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Category: Web Log

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

Back to Earth: Red Dwarf, homework, and coronavirus

VOICES red dwarf
By Andy Meakin, VOICES Project Director As I write, we’re still less than two weeks into the lockdown following the outbreak of COVID-19.  Already we are adapting to the current situation by emphasising different ways of working and helping people safely.  In the past fortnight I’ve taken part in more group meetings by Skype, MS Teams, Zoom, WebEx, and WhatsApp than in whole of the preceding year. I’m working at a desk at home that I’m often sharing with my son while he completes schoolwork.   If I’m not attentive enough, I catch episodes of Red Dwarf through the corner of my eye being dual screened via Netflix while he’s, I’m told, also working on his maths.  This proves he has the same comedic taste (and guile) as me when I was his age.  As I ask him to turn off Lister and friends to focus on his work, I’m reminded by the current crisis of the opening line of Red Dwarf’s theme tune:   “It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere.  I’m all alone.  More or less.”   It would be easy to get into that mindset in the current lockdown situation.  Like the crew of the Red Dwarf we could feel like we’re locked… Continue Reading

Event: Solution Focus Practice and Beyond

VOICES solution focussed event
By Steve Freeman, Solution Focused Practitioner   June is looming on the horizon and it’s all set fair for the 2020 UK Association for Solution Focused Practice (UKASFP) Conference on 25th and 26th at Staffordshire University in Stoke-on-Trent. Expert Citizens and VOICES have hosted UKASFP conference workshops for a few years now. Response to last year’s hosted conversation around @SoTCoP was really well received. This year’s contributions promise to be even better. As with previous conferences there will be workshops on a range of topics. Most importantly for people reading the VOICES newsletter is the focus on disenfranchisement and homelessness. I’ve noticed for a while that most attempts to discuss social equality and social justice are based in problem- focused, expertise- based, trauma- obsessed and generally well- meaning thinking. The UKASFP Conference will have contributors and delegates working with established models such as Housing First. We are hoping to have delegates from organisations, groups and individuals involved in and with experience of homelessness and its related social complexities. Many delegates will be viewing people as inherently competent. More resource and competence informed than trauma informed. Meaningfully adopting Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) by taking a solution- focused approach. Accepting and working with all available expertise. Research in, and… Continue Reading

A day in the life of a Service Coordinator

VOICES day in the life service co
By Elena Casilli, Service Coordinator, VOICES   As a Service Coordinator I want to make sure that I represent myself and all my colleagues in the best possible light… hard working, dedicated, supportive and it goes without saying…service coordinating! Which day do I pick to represent a day in the life of a service coordinator? Is it the day I collect a  customer from prison, or is the day when a customer leaves a voicemail stating they are planning on self-harming  while I’m on the way to another customer for a long awaited mental health assessment? Or the   day a customer hasn’t collected their methadone prescription for 3 days and is on the brink of being asked to leave the hostel in the middle of winter for service charges arrears?  Or is it the perfectly planned day that has me meeting with 2 customers with ample time for case notes, completing new  actions on the same day and having lunch with no crisis phone calls?  Or the administration day that consists of making referrals and following up with referrals, emails and phone calls, updating risk assessments and service coordination plans, or organising the much needed multi agency meetings? To be fair there is no… Continue Reading

Deductions from Universal Credit (UC)

VOICES UC deductions
By Julie Holdcroft, Stoke North and Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau   Money can be taken from your UC when there’s no other way for you to repay debts for things like rent, gas, electricity, water and council tax.  Your UC can be further reduced if you owe money for things such as an Advance Payment, Sanctions, or a Benefit overpayment. Many people with multiple and complex needs find that they are having the maximum amount deducted from their UC.  Freedom of Information data shows that over 60% of UC claimants are having their benefit cut to pay off debts and loans, including Advance Payments and, 25% of UC claimants are in problem debt compounded by excessive deductions from their benefit, according to the debt charity StepChange. In October 2019, the overall maximum percentage rate for all debts and deductions that can be taken from a UC payment was reduced from 40% to 30% of the claimant’s UC standard allowance. However there are two exceptions to this rule: Last Resort Deductions (arrears of housing and fuel), and ongoing monthly costs for utilities (gas, electricity and water) where there are also arrears being taken for them. A maximum of 3 deductions can be made at one time.   Financial Hardship If… Continue Reading

A day in the life of a Community Development Coordinator

VOICES day in the life of lee
By Lee Dale, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES My name is Lee and eight months ago I became a Community Development Coordinator for VOICES. To be honest getting the role was the easy part, the true work started once I began. So, what’s happening today? Well the biggest part of my role is recruiting and developing people with lived experience to become mentors, educators and service coordination assistants. I say lived experience, but more precisely those who have experience of mental ill health, addiction, homelessness, offending and domestic violence. This gave me a unique challenge from my first day in post. I recently read a research paper that concluded that only 30 percent of people who apply to be a volunteer, become active volunteers. So why is this I asked myself. I began to reflect on my own experience of becoming a volunteer and started to remember the motives I had to do so. Firstly, it was a way of keeping myself busy and allowing me to focus on recovery, secondly I knew education would be an important way of opening doors to employment and lastly I wanted more out of life. These were my own motives yet I knew everybody wouldn’t be… Continue Reading

Working While Living in Supported Housing

VOICES Working in Supported Housing
By Julie Holdcroft, Stoke North and Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau   Supported Housing provides temporary accommodation, ususally for up to 2 years, to support people who need help to find or manage a home. Support Workers work closely with customers to prepare them to move into independent living by supporting them to manage their tenancy, develop their skills and to take up training and work opportunities.   Many people in Supported Housing are on Universal Credit and can have ‘Claimant Commitments’ which require them to look for full time work. However working full time and living in supported housing can incur high costs for the customer. Supported Housing is partly funded by additional support costs added on to the rent which are covered by Housing Benefit. Supported accommodation is deemed ‘exempt accomodation’ and is still covered by Housing Benefit rather than the Housing Costs Element of UC. When support costs are added into the rent,  housing costs can be up to £200+ p/wk for shared or single accomodation. Customers in shared accommodation have a service charge to pay of around £15 p/wk which covers the utlity bills. Customer in single accommodation pay their own bills including Council Tax. As long as a claimant recieves some UC… Continue Reading

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