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Category: News

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

Universal Credit, Specified Accommodation: Payments from Universal Credit and/or Third Party Deductions for ineligible service charge arrears

VOICES payments from UC
By Citizens Advice Staffordshire North & Stoke on Trent   The Issue Ineligible service charges are those not covered by Housing Benefit.  Previously, supported and temporary accommodation providers could apply to have these paid from a customer’s legacy benefit where a resident was at risk of arrears or, already in arrears.  This system was not perfect and was subject to delays but, it did mean that the person would not be evicted due to service charge arrears, it avoided the need for cash handling and, it allowed focus on support. Supported and Temporary Housing providers have been told by the DWP that UC regulations do not allow payments to be made from a person’s UC for these ineligible charges. “Arrears of service charges can be requested from Universal Credit via a Third Party Deduction (if customer is still living in the property). Unlike legacy benefits there is currently no way of service charges (non-arrears) being deducted from UC.“  (Local DWP Homelessness Forum update August 2019) This mistaken understanding of the legislation will undoubtedly increase the level of evictions for people who are experiencing multiple and complex needs and who are already socially marginalised.  In January 2019 the UK Government’s official statistics found that the number of… Continue Reading

In Plain Sight: Review and Photo Gallery

VOICES in plain sight
Back in February VOICES commissioned local arts-based companies, B Arts and Rideout, to coproduce a live promenade performance based on the real lived experiences of local people.  The performance, which ran for eight evenings, explored the challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness, rough sleeping, mental ill-health and substance misuse.  Audiences were provided with insight and understanding of the effects of long term and multiple traumas through following the journeys of two characters, Tash and Steve. We would like to give huge thanks to B Arts and Rideout and to all involved in producing and managing the performances.  This extends to the team that provided warm, fresh food for each performance and to VOICES staff and volunteers who invested additional time to co-design, deliver, and staff each evening. As a result of the show VOICES have been invited to present learning opportunities within North Staffs Combined Health Care Trust and we are making plans to deliver a learning programme within Dovegate Prison.   Claire Ritchie, a national consultant in trauma-informed care and psychologically informed environments attended one of the performances and commented, “I just couldn’t stop grinning. The trauma informed buskers! It was ingenious! Inspired! I knew I was going to enjoy the evening. If you’re… Continue Reading

COVID-19: Ending the Interim Accommodation Duty and Mental Capacity

VOICES ending iterim accommodation
Co-written by Bruno Ornelas (Head of Service and Safeguarding, VOICES) Fiona Bateman (Chair, CASCAIDr)   Does a Local Authority have the right to end the interim accommodation duty early due to the applicant’s behaviour in the face of COVID-19? And what consideration should be given to the person’s mental capacity to make cognizant and capacitous choices?   During these unprecedented times, local authorities and the wider health, care and housing workforce are confronted with difficult decisions when planning and applying responses to individual and systemic barriers that are inevitably exacerbated by COVID-19. Last week central government mandated that all local authorities accommodate all rough sleepers – a compassionate response to COVID-19 for those living on our streets. As the situation unfolds it will undeniably require difficult decisions to be made under new and exceptional conditions with limited resources, time or information. People experiencing multiple disadvantage with issues linked to housing and homelessness seldom become ‘problem free’ once their ‘rooflessness’ ends, or when the move away from the streets begins. Rather, those first few nights are the most critical in a person’s transition. As homelessness provider services and local authorities work tirelessly to ensure that ‘everybody is in’, hotels and bed and breakfasts will undoubtedly be challenged to accommodate… Continue Reading

Homeless Health Service: Timetable

VOICES homeless health service timetable
By Dean Spruce, Communication & Media Manager, VOICES Brighter Futures’, North Staffordshire GP Federation and Stoke-on-Trent City Council have come together to implement a mobile outreach service that takes vital medical support out into the community, providing support for both physical and mental health needs. When people experience rough sleeping, accessing healthcare via the traditional routes can be difficult, sometimes impossible even. The new service aims to negate the need to register with a GP surgery (where often an address is requested, even though NHS guidance states this is not a requirement) taking healthcare professionals (Advanced nurse practitioner and project lead Jane Morton, assistant practitioner Sue Herman and Driver Jason Lawlor) to those that need it, without the need for a referral. The outreach vehicle is fitted with wi-fi, facilities to take blood pressure, take blood, dress wounds and is able to provide food, a warm drink and new socks in a safe, private environment. The timetable below shows where Jane and the homeless health team will be and when (paying attention to the key – outreach vehicle sessions are marked in blue)   Click here to view timetable  … Continue Reading

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