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Category: News

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

‘A Cuckoo in the Nest’: An introduction to Cuckooing

VOICES cuckoo in the nest
By Geoff Davies, Specialist Housing Advisor, Stoke North and Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau   Introduction More and more people are becoming aware of the term “county lines” where urban gangs move class A drugs and cash between inner city hubs to small provincial areas, but perhaps less is known about one side effect of that trade, the phenomenon of “cuckooing”. This article considers what we mean by the term “cuckooing”, who might typically fall victim and what are the common signs that cuckooing might be going on at a property.  It then considers some legal implications that could arise in such cases.  It then concludes by asking what the sector and individual workers can do to try and protect customers.   What is cuckooing? Cuckooing is a form of crime in which drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing.  These are known as traphouses and leave victims facing violence and abuse. After befriending people who are too vulnerable to realise what is going on, the gangs invade the house and begin operating from there.  The gangs sometimes promise to pay an electricity bill or buy a TV before taking over the flat. The problem also has… Continue Reading

Working with Complexity: Social Care and Housing

VOICES working with complexity
By Tom Pollard, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust   As a newly qualified Social Worker supporting adults with mental health problems, I see how often the issues that people are experiencing, often thought of as primarily about their health, are almost invariably tied up in their social situations. Many people with mental health problems also have issues with money, housing, relationships and employment, as well as challenges such as drug and alcohol misuse, and contact with the criminal justice system. These issues can be both a cause and a consequence of their mental health problems. Having a safe and secure place to live is a basic human necessity, but it can be really hard as a Social Worker to navigate the relevant systems and processes to help someone with these kinds of experiences get access to housing. This is especially true when you’re newly qualified and new to a team and an area. I was therefore excited to attend some recent training put on by Research in Practice for Adults about ‘complexity and housing’. At this training, we heard from Expert Citizens C.I.C. and VOICES about the great work they are doing to ensure that people with complex needs get the support they need… Continue Reading

Unwise choices or uninformed decisions regarding housing options? The duty to make enquires and the implied duty to support decision making before reaching conclusions

VOICES unwise decisions
By Bruno Ornelas, Head of Service, VOICES Belinda Schweh, Chief Executive, CASCAIDr and Geoff Davies, Specialist Housing Advisor, Stoke North and Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau This article explores the depth to which professionals, who work with people that are street homeless, need to be prepared to exercise their professional judgement in ways which incorporates relevant laws, ethics and rights based-thinking. A good starting point is knowing what the legal rules are, together with clarity about the rules so that practitioners feel well-equipped to apply the scope of different (sometimes overlapping) legal frameworks to particular cases.  However, practitioners should also be mindful that reliance on the more procedural aspects of the law alone may not be enough, and should endeavour to interpret and apply the legal rules in ways that are underpinned by human rights principles and professional ethics. Awareness of how the courts and/or the Local Government Ombudsman have interpreted specific cases can give practitioners a critical understanding for what direction to pursue their advocacy. Pressures on local authority homelessness services can mean that homelessness applicants are not always interviewed at the earliest opportunity in order to determine what, if any, duties are owed by the authority.  This is particularly problematic for applicants who are… Continue Reading

In Plain Sight – The lives and hopes of invisible people

VOICES in plain sight
An interactive journey with storytelling buskers, following the lives of Tash and Steve; two individuals from Stoke-on-Trent who experienced homelessness and rough sleeping in their struggle to survive. Exposing the myths around rough sleeping we look at the real life stories of the people and professionals involved.  Asking our audience to identify ways to improve the journey from street to home. Why does Steve live in his car? How can Tash get a house?   VOICES are proud to have commissioned Stoke-on-Trent based arts organisations B-Arts and Rideout to coproduce an interactive promenade style production, based on real lived experiences, to explore and dispel the myths and fallacies often associated with homelessness and rough sleeping. As part of our work here at VOICES we seek to empower people experiencing multiple needs (combinations of homelessness, mental ill health, addiction and offending) to make changes to improve their lives, and to influence services to be the best that they can be to ensure the right support is available to everyone, if and when its needed. To enable this to happen work needs to be done to understand the drivers behind the barriers people experience. Telling the real stories of real people is central to achieving… Continue Reading

#seethefullpicture – Improving Access to Mental Health Services for People Facing Addiction

VOICES seethefullpicture
20th January to 16th February 2020 A campaign launched by the Fulfilling Lives Programme.   Introducing the second national communications campaign for the Fulfilling Lives Programme! On Wednesday 3rd July 2019, the Fulfilling Lives Programme launched the first-ever Multiple Disadvantage Awareness Day with the #tag #seethefullpicture. The day aimed to raise awareness of the stigma associated with Multiple Disadvantage and also the reasons why people come to face complex needs. Using a mixture of events, website and social media content, the campaign reached nearly two million people! Following on from the success of this campaign, the second national communications campaign launched on Monday 20th January 2020.   What is the aim of the second campaign? Improving Access to Mental Health Services for People Facing Addiction Substance misuse and mental ill health are the most commonly experienced needs for service users (beneficiaries) on the Fulfilling Lives Programme, and there is a high degree of overlap between the two, with 90 per cent of beneficiaries experiencing both. Fulfilling Lives partnerships report that the vast majority of clinical responses require an individual to address their substance misuse, before mental health treatment can be provided or even a needs assessment carried out. This leaves many beneficiaries in a ‘catch 22’ situation where they… Continue Reading

Employment Opportunity: Service Coordinator

VOICES vacancy
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: £21,819.02 Hours: 37 hours per week, Monday – Sunday, flexible to meet customer needs Job Ref: A543   Closing date:   Monday 30th December 2019 Interview date:  Thursday 9th January 2020   Click here for full person spec Click here to download an application form   These posts are funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund until 2022. Brighter Futures is an equal opportunities employer. We welcome applications from people with  lived experience of multiple needs.   … Continue Reading

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

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