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Category: Web Log

Mandatory Reconsideration: Maximise the Chance of Changing a Decision

By Julie Holdcroft, Welfare Benefits Advisor, Stoke North & Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau   If you get a decision from the DWP that you think is incorrect, you have the right to ask the DWP to reconsider this decision. This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR).   Under normal rules you have a calendar month from the date of the decision to submit this request over the phone, or ideally in writing. If there is a good reason why it was not possible to submit this request within a month, then a late request can be made but ‘good cause’ for the delay must be accepted by the DWP. Good cause could be the claimant was ill or has a specific vulnerability that meant that they needed help to submit an MR request (if the DWP don’t accept good cause, they still have to issue an appealable decision and you can then appeal to a Tribunal who can consider the case). Currently only 15% of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) MRs change a decision.  To maximise the chance of success at MR, you need to know how the Decision Maker came to their decision. This could mean that you need to request or a copy of… Continue Reading

Hidden Homelessness

By Geoff Davis, Specialist Housing Advisor, Stoke North & Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau   Hidden Homelessness If you ask the average person to describe someone who is homeless, then most people would conjure up the image of some poor individual huddled against the cold in a shop doorway. Indeed, street homelessness has received a fair deal of media attention over the last 18 months with many people describing the seemingly inexorable rise in rough sleeping as a national disgrace.  Last year, the government announced a new £100 million Rough Sleepers Strategy with the aim of ending rough sleeping for good. In autumn 2018 there were estimated to be 6,677 people sleeping on the streets but rough sleeping can be seen as merely the tip of the homelessness iceberg.  Homelessness can also include people living in temporary or insecure accommodation, those sofa surfing, squatting, staying with family, living in hotel rooms or motor vehicles. Although the true scale of hidden homelessness is hard to measure, experts believe a “perfect storm” of welfare reforms, a lack of suitable housing and secure work have contributed to a growing number of “hidden homeless”. There is a distinction between those classed as ‘statutory homeless’ individuals or families who have been identified and… Continue Reading

Please don’t call us ‘difficult to engage’

VOICES hard to reach
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES Last year VOICES, along with Expert Citizens C.I.C. were approached by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Adult Safeguarding Partnership Board (SSASPB) to support with the delivery of learning events planned over several months across Staffordshire.  This was following a case review; professionals were seeking a deeper understanding of why some people experiencing multiple needs had difficulties in engaging / re-engaging with services that could support them through recovery and to live more fulfilled lives. We agreed to participate and have since delivered a series of seven bespoke workshops throughout the region. Within the workshops we were able to share insight from experiences and findings from evaluations in relation to fair and equal access; attendees could better understand systemic barriers to engagement, motivation and recovery.   Content of workshops included: Barriers and challenges with GP registration (Click here to read ‘Access to Primary Care Services for people with “No Fixed Abode”‘) People experiencing homelessness unable to access Social Care assessments Unable to open bank account for benefit payments Inability to attend support and medical appointments No communication (medical and other)- postal appointments Dual diagnosis – mental health services / drug and alcohol support services Housing issues – past… Continue Reading

Practice based learning with the Frontline Programme

VOICES frontline programme
By Eleanor Etherton-Rogers, Consultant Social Worker (Frontline) & Toni-Marie Foster, Student Social Worker (Frontline)   The Frontline programme is a two-year Leadership Development programme, offering graduates and career changers an exciting new route into social work. The programme prioritises hands-on experience through practice-based learning, with participants benefiting from intensive practical and academic training, tailored to their needs, as one of a new generation of children’s social workers. During their training in children’s social work, Frontline participants complete a 30-day placement in an adult service to get a better understanding of the social care system as a whole. Frontline participant, Toni, completed her placement with VOICES: “I feel that my adult learning experience provided me with an excellent opportunity to develop as an individual, especially in my knowledge of vulnerable adults with multiple needs. The whole experience helped me to develop my compassion, empathy and understanding of the complexities of people’s lives.” “What I enjoyed most about my placement with VOICES is the different people that I was able to meet. This included customers, the project staff and other professionals, such as the probation service, prison service, drug and alcohol service, mental health service and housing service. I was provided with lots of opportunities to meet people… Continue Reading

Making a homeless application

VOICES making a homeless aplication
By Geoff Davies, Specialist Housing Advisor, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent   Introduction This is a briefing note for support workers who are assisting customers to make a homelessness application to the Local Authority. It explains what the customer should take with them and what questions the local authority might ask the customer.  It also outlines the law in this area and what legal duties, if any, the local authority might have towards the customer.  It also explains what to do if the Council refuses to help the customer. The guide also provides a standard letter for making a homelessness application in writing.   Preparing for the interview The customer will need to explain to the local authority why they are homeless or why they are about to become homeless.  The customer should also inform the Council if they have nowhere to stay that night. It may be worth making some notes of what the customer wants to say before the interview so that nothing is forgotten. It might be useful to take the following information;   Proof of identity (birth certificate or passport if possible). Tenancy agreement, if the customer has one Evidence of why the customer has to leave the home, such as an eviction notice,… Continue Reading

Care Act Advocacy Training

VOICES care act advocacy
Ruth Francis, Service Manager, Inspiring Change Manchester   On the 18th June VOICES delivered Care Act Advocacy Training to the Inspiring Change Manchester Service Delivery Team. Below Ruth Francis, ICM Service Manager, kindly gives us some feedback and shares with us how the learning has been useful in practice:   Feedback – Frontline staff and Managers found this training very useful and informative.  Bruno (VOICES) is a very knowledgeable facilitator who knows about the subject matter and was able to talk through the toolkit and different options available to staff when working with vulnerable adults and people at risk.  Staff advised that they now feel much more confident in challenging the decisions of the local authority, and have a better understanding of the options available to them in order to advocate better for clients and can identify the appropriate way forward, whether that be raising a safeguarding concern or requesting an assessment or both.   Examples of where this has already changed staff action  – since the training an Engagement Worker has made a referral for an assessment for a homeless man (previously we had only raised safeguarding concerns for this person) –  the local authority have agreed to carry out an assessment involving a capacity… Continue Reading

There are few guarantors in life

VOICES there are few guarantors in life
By Geoff Davies, Specialist Housing Advisor, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent   Increasingly, landlords in the private sector are asking prospective tenants to provide a guarantor before agreeing to let a property to them. A “Guarantor” is the person that chooses to accept the liability on behalf the tenant in the event of the tenant being unable to meet their obligations under the tenancy agreement, whether it is for rent arrears or damage to the property.   The guarantor will normally be asked to sign a guarantor agreement.  This provides the landlord with increased security at no extra cost. For some prospective tenants it can be difficult to find a guarantor.  They may have no family, be estranged from family or have family and friends who are unwilling or lack the means to act as a guarantor. A guarantor is all about providing the landlord with a sense of financial security should things go wrong.  So if a tenant can provide the landlord with a substitute form of security then the landlord may be willing to compromise. This article looks at what other options a prospective tenant may have if they cannot provide a guarantor.   Good rental History If a prospective tenant has a rental history of… Continue Reading

Staffordshire Police: Mental Health Training Events

VOICES police mental health event
By Diane Malkin, Vulnerability Manager, Thematic Lead for Vulnerability and Mental Health, Staffordshire Police   As part of Staffordshire Police mental health training approx 3 years ago the Force, along with 3 other Forces, worked alongside the College of Policing to create a training product. This 2 day training package was embedded in to the Force and has seen almost 1,000 Officers and staff complete the course. As a Force we are holding 4 events from April to July across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent whereby Officers and staff have the opportunity to come along and listen to the stories of people with lived experience and also to link in with local service providers. Staffordshire Police are committed to ensure that Officers and staff receive the best training and development that they can provide and from this training we have listened to feedback and suggestions. We have listened to comments and feedback regarding having more development within what is for the Force a busy and sometimes complex area of demand.   As a Force we have worked hard over the last 4 years to improve the way we deal with mental health, this has seen great improvements in many areas including: Reducing the number of… Continue Reading

What on Earth is Motivational Interviewing?

VOICES Motivational Interviewing
By Steven Talbot, Learning and Development Consultant, Steven Talbot Consultancy   Ambivalence, oh my – just the word, it can be a real downer.  What does it actually mean?  There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ve all of us looked at the alarm clock (at the allotted ungodly hour for work) and listened to that inner voice that said, ‘nah…’ and wanted you to turn over and go back to sleep.  Then that **other** little voice in your head went, ‘you need to go to work,’ ’you can’t sleep the day away,’ ‘up and at ‘em!’  ‘Get up!  Get up!  GET UP!’  And we rolled out of bed, ate our breakfast, drank our coffee, stood under the shower and shook off voice number one that wanted us to just give up and stay in the warm, cosy bed.  It’s ambivalence that keeps many people from making positive changes in their lives. Greetings one and all, I’m learning and development consultant Steven Talbot and you’re reading my article about Motivational Interviewing. Now, I may have already bored you to tears, you’ve managed to get this far and then thought, ‘there are things I could be doing, like swilling a mug, buying a book,… Continue Reading

Shining a light on Social Work placements

VOICES shining a light
By Nicole Davies, Senior Lecturer and offsite educator of social work practice   I’ve worked as an offsite practice educator of BA and MA social work students for a number of years, with a wide range of organisations, and I can definitely, hand on heart, say that working with VOICES is always my favourite.   The focus of my practice with students is all about empowering, about supporting them to identify strengths and to make changes where necessary, all to best equip them for success in the future – exactly what the VOICES ethos seeks to do with, and for, every customer. Even though not yet qualified, the students have a real opportunity at VOICES to start making a difference. They are supported to grow, to push their comfort zone whilst they learn, but always in the knowledge that they can ask for help if anything starts to feel like too much. Moreover I feel supported too – my job, going as I do around many different PVI sector providers, can be an isolating one, fragmented and peripheral, but at VOICES there is always a warm welcome for me too – a cup of tea and helpful smiling faces ready to listen. No matter how complex… Continue Reading

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