examples are discussed and staff can develop discussions in breakout rooms that are based on their own experiences of supporting people to navigate the benefits and housing systems.
The project teams have received excellent feedback to date including the following contributions from recent attendees:
During the last few months, I have attended three of the bespoke housing law workshops; the homeless journey and interim accommodation; suitability of accommodation and intentionality; and duty to refer, local connection and property. I will be attending the final workshop next month – Challenging homeless decisions and allocations.
The training is delivered by Geoff Davis, a housing specialist from the CAB. He presents the training in bite-sized, understandable segments, which is helpful as housing legislation can often seem like another language. He uses examples from real case law and lots of case studies, enabling participants to gain a working understanding of how specific guidance can be applied to situations we are likely to come across with customers we are supporting.
Alongside the workshops, all the training material is provided so that you can refer to this as and when necessary, in the course of your work. This is invaluable and a really useful resource.
I have been supporting customers presenting as homeless due to domestic abuse for almost two years, working closely with housing advice teams and housing providers. I had a reasonable understanding of the basics of housing legislation, but these workshops have increased my knowledge considerably, giving me the confidence to challenge decisions that did not seem fair.
I have been working almost entirely from home since March last year and the workshops have provided networking opportunities that would not otherwise have presented themselves. The other attendees came from a variety of different services, and we were able to share our knowledge and experience of supporting customers with housing issues and learn from one another. It was also a good opportunity to keep abreast of new services that are available in the city. On a personal level, it was good to be able to interact with others, albeit virtually!
I have been able to share my increased knowledge with my colleagues within Glow, feeling better equipped to provide advice and guidance when approached with housing queries, confident that the information I am providing is correct. In turn, my colleagues have been better able to support their customers effectively.
I would (and have!) thoroughly recommend this training to anyone who supports customers with housing issues.
Domestic Abuse Housing Advocate
I just wanted to say thank you so much for the informative session. I almost cancelled the session as I thought it may be too in depth and not appropriate as I signpost to CAB/PMW and NEA for help with benefit checks/entitlements and claims; however, it was exactly the training that I needed in my role! I have been asked to provide supporting statements and to sit in on telephone assessments with patients that I am supporting. Whilst I have provided supporting statements, I now feel that I would be able to provide a more informative and professional statement. It has also given me the confidence to agree to sit with a person to support them during their telephone assessment and to support them prior in preparation to it.
Thank you again, take care
Social Prescribing Link Worker
South Stoke West PCN
In 2021, we have, so far, co- delivered Housing Law and Welfare Benefit specialist workshops to approximately 300 attendees from various services across the city. These include colleagues from Brighter Futures and Expert Citizens C.I.C., Concrete, Staffordshire Police, DWP, Stoke City Council, Trans-Staffordshire, Saltbox, Aspire Housing, No.11, Stoke Night Shelter, UHNM, MPFT NHS, Combined NHS, CASNS, Reducing Reoffending Partnership and Ministry of Justice.
We will continue to design and deliver these workshops for the remainder of 2021. If you would like to join a session (descriptions and availability are displayed on the VOICES website) and / or have specific learning needs in relation to our legacy projects the following list will be helpful in identifying direct contacts:
Care Act Toolkit: Steve Willis – Service Coordinator, VOICES. Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org
Housing Law and Welfare Benefits: Alicia Simmons – Service Coordinator, VOICES. Alicia.email@example.com
General bookings / enquiries and cancellations: Lynsey Shaw, project Assistant, VOICES. Lynsey.firstname.lastname@example.org
To provide feedback (if not already completed within a VOICES learning opportunity) and / or to discuss bespoke learning needs in relation to multiple disadvantages please contact me directly:
Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES. Sharon.email@example.com