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

VOICES care act toolkit
Author: Stephen Willis, Service Coordination Project Officer, VOICES   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 a practice-based instrument to inform… 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

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

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