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Category: News

VOICES legacy: ‘Housing First’

VOICES housing first
Author: Steve Willis, Project Officer, VOICES   The legacy project working towards mainstreaming Housing First in Stoke-On-Trent has made good progress so far. The project has been extended by a year. We have supported the Centre for Health And Development (CHAD) to evaluate the service. Watch this space for their findings! Over the past couple of months the Project Team has been focused on writing recommendations which we hope will inform a final service specification which will aim to secure incorporation of Housing First into the local system after VOICES has ended in March 2022. As well as drawing on our local learning, the recommendations we have written closely follow guidance from Housing First England and specifically the seven principles they state that a Housing First service should follow, based on the evidence of what works for people experiencing multiple and complex needs:   1. People have a right to a home 2. Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed 3. Housing and support are separated 4. Individuals have choice and control 5. An active engagement approach is used 6. The service is based on people’s strengths, goals and aspirations 7. A harm reduction approach is used   https://hfe.homeless.org.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/The%20Principles%20for%20Housing%20First.pdf   Over the coming months we will look at these principles more closely… Continue Reading

‘DITTO’ – Telling our story once: Why does this matter?

VOICES ditto
Author: Alicia Simmons, Project officer, VOICES   I’m going to offer you an example of an experience I had whilst working as a VOICES service co-ordinator. This particular example is by no means one of the most distressing – I have plenty of those too. This will simply highlight basic frustration for our customers in having to answer the same questions over and over again.   I had been working with Sally for a few months already, she had difficulty engaging with services and was often distrusting of professionals. She has experienced many assessments and answered many difficult and personal questions. Sally’s multi-agency team had worked extremely hard to support her back into services. Her workers often had regular conversations (phone and email) and would work together in order to ensure Sally had at least been seen during the week. Therefore, scheduling an appointment and ensuring Sally was able to be found and attend, was a precise back and forth of contact with workers. I knew Sally disliked the regular questioning involved with assessments, she often couldn’t understand the relevance of some personal questions in relation to the service she was requesting support from. Prior to the face-to-face assessment, I had emailed the service… Continue Reading

How partnership work and coproduction are creating new ways of working in a learning organisation

VOICES restart coproduction
Authors: Anna Wilcox, Director of Services, Restart & Martin Schofield – Client Support Manager, Restart   The Restart service provides supported housing.  Our specialism is working with the most vulnerable ex-offenders who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We recognise that often our clients have experienced a lifetime of personal challenges, which has significantly contributed to their circumstances.  Our purpose is to support clients in addressing complex issues such as homelessness, offending behaviour, family and community relationships, unemployment, mental health, drug and alcohol dependency, learning and life skills, with the aim of achieving independent living.   In October of 2019 Saltbox appointed a new Director of Services. Our commitment to provide a holistic approach to meet the needs of our clients has seen a restructure of the Restart management team.  This included placing a Quality and Development manager alongside our Client Support Manager to enhance the quality of the service. Our team includes 7 dedicated Support Workers, a property services team including a maintenance and domestic service, input from our Chaplain offering pastoral care, Work Coach for those clients who are seeking employment or training, and engagement with our Clinical Nurse, who provides substance misuse expertise. Our Client Development facilitator provides purposeful… Continue Reading

Coproducing learning opportunities with Adult Social Care in Stoke-on-Trent

VOICES care act toolkit
Author: Stephen Willis, Service Coordination Project Officer, VOICES   Download the Care Act Toolkit here   The legacy project team who are responsible for promoting the use of VOICES Multiple Needs Care Act Toolkit have been busy with the development of bespoke workshops with colleagues from Adult Social Care.  We recognised an opportunity for Adult Social Care to join us in this project to communicate the value of the toolkit and to explain to the citywide partnership what happens following a referral to Adult Social Care.  Since January 2020 we have attended several online sessions together that have resulted in the co-design of learning content to be shared across the city ahead of a schedule of bespoke workshops to be co-delivered alongside colleagues from Adult Social Care.   The workshops are being aimed primarily at partner organisations who intend to incorporate the use of the toolkit into their daily working lives when working with customers. They will also benefit from regular access to the Project Team post- workshop for guidance and reflection on the Toolkit’s use. It is hoped that the Toolkit will prove to be, not only a useful document when making a Social Care referral but will also serve as a training aid and… Continue Reading

Listening and Learning: Prison Discharge & Welfare Benefit Specialist Support

VOICES prison release & benefits
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   The 2018 independent evaluation of integrating a welfare benefit specialist within the VOICES team (1) provided us with evidence-based conclusions of what works well in ensuring that people experiencing multiple disadvantages can access the correct welfare benefits that they are entitled to.  The evaluation also demonstrated that the model works more effectively in offering learning, consultation and direct support to frontline staff when compared with traditional style and ad hoc training sessions.   Following the evaluation, VOICES accessed systems change funding to pilot the Welfare Benefits Listening and Learning (WBLL) support across the citywide partnership – welfare specialists became part of the teams at Brighter Futures, Housing First and Concrete and are working with staff to increase their knowledge, skills, and confidence to better understand the welfare benefits system and to support customers with claims and appeals processes.   Recently VOICES has undertaken work with a focus on prison discharge; a five-month community of practice including a published prison discharge plan case study (2) and current engagement in a national evaluation of prison discharge led by CFE – appointed evaluators of the Fulfilling Lives programme.   Following the community of practice, discussions took place between VOICES, CASNS (Citizens Advice… Continue Reading

No Recourse to Public Funds – Help is at hand

VOICES public funds advice
Jude Hawes, Specialist Services & Equalities Team Manager Staffordshire North & Stoke on Trent Citizens Advice Bureau   During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and the “Everyone In” Initiative, local homelessness services ‘discovered’ a significant number of homeless migrants who were described as having ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) So, what is NRPF? Where a migrant’s immigration status includes the NRPF bar, it means that they cannot access many resources usually provided by the state. They are prevented from accessing Public Funds such as welfare benefits, local authority housing, and free school meals for example.  If they lose their job or the support of their sponsor/spouse/family they are often at risk of destitution and homelessness. The  cases most frequently seen at Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke (CASNS) are women in the UK on ‘spouse’ visas who experience domestic abuse; people who entered the UK to work but then lost their job; or migrants with leave to remain in the UK on human rights grounds, for example as the parent of a British child. In almost all these cases their permission to remain in the UK carries a condition of having ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF). Often these migrants are forced to remain in abusive… Continue Reading

Commissioning 2.0: There’s a ghost in the machine analogy

VOICES Commissioning 2.0
Andy Meakin BA(Hons) MBA VOICES Project Director   In the first article of this series (available via this link), I stated that the cyclical model of commissioning often fell short when applied in the context of health and social care services.  In this second article, I’ll consider just two of the often-unstated assumptions of that model and their consequences which has led me to the conclusion that commissioning must change.     The cyclical model of commissioning, Commissioning 1.0, is based on a simple machine analogy applied to services.   Raw materials are input to a specific process that leads (with an assumed high degree of consistency) to a known output.  Occasional undesirable outputs are considered the result of either defective inputs or processes and are, therefore, issues of performance that are sensitive to corrective action.  In the context of commissioning physical products these assumptions hold true.  It is very possible to specify the dimensions of office furniture with a high degree of accuracy.  The raw materials can be accurately replicated.  Similarly, the process of assembly and delivery is easily reproduced.  External variables that might impact on the quality or quantity of the product can be controlled effectively.  Therefore, a consistent output can be relied upon and,… Continue Reading

Commissioning 2.0: Why our commissioning system must change

VOICES commissioning 2
Andy Meakin BA(Hons) MBA, Project Director, VOICES   I spent fifteen years of my public sector career involved in commissioning.  Through much of that time, I accepted the given orthodoxy that emerged from the 1980’s onwards in the New Public Management movement.  This sought to make public sector organisations more ‘business like’ and efficient.  It perhaps began in the context of commissioning with compulsory competitive tendering, went on to incorporate ideas of best value, and matured by around 2010 into what we can call ‘outcomes-based commissioning’ or, perhaps, what some are now calling ‘Commissioning 1.0’. This approach to commissioning is often rendered as a cycle with stages of plan, procure, monitor, and evaluate.  This is an adaptation of the much earlier Deming’s wheel from management theory (plan, do, check, act).         This model works well for relatively straight-forward procurements that deal with tangible outputs and aim to deliver relatively simple often deterministic outcomes.  Examples include consumables like stationery, tables, chairs, and equipment like laptops.  Commissioning 1.0 can also work well in some types of public sector services such as waste collection or construction projects.  Of course, each of those has its own complexities and challenges, but the thing that they all share is that the… Continue Reading

Staffordshire Police: Anticipating, preventing and responding through workforce development

VOICES workforce development
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation manager, VOICES   Commissioners, providers of services, teams and individual frontline staff often reflect on work undertaken to evaluate impact.  It can be easy to get wrapped up in ‘targets’, ‘outcomes’, ‘outputs’ and ‘benefits for the customer’, but how often do we take time to reflect and evaluate the impact on services?  This article looks at the benefits of workforce development delivered through our learning programme through the lens of colleagues at Staffordshire Police.   VOICES citywide learning programme began in 2015 and has developed over the years, through regular consultation with stakeholders, to ensure that we respond to learning needs identified in relation to supporting people experiencing multiple needs across the city of Stoke-on Trent. In addition to our regular masterclasses and training courses, we design and deliver bespoke workshops for specific service needs.  These are created through by applying a philosophy of coproduction in which real lived experiences are the core of content.   This year our learning programme was externally evaluated in which several partnership stakeholders were interviewed to gain a deeper understanding of how the learning programme benefits their service.  This quote was taken from one such interview with Staffordshire Police who discusses the specialist facilitators… Continue Reading

A Shock to the System

VOICES shock to the system
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   It was a cold Wednesday afternoon back in February this year– a usual day in the office. Fact finding and phone calls, report writing, gathering information and statistics, co-designing workshops with Expert Citizens and battling our way through complex systems.   Our Service Coordinators advocate assertively on behalf of people who, on a daily basis, have difficulty accessing the services they need to overcome multiple traumas and complex situations. It’s a mix of wondering where one person might sleep that night blended with a celebration that another had been safely homed in an appropriate environment with the right support. All this activity helps to form the ‘busy buzz’ in the office atmosphere. Just another day at work until at around 3.30pm, “You’ve got to be kidding!” An involuntary phrase escaped in the moment. The words broke through the busy office buzz for a moment. It was a short, brisk walk along the corridor, time being the factor, to discuss the situation with our service manager. She held in her hand a prison release plan that had just been emailed to us. “You need to see this”, she said. The plan related to a man who… Continue Reading

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