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Category: News

Stoke-on-Trent Communities of Practice: New Season

By Lee Dale, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES   After a momentary pause and much reflection, we are proud to announce that once again we have started a new series of community of practice sessions. If you are unfamiliar with the concept and want to know more CLICK HERE to read a previous article, written by Steve Freeman, COP chair. Its important to say here that these sessions are not intended to be a “talking shop” and previous seasons have proven that this certainly isn’t the case. Our aim is to bring professionals and individuals with lived experience together in a safe environment to discuss and share good practice as well as highlighting barriers and system blockages within the sector. A huge part of the learning comes from the networking that takes place where discovering each others roles and what we can do for each other really adds value to our work. We run our community of practice on a monthly basis and provide refreshments and a working lunch.   If this is something you feel would add benefit to your organisation / workforce please contact our community development coordinator Lee Dale on 07769 177 192 or email lee.dale@voicesofstoke.org.uk who will happily add you to the mailing list and… Continue Reading

25 years of The National Lottery

Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.   The National Lottery has made more than 5,500 millionaires but its primary purpose is giving to good causes – over 565,000 individual grants have been awarded across the UK, that’s the equivalent of 200 life-changing projects in every UK postcode district. VOICES is funded by the National Lottery through the National Lottery Community Fund as part of Fulfilling Lives: Supporting people with multiple needs. Stoke-on-Trent is one of 12 areas to share £112m over eight years. The programme is aimed at testing alternative approaches to tackling multiple needs with a view to identifying more effective ways of working and embedding positive practice. The 25th birthday is a moment to celebrate the extraordinary impact The National Lottery has had on the UK, and to say thank you to National Lottery players for contributing around £30 million to good causes every week, and so from everyone here at VOICES, we thank you all. The official birthday is 19th November 2019 and from 14 October until 6 December the National Lottery will connect the public to… Continue Reading

Safeguarding, homelessness and rough sleeping

By Bruno Ornelas, Head of Service, VOICES Adult safeguarding has seen a considerable shift in how it responds to adults at risk of abuse and neglect. Over the last decade legislative reform has led to considerable changes in how adult safeguarding and community care is arranged and understood.  For example, placing self-neglect within adult safeguarding fundamentally re-frames notions of adult protection duties, which prior to the Care Act 2014 had focused on harm caused by a third party; this was a position maintained by governmental guidance No Secrets (DH, 2000). The Care Act 2014 also places the work overseen by local Safeguarding Adult Boards (SABs) on a statutory footing. Local authorities are now required to establish SABs to provide strategic oversight and to carry out its duty under the Care Act 2014. The specific hosting components of Schedule 2 (Care Act 2014) require Safeguarding Boards to: Publish and implement a strategic plan, publish an annual report and include reporting on findings from Safeguarding Adults Reviews (SARs), and to decide and provide reasons for when a SAR is, or is not, commissioned. (DH, 2016). Despite these legislative developments, reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian highlight that SARs, where rough sleeping… Continue Reading

Emerald Publishing Literati Award for Excellence

VOICES literati award
Two members of the VOICES team have been awarded the ‘Emerald Literati Award’ for their recent contribution to an academic article. Project Director, Andy Meakin, and Head of Service Delivery and Safeguarding, Bruno Ornelas, co-authored the article; ‘Increasing Access to Care Act 2014 assessments and personal budgets among people with experiences of homelessness and multiple exclusion: a theoretically informed case study’ with academics and other partners. The award-winning article, described as outstanding, demonstrates the coming together of the local authority, third sector services, and other experts to further positive practice. On the award, VOICES Director Andy Meakin says: “I’m delighted that our article highlighting the potential impact of the Care Act for people experiencing multiple exclusion homelessness has been recognised by the Emerald Literati Awards 2019.”  “We’re extremely grateful for the work and support of our academic colleagues Michelle Cornes, James Fuller, and Jill Manthorpe of Kings College London, and Karl Mason of the Royal Holloway University, as well as Bridget Bennett of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.”  “The Care Act Tool Kit, we put together, supports the efforts of frontline staff with their advocacy for access to social care assessments.  We’re pleased with the progress so far and continue to build on these results.” Bruno Ornelas said,… Continue Reading

Alternatives for Universal Credit claimants with limited access to bank accounts

VOICES uc payment alternatives V2
By Lisa Kearns, Welfare Benefits Caseworker, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent   What is the problem? Currently Universal Credit does not allow claims to be made with no bank account. This is causing difficulties for people without their own bank account. DWP are recommending that claimants with no bank account and who are unable to open their own account, can use a trusted third party account to enable them to make a claim. This third party then becomes responsible for ‘issuing’ money on payday, and often faces no repercussions if this money does not reach the intended claimant. Claimants can also find that they lose contact with the person who is receiving their money, and are therefore unable to receive ongoing payments without updating their claim with someone else’s account.   What can we do? The Jobcentre have access to different routes to pay a claimant if they have no bank account, including opening a Post Office account and the Payment Exception Service (PES) (previously Simple Payments). We have found that frontline Jobcentre staff and UC helpline agents are mostly unaware of the PES and deny its existence. They also often signpost to the Post Office regarding opening accounts, who are unable to help.   What is the Payment Exception… Continue Reading

Get Talking Hardship

VOICES Get Talking Hardship
By Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES   This may be an apocryphal story, I can’t remember where I heard it, but it illustrates a point… A doctor was about to do a first shift in charge of a busy A&E department and expressed some anxiety to their supervisor.  Their supervising consultant offered some coaching through the following advice: “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, under pressure, so you don’t know where to turn, or what to do, if you feel lost and alone.  Don’t hesitate to cope.” The message was that struggle is normal, rely on your training and skills, rely on your network of colleagues, overcome problems, grow, and be ‘resilient’.   Promoting resilience has become an inescapable message of public dialogue on hardship and wellbeing.  I think we need to re-examine this refrain.   The implication of the resilience narrative – for some – is that the solution to hardship and poverty is found in the individual.  And, that hardship and poverty, as well as its consequences for physical and mental wellbeing, is the result of ‘lifestyle choices’. Our popular dialogue on the subject tends to organise – consciously or otherwise – into categories of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor.  Sadly, we sometimes see these judgements documented in eligibility criteria that… Continue Reading

Join the VOICES team: Systems Change Manager

VOICES join our team
This is a unique job opportunity to work as part of a vibrant and supportive team and we are now recruiting for a Systems Change Manager.  This is an excellent prospect to add to your existing skillset and to be part of a unique programme with a national profile.  You will be taking a leading role in a comprehensive programme of systems change and working alongside people with lived experience of multiple needs.  You will be using your project, contract, and change management skills to help us make a permanent difference for people experiencing multiple needs in Stoke-on-Trent.  You may even have lived experience of multiple needs yourself, if you do your application would be very welcome. For an informal chat about the role please give us a ring on 01782 450 760 and ask to speak to Andy Meakin.   Please also visit www.voicesofstoke.org.uk for further information.   Job Title:    Systems Change Manager (VOICES) Contract:    Permanent post Salary:        £31.212 per annum Hours:        37 hours per week, Monday – Friday, usually 9am to 5pm, although some flexibility may be required. Job Ref: A505   Closing date:               Monday, 24th June 2019 Interview date:           Monday, 1st July 2019   Click here to download the full job description   To apply for this position download and application form here… Continue Reading

Universal Credit: Complex Needs Alerts

VOICES complex needs alert
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Welfare Benefits Team, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent   Navigating the intricacies of the Welfare Benefits system can be daunting.  Making a new claim for benefit is just the start.  It is important then, that we alert the DWP to anything that will prevent our customers from managing and maintaining their claim, sooner rather than later.  Especially so with the introduction of Universal Credit and ‘digital by default’.   If we are supporting people experiencing multiple and complex needs with their benefit issues, we need to understand that the DWP definition of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘complex needs’ may not be the same as our own.   The DWP definition of vulnerability is “An individual; who is identified as having complex needs and/or requires additional support to enable them to access DWP benefits and use our services.” Its aim is to provide a service that is, “equal in quality and outcome to those whose needs are not complex”.   Its definition of complex needs for Universal Credit purposes is that “the claimant may need additional or different support if it is likely that they will have difficulty:   Accessing UC Proving eligibility for UC Fulfilling the Labour Market requirements Maintaining their UC account or,Continue Reading

‘Fees Fees, tell me more’ – New Tenant Fees Act

VOICES tenant fees act 2
By Geoff Davies, Housing Advice Specialist, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent   The new Tenant Fees Act comes into force on the 1st June capping the amount that renters can be charged for a deposit and banning letting fees altogether as part of the Government’s bid to reduce hidden costs for tenants.   The Government expects to save tenants across England at least £240 million a year through the changes. The new act applies to new tenancies, including replacement tenancies entered into on or after the 1st June 2019.  It will then apply to other existing tenancies from the 1st June 2020. If a tenant entered into a tenancy before 1 June 2019, a landlord or agent will still be able to charge fees up until 31 May 2020, but only where these are required under an existing tenancy agreement. This might include, for example, fees to renew a fixed-term agreement where a tenant had already agreed to pay these. The ban applies to all assured shorthold tenancies, tenancies of student accommodation and licences to occupy housing in the private rented sector in England. Most tenancies in the private rented sector are assured shorthold tenancies   Under the new legislation the only payments in connection with… Continue Reading

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

VOICES homes fit for
By Geoff Davies, Specialist Housing Advisor, SNSCAB   Introduction Last month saw the introduction of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018’) which aims to strengthen the rights of renters in England and enshrine a legal minimum standard of the condition of their rented home. It will also give renters a legal mechanism to take their landlord to court for breach of contract if they do not comply with their obligations.   Why was the Act Introduced? According to the 2015/2016 English Housing Survey over a million tenants in the private and social rented sector live in accommodation with at least one category 1 hazard, which is defined as a serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety’.  The tragedy at Grenfell highlighted the lack of redress for social tenants.   Social tenancies currently have no effective means of redress over poor conditions. Private tenants have to rely on overstretched local authority Environmental Health Teams to investigate and evidence poor conditions. The main disrepair provision that tenants use (s.11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) is not concerned with whether a home is fit or safe – rather to keep in repair the structure or exterior of the property or certain installations in the property.… Continue Reading

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