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Category: News

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 stationary, 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

Join our team: Service Co-ordinator (full time post)

This is unique job opportunity to work as part of a vibrant and supportive team. VOICES are now recruiting for a Service Coordinator. This is an excellent opportunity to add to your existing skillset and to be part of a unique programme with a national profile. You will work with a small caseload and have the opportunity to take part in a comprehensive learning programme and work alongside people with lived experience of multiple needs. For an informal chat about the role please give us a ring on 01782 450 760 and ask to speak to the Head of Service Delivery, Bruno Ornelas.   Job Title:  Service Coordinator Salary: £22,037.20 Hours: 37 hours per week, Monday – Sunday, flexible to meet customer needs Job Ref: A576 Closing date:   Wednesday 18th November 2020 Interview date:  Wednesday 25th November 2020  via Outlook Teams     Download the full Job Description here   Download an application form here   Applicants wishing to submit a CV are encouraged to provide a separate written statement addressing the points within the Person Specification. You can find this by viewing the Job Description document. This job is also advertised on https://www.brighter-futures.org.uk/join-our-team/ where you can download an application form towards the end of the page. All completed application forms or CV’s accompanied by… Continue Reading

Stoke-on-Trent Community of Practice: A Journey of Prison Release

VOICES communities of practice
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   On 8th July 2020 @SoTCoP held the first online discussion of a series of sessions looking at the theme of Prison Release.  Anna Mather, Service Coordinator from VOICES, delivered a presentation to the community based on a customer’s real lived experience of his prison release plan.  Participants of the CoP were drawn from voluntary and statutory sector organisations involved in coordinating prison release.  The presentation:   demonstrated that, through using public transport routes it was not possible for the customer to have attended any of the organised appointments – the customer was of no fixed abode; two of the appointments were to discuss housing options. included the cost and timings of the journey if the individual had used taxi service(s) – costs are so high this would be a very unlikely option. showed that, being collected and supported by a VOICES Service Coordinator it was possible for the individual to have attended four of the six organised appointments.     Discussion followed; it was felt by the community that, if the person left prison with this plan with no Service Coordinator or other support, and was expected to access public transport, the plan would ‘set them up… Continue Reading

‘Positive Partnership Practice in a Pandemic’

VOICES positive partnership
By John Ryan, WBLL Adviser – VOICES, SNSCAB   Introduction Working in partnership with the local Drug and Alcohol service WBLL (welfare benefits leading and learning) assists the service to provide benefits support to service users through upskilling the recovery workers and building confidence in dealing with benefits issues that were previously addressed by external agencies. WBLL provide in-situ training sessions as part of the agencies continuous personal development program (CPD) and The WBLL advisor is chosen for having experience in the recovery environment as well as knowledge and access to specialist benefits expertise as a CAB advisor. Working remotely WBLL project operates from multiple venues and was set up with remote access to virtual desktops via project owned laptops with reliable connectivity and internet capable mobile phones, as a result of the current Covid-19 restrictions on face to face contact the transition to remote working has been an extension of existing procedures.   What’s working well/challenges overcome Prior to Covid-19 lockdown, Recovery co-ordinator Peter had already formed a working relationship with WBLL and when Sarah told him she had ‘some benefit forms’ he could see how she might be helped. Due to the lockdown and unable to schedule a face to face meeting he consulted WBLL by… Continue Reading

Listening and Learning in Lockdown: a learning and evaluation update from VOICES

VOICES learning and evaluation
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   Since 2015 the VOICES citywide learning programme has provided a huge number of regular learning opportunities that are FREE to access for services across Stoke-on-Trent who are working to support people experiencing multiple needs.   An external evaluator has recently conducted an evaluation of the learning programme which is soon to be published; this will be distributed to contacts and be available through the VOICES website.  Within this independent report there is a focus on learning activities throughout 2019.  We were blown away to realise that, during this period, we had delivered to more than 2000 attendees from more than 30 organisations.     As part of the evaluation a range of services were contacted by the evaluator to participate in telephone interviews that have contributed to the findings;  we would like to say thanks to those involved as well as to all the individuals who have engaged with opportunities since the start of our project who provide feedback at each event.  Your views are crucial to the development of the learning programme and we aim to include ideas for events based on needs identified from across the city. The impact of Covid 19 resulted in the learning… Continue Reading

Multiple Exclusion Homelessness – A Safeguarding Toolkit for Practitioners

VOICES prototype toolkit
Working in collaboration with Keele University, Kings College London and CASCAIDr the VOICES team have recently produced a Safeguarding Toolkit for adults experiencing homelessness and exclusion – It can be used as an aid to fact finding by any practitioner working across homelessness or with adults experiencing other deep forms of exclusion where they have care and support need and are at risk.   The toolkit is not the final version yet, however we’re releasing it as a working prototype for testing.   The Safeguarding toolkit can be viewed and downloaded here. Please feel free to download, print and use the document subject to the disclaimer. All we ask in return is that you send us some constructive feedback to assist us in the final stages of development. Currently, the document is for use as a hard copy annotated by hand. However, our intention is that the final version will be completed by electronic means or on-line.   You can send us your feedback via email to: enquiries@voicesofstoke.org.uk   We are grateful to the many contributors that have already helped us to shape this prototype. Edits have been made as a result of previous feedback but we have not necessarily implemented all the suggestions due to current space or… Continue Reading

Coronavirus and its impact on benefits for people experiencing multiple disadvantages

VOICES coronavirus update
By Julie Holdcroft, Welfare Benefits Caseworker, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North & Stoke on Trent   The DWP has made many changes in the last 2 months to the benefit system in response to the Coronavirus. Some are short term changes and some will last up to a year.   Accessing Jobcentres Firstly, DWP have closed all Jobcentres to most people, apart from the most vulnerable (e.g. homeless people) who cannot access the DWP over the phone/internet. Those with work search and work availability requirements will have them removed, and will not be required to meet with a Work Coach for 3 months from 30/3/20 and then will be reviewed. For those making new UC claims they will not have to attend a Jobcentre to verify their claim. This will be done over the phone   https://www.gov.uk/government/news/claimants-are-asked-to-apply-online-as-jobcentres-limit-access?utm_source=0b62277d-0c8b-401d-a8cd-e22745cdbd9f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate   Self-isolating For those on ESA or UC who are self-isolating due to being high risk, having symptoms or living with someone with symptoms, the DWP will treat these people as having limited capability for work (LCW) without the requirement for any medical evidence or having to undergo a work capability assessment.   https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2020-03-03/24307   Disability and Sickness Assessments New reviews and reassessments (including face to face assessments) of benefits such as PIP will be suspended… Continue Reading

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and changes to the Care Act 2014 – A briefing for homelessness providers and practitioners

VOICES covid 19 care act
By Bruno Ornelas, Fiona Bateman and Michelle Cornes   Introduction This briefing highlights the changes to Care Act 2014 following the new emergency laws brought by the Coronavirus Act 2020. It is intended to support practitioners’ thinking when working with people experiencing multiple disadvantages across voluntary and community sectors, housing associations, faith based community services and other providers that come into contact with excluded groups linked to homelessness. This document therefore acts as an aid to prepare groups of workers to exercise their professional judgement in ways which incorporates relevant laws, ethics and rights based-thinking.   What is the Coronavirus Act 2020? The Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed through Parliament at a fairly rapid pace coming in to force on 31st March 2020. This created temporary emergency laws which allow local authorities to suspend many of the Care Act 2014 duties (Section 15 and Schedule 12, Coronavirus Act 2020). This means that enforceable duties in the Care Act, including duty to assess and the duty to meet unmet eligible needs, are suspended during the emergency period if, locally, resources are stretched to such an extent that it is necessary to ensure safe care to as many people as possible. In other words, some duties in the… Continue Reading

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