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Category: Web Log

A man named Joe…

VOICES a man named joe
By Elena Casilli, Service Coordinator, VOICES   Joe* has multiple and complex need’s.  I’ve been working with Joe through VOICES for a few years.  Joe made a life changing decision when he was told by his consultant; “it’s not a matter of ‘if you continue to drink you may die’- you will die”.  Joe decided he wanted to live. Joe’s priority need was accommodation – a place to call home so he can start the next phase of his life. Joe had been sofa surfing, on and off, for a number of years. Joe was told by the council that there was a long waiting list for a modified property that would meet Joe’s specific needs and he was not a priority, as he was sofa surfing, regardless of being in an overcrowded property. Sofa surfers are and continue to be the hidden homeless and remain on no one’s priority housing radar. For all of that year Joe was stable, attending all his appointments, family relationships improved, he even got a couple of pets. No suitable property offers were made or if they were, it was in the wrong location – Joe had to be close to family as he needed their support. Joe required a home where… Continue Reading

PIP & Work Capability Assessment: Good practice, guidance and templates

VOICES pip forms
By Lisa Kearns, Welfare Benefits Caseworker – Leading and Learning, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent   Whilst working with a Service Coordinator to support a customer with their claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), we realised that the main bulk of evidence for many customers, comes from the experiences and knowledge of the Service Coordinator alone.  This could be because the customer has been struggling to access support from the NHS or Social Care for example.   As the Service Coordinator spends a significant amount of time with the customer they will often be the person best able to identify the help and support needed and provide an accurate representation of this. Initially we asked the Service Coordinator to prepare a supporting letter explaining the customer’s needs whilst relating them to the relevant descriptors which are addressed at the face to face assessment for PIP.  The Service Coordinator felt unable to do this without a template or examples. We provided an old copy of a template used by Citizens Advice.  However it was written in a very technical style and the Service Coordinator struggled to understand the jargon used and to then apply it to someone with multiple and complex needs. We recognised that a… Continue Reading

Hypothetical Question… What would you do?

VOICES hypothetical question
By Elena Casilli, Service Coordinator, VOICES   Anyone who works with customers who are in prison thinks about prison release day with trepidation … have they got an address to go to? hoping their customer isn’t released on a Friday, do they have a bank account? a mobile phone? are they still registered with a GP?… more questions than answers but some of these issues are resolved prior to release…well the easier ones are.  It goes without saying the amount of phone calls, emails, referrals, and prison visits prior to release to make sure all that could be done, has been done. On the day of prison release, we all know its going to be a long day with back to back mandatory and non-mandatory appointments. How does a person prioritise their needs over mandatory appointments that could have their license recalled and returned to prison? With my time at VOICES I have supported many customers on their day of release.  Some more successful than others but I always think the same thing, how can they attend all their appointments without my support?  By that I mean chauffeuring them from one appointment to the next which may include:   Meet with their Probation Officer and… Continue Reading

Unprecedented Times: COVID-19 blog

VOICES unprecedented times
By Geoff Davies, Specialist Housing Advisor, Stoke North and Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau   Like most people during lockdown, I’ve had my ups and downs.  In February 2020 BL (Before Lockdown) I had just celebrated my 50th birthday with family and friends and was looking forward to a Summer of sport and holidays in Croatia and possibly the US.  But, to quote Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley”. I love a routine and to keep busy, I love having a sense of purpose.  I love my independence and having things to look forward to. I love being around people, and lockdown has robbed me of much of this. For the week or so it was ok, it was a novelty.  I weeded the garden, cleaned my cupboards and de-cluttered.  But I hate gardening and detest cleaning and so as the days stretched into weeks the novelty soon wore off. After a couple of weeks however, I began to struggle.  I was in limbo because, although I had not been furloughed, there was only a trickle of work coming through.  Rationally, I understood and agreed with the lockdown, but emotionally my inner child was rebelling against the restrictions.  In… Continue Reading

Homeless Health Outreach: COVID-19 blog

VOICES homeless health
Advanced Nurse Practitioner Jane Morton gives us her thoughts and experiences of continuing to provide crucial healthcare to the most vulnerable during the Coronavirus pandemic. Expert Citizens Life Stories · Advanded Nurse Practitioner – Jane Morton: COVID-19 blog… Continue Reading

Universal Credit: Stopping the ‘Stop Notice’

VOICES stopping the stop
By John Ryan, Welfare Benefits Case Worker, Stoke North and Staffordshire   A feature of Universal Credit claims is the ‘Stop Notice’, this is a DWP computer generated response to the submission of a UC claim and it stops all existing legacy benefits currently in pay (1), initially there’s no human intervention or verification of an individual’s true identity and only basic conditions need to be met (2), at this point the fabled 5 week wait for payment begins….and if it’s actually a genuine claim off you go to your verification interview. But what if you are the victim of fraud? What if someone makes a claim using your details without your knowledge? As the stop notice is an internal process  the claimant will be unaware of this notice until an expected payment (for e.g. ESA) fails to hit their bank account or the local housing office inform them of rent arrears due to no Housing Benefit paid to cover the rent. Universal Credit is known as a ‘lobster pot’ – once in there is no way out, claimants have been faced with making a legitimate claim for UC in these circumstances, having been told there is no way back to their previous situation,… Continue Reading

COVID-19 – ‘Meaningful use of time’ during lockdown

VOICES meaningful use of time
By Elena Casilli, Service Coordinator, VOICES   As a service coordinator we don’t just focus on “coordinating services”, however this is the bulk of what our role entails. There is however, another aspect of our role, which I think is the best part. The importance it plays in people’s lives is acknowledging that people are not defined by their multiple and complex needs.  My colleagues will be shouting “I know what she’s on about” because I’m always talking about it… Meaningful use of time (MUT).   For me MUT is the whole kit and caboodle and I truly believe that it is powerful in shifting a person’s self-opinion and the opinion of others.  It is a small  part of what makes us us… people with quirks, different interests, likes and dislikes, hobbies, what we consider to be leisure could  be another person’s idea of hell, but  everyone has something they love to do or would like to give a go.  The key is to keep on going, exploring and trying things out until something is found, something that clicks for that person and then you see a different side to someone. Currently with the cloud of Covid 19 over our community, how do we support customers… Continue Reading

A day in the life of a System Broker (in quarantine)

VOICES system broker
By Lauren Macaskill, System Broker, VOICES   Well this case study isn’t how I’d thought it would go! I did consider picking a day before being in quarantine to document what a typical working day looks like for a System Broker, but I thought why not use an opportunity to document this exact time which we may hopefully never experience again. All being well, I’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to evidence what a typical day for me looks like – in the office.   So, what is a System Broker? To summarise, there are two of us doing the role which can include the following:   Overseeing a team of 8 Service Coordinators working with people experiencing multiple and complex needs such as drug misuse, homelessness, offending and mental health Complete suitability assessments for those introduced to VOICES – where they do not meet the threshold, provide specialist advice where possible and further signposting Meet with partner agencies on a regular basis to maintain and encourage partner agency working Ensure VOICES have attendance at all relevant meetings in the city Working with Service Coordinators, highlight any potential “blockages” in the system through appropriate escalation Contribute to the development of good practice and… Continue Reading

There’s something ‘phishy’ about this… Recognising and avoiding scams

VOICES avoiding scams
By Dean Spruce, Communication and Media Manager, VOICES   It’s always important to be vigilant in our efforts to avoid falling victim to crime, there is no end to the lengths some will go to in order to illegally extract cash from our pocket’s or gleam personal information from us that can be exploited. At the moment in the UK, along with the majority of the world, we are experiencing something completely new to us all. The new challenge that we all face brings with it all sorts of feeling and emotions, leaving us vulnerable to exploitation – uncertainty, doubt, fear, desperation and panic present a whole new world of opportunities for the scammers – preying on people’s fears and uncertainties is, unfortunately, as old as the hills. At VOICES we work with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, people without homes, people suffering mental ill health and people with little or no income. Life is already extremely difficult for many of us, making ends meet is getting harder all the time and drastic measure like those we are currently experiencing serve to intensify this. Scammers may use this opportunity to target people who are already in one degree or another… Continue Reading

Democratising or Demonising Drug Dependence?

VOICES democratising dependancy
By Steve Freeman, Solution Focused Practitioner   We know that mental health care still resonates with echoes of the moral judgement applied by Victorian philanthropists. Heart disease, fractures, and other physical ailments were seen as being mechanical failures with more or less effective remedies. Deteriorating mental health was seen as God’s judgement and, even when physical interventions were attempted, the cause was seen as moral failure on the part of the individual. Hence the dichotomy that exists between services, professions, sites of access, funding and public perception. Stigma is almost as evident now as it was 20 years ago. Despite, or because of, many statutory and third sector initiatives and celebrity endorsements you’re still more likely to be stigmatised because of your symptoms of psychological distress than anything requiring a bandage and an x-ray. What could be worse? Could it be worse? Yes it could. You could be drug dependent. That’s where stigma resides more than just about any other area of health and social care and public opinion. Take a minute to think about this scenario. Your sibling, child, best friend announces that they’re in a relationship with someone wonderful. They met at the vegetable counter in the supermarket. They share an interest… Continue Reading

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