01782 450760

Category: News

Communities of Practice: Update

VOICES cop sized
By Steve Freeman, Solution Focused Practitioner   The current round of @SoTCoPs began in September with a theme of Engagement and is nearing its final stages. Part of the first meeting was a discussion of the term engagement. Is this a pejorative term? Are there better terms or simply euphemisms? Sharon Sharman’s recent piece highlighted the inequity of labelling people as ‘difficult to engage’. Well worth a read https://www.voicesofstoke.org.uk/2019/08/30/please-dont-call-us-difficult-engage/ Sharon’s article mentions elements of unconscious bias. This is a process by which we act in ways that are less than helpful without thinking about it. Unconscious bias exists and it’s better to be aware of it than try to deny it. More information here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5333436/ For the @SoTCoP Engagement series we are taking a systemic view of engagement; how can providers, communities and community members’ best engage internally and externally to maintain and improve services for people experiencing a range of challenges. What would have to happen for engagement to be seen as a skill and an objective rather than a label to stigmatise people attempting to access services? The term ‘silo mentality’ has been around for decades. Increased demand and diminishing funding for statutory and third sector bodies have made this more evident over the past… Continue Reading

EU Citizens and the right to UK benefits: Part 1: The EU Settlement Scheme

VOICES eu scheme
By Karen Dunn, Specialist Welfare Benefits Team, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent   This article was primarily in response to questions arising from a Rough Sleeper Team query.  However the EU Settlement Scheme is open to all EU, EEA and Swiss Nationals if they can satisfy the stated conditions. There are no official figures for the number of EU migrants sleeping rough.  A Crisis report in 2018 stated that migrants (including non-EU), “clearly make up a significant proportion of the rough sleeping and wider homeless population across Britain but there are significant gaps in the data collected or published”. Of those seen rough sleeping in Greater London in 2018/2019, just under half were UK nationals (fullfact.org/online/immigration-homelessness/). Causes of EU migrant homelessness are complex and varied, for example: zero hour contracts; earnings below NMW; exploitative employers; unscrupulous landlords; sweeping welfare cuts and, not uncommonly, erroneous DWP decisions when Social Security legislative issues such as the right to reside and the habitual residence test are in play.  We have had instances where even when someone has been given Settled Status the DWP are unlawfully applying the habitual residence test and not awarding benefit. If you, or someone you are supporting is homeless or is… Continue Reading

A Persistent and Unequivocal Refusal? The Ending of Interim Accommodation

VOICES iterim accomodation BRUNO 2
The duty to provide interim accommodation The provision of interim accommodation has always been an area of contention between applicants, advisers and local authorities. Given the financial pressure on local authorities, the increasing vulnerability of many applicants and pressure on housing stock, it is has long been contested that councils may seek to maximise this scarce resource by evicting applicants who do not ‘play by the rules’. Therefore, in the context of limited resources, it becomes increasingly more important for professionals to understand which rules apply and in which circumstances. If a client is homeless or is about to be made homeless when making a homelessness application to a local authority, then there will often be a need to house that person temporarily while the local authority makes further enquiries into the applicant’s circumstances and looks for suitable permanent accommodation.  This temporary accommodation is known as interim accommodation. Section 188 of the Housing Act 1996 provides that a local authority only has a duty to provide interim accommodation where it has reason to believe that the applicant may be homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need.  This can be provided by the local authority directly (a homelessness unit) or other organisation such… Continue Reading

Opening the too Difficult Box: Strengthening Adult Safeguarding Responses to Homelessness and Self-neglect

VOICES opening the box
By Bruno Ornelas, Head of Service, VOICES Over the next three years (2019-2022) we will take part in a research project looking at how self-neglect is experienced by people who are homeless, and how this can be addressed through strengthening local adult safeguarding responses. Along with our colleagues at King’s College London and others, our involvement in this study will be to facilitate Communities of Practice (CoPs) as a theoretically informed approach for aiding reflective practices and embedding a culture of learning and improvement. This includes engaging in participatory and action orientated methods to work collaboratively with Safeguarding Adults Boards across three English local authority areas (including Stoke-on-Trent) to identify positive practices and areas for improvement. This study is also timely given the concerns raised by government about the adequacy of safeguarding and why there have been so few Safeguarding Adults Reviews (SARs) into the deaths of people who are homeless, and whether learning from these Reviews is being implemented. VOICES collaborated in recent research which looked at themes emerging from SARs where homelessness was a contributing factor. Through this, it was highlighted that self-neglect as being a prominent category of risk that people with needs linked to multiple exclusion homelessness often face,… Continue Reading

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

Scroll to Top