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Category: Web Log

Shared Learning creates an Integrated Approach and Holistic Support

VOICES job centre
Written by: Steve Gaunt, Employment Advisor – Families Matter Initiative, Department for Work and Pensions As DWP Workers with various job roles, both in the Jobcentre and out in the community, we support similar client groups as VOICES; very often those who have the most complex needs. Over the past few months we have attended a wide variety of courses provided by VOICES including Managing Conflict, Compulsive Hoarding and Working with Substance Misuse. These courses have all been delivered to an exceptionally high and professional standard. They have all been very informative, covering both theory and practical applications. The materials have been designed using a high proportion of local content reflecting the difficulties of clients we meet within Stoke on Trent so are particularly relevant; case studies and video recordings of people with lived experience. The courses have all provided ample opportunity for guided skills practice. One thing that really works well in the VOICES learning programme is that each course has been attended by staff from a variety of other support organisations and, as such, provided not only an opportunity to practice skills from different perspectives but also an excellent networking opportunity. Each course has also led to a deeper understanding of… Continue Reading

Connecting and Learning with Local Organisations

VOICES staffordshire university
*Article originally featured by Staffordshire University, School of Law, Policing and Forensics Written by Sarah Page, Senior Lecturer Sociology & Criminology, Staffordshire University Staffordshire University works in partnership with Expert Citizens C.I.C. and VOICES; a local Big Lottery funded project in the national Fulfilling Lives: supporting people with multiple needs programme. Customers of VOICES experience a combination of homelessness, mental ill-health, substance misuse and offending. Their lives have been seriously affected by events and conditions over a prolonged period and, as a result, may present frequently at emergency health care facilities, drug and alcohol services, homelessness or mental health services. Recently, Anna Mather (VOICES) and Lee Dale (Expert Citizens C.I.C.) joined our Sociology and Criminology undergraduate students to talk through the Solution Focused and Asset Based Approach that they use with customers. Students had the opportunity to learn from customers about their experiences of substance misuse and they found out about services at VOICES and in Stoke-on-Trent that have helped them to significantly change their life. VOICES and expert Citizens C.I.C. use customer stories to help to improve services across the City and to educate people in the issues faced by customers experiencing multiple needs. The group of Sociology and Criminology students – from within the School… Continue Reading

The Care Act: a toolkit for advocacy

VOICES care act blog
By Bruno Ornelas, Service Manager, VOICES and Dr Michelle Cornes, Senior Research fellow, Kings College London How we developed a toolkit to bridge the gap between individuals and the social care system. The aim of the Care Act 2014 is to ‘make the law fair and consistent’ and to remove ‘anomalies, which treat particular groups of people differently’ regardless of the provision they need or when they need it (DH 2013). The Care Act 2014 was introduced in England on 1st April 2015. It rescinds former legislation, including the NHS and Community Act 1990, with the aim of creating a single consistent route to establishing entitlement to publically funded care and support. This may mean that people who were frequently passed over by adult social care on the grounds that they did not come within a certain user group defined in legislation, such as homeless people, will no longer be excluded (Mandelstam 2013). For the VOICES coordination team, issues quickly came to light in relation to access to adult social care. Coordinators found it difficult to negotiate the initial customer services screening processes and to secure an assessment for their customers. A key lesson to emerge from VOICES early work, centred on the importance… Continue Reading

Making Sense of Social Prescribing

VOICES social prescribing
By Steve Barkess, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES This month as a member of the community development team here at VOICES I attended a workshop focusing on social prescribing. For Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire this new approach will look at different and more holistic methods of supporting people who are experiencing mental ill health, loneliness or isolation to replace sometimes unnecessary medical interventions. The concept of social prescribing recognises the various factors that contribute to a person’s overall health. This includes the socio-economic and psycho-social factors of everyday life for people of all ages by utilising what is available within the local community and how this can be accessed. Individuals will be referred to social prescribing by a healthcare professional such as GP, health visitor, or community nurse as an example. The event: The social prescribing event was well attended, which demonstrates the range of public and third sector organisations that have a keen interest of this model of support. To kick start the day we were provided with evidence based presentations of pilots throughout the UK which showed that this model has the capacity to work well not only for patients but also to reduce the pressures on already stretched GP and frontline services.… Continue Reading

Volunteering and Me

VOICES danny
Author: Danny Daniels – VOICES Peer Mentor I first thought about volunteering when I was in the resettlement stage of rehab. My partner at the time was also volunteering but I never really understood what they got from it, or anyone else that volunteered either. I used to think to myself ‘ooh that’s nice of them’, I always thought that people who volunteered where those who didn’t need to work and had plenty of spare time on their hands. I started volunteering twelve months ago and since then my perception of why people volunteer has completely changed. Now I have achieved tangible things such as my level two ITC qualification and a level three peer mentor qualification. I not only have a developed a real in-depth knowledge of the issues faced by people experiencing multiple and complex needs but I have maintained my professional development and insight into services. On a personal level my confidence and self-belief has doubled and I have hope in people being able to succeed in their recovery. I am able to use my lived experience.  I have learned to use my experiences from a negative place and use them in a positive way. I can now see myself being employed,… Continue Reading

Some people need a damn good listening to!

VOICES listen to me
By Steven Talbot Steven is an independent deliverer of training, who contributes to the VOICES learning programme It is often the case that when we attend training, we hear anecdotal stories of customers and service users and what we, the ‘WORKERS’, have done or could do to support them.  We’re frequently told by very clever people what we can do to support people.  We nod along, munch away on our buffet, (‘delightful!’) and make our notes and think, ‘Well wasn’t that nice’ and return to work.  Sometimes we put what we have learned into practice and other times we revert back to type, we’re stressed, we’re ambivalent, we’re set in our ways and anyhow, we remind ourselves that we do a very good job. We hear on the news of the hundreds of people left waiting in corridors at A and E and it leaves us feeling that the NHS is in dire straits.  We read about chronic under funding and we are enraged.  Then we vent on Facebook and Twitter or sigh and tut and discuss with our friends, ‘How has it got to this?’  To put it bluntly, it is quite difficult to empathise with a statistic. When we hear the… Continue Reading

Nothing But Trouble

VOICES nothing but trouble
Author: Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES We regularly hold quality assurance meetings at the office. It’s important that we reflect on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. This helps us to recognise what we do well and what we can improve. Today, our discussions included how we move further towards a more strengths-based approach to our work with people experiencing multiple needs. When working with people experiencing homelessness, mental ill-health, addictions, and histories of offending behaviour, it’s too easy to focus exclusively on their needs and to see everything in terms of a presenting risk. One of the team gave a great example. We were sent a risk assessment about a person being introduced to us for help. In the comments section of the form, a worker had written simply, “nothing but trouble”. Of course, entirely lacking in detail or context this is a weak piece of information from an assessment perspective. However, that is not what is most concerning. As a statement about a fellow human being, this is an inexcusable exaggeration. Perhaps it says more about taking deficit-based approach to practice that the worker couldn’t think of an apparent positive or mitigating thing to say about this individual. It’s not just that they didn’t write anything positive, it’s an assessment… Continue Reading

From First Impressions through Reflection to Fulfillment

VOICES peer mentoring - Dan
Author: Dan Jones, VOICES Peer Mentor & Expert Citizen A Journey from Volunteering to Higher Education “Am I in the right place?”   “Me…at University?” “OK – I’ll give it a go”   My first day at University These were my first thoughts.  I was at University because I am a volunteer Peer Mentor in the VOICES partnership and had been provided with the opportunity of completing a level 3 Peer Mentoring qualification which meant that I needed to attend university for 6 weeks.  I felt, at first, that I was doing it for VOICES, not for me – ‘a bit of an obligation’.  I thought of the course as being ‘separate’ from my mentoring. I was just an addict who, through some miracle, had gotten clean and could provide some visual recovery to others whilst the professionals did the important work. When I arrived on my first day I was made to feel very much at ease by the two course tutors whom I soon felt comfortable with.  They introduced themselves and began to give an overview of what we would be doing on the course; what we would achieve together; what it was all about. My defences began to come down and I felt… Continue Reading

Imagine you’re in a kitchen

VOICES imagine youre in a kitchen
My parents made our home in rented social housing. I spent the first 19-years of my life there and never doubted for a moment that it was our family home. The fabric of that property is weaved into my memories of growing up. I remember fondly the 70’s wood panelling of our living-room that persisted too long into the 90’s. I remember making cheese n’ oatcakes with my Dad in the kitchen, then watching wrestling on a Saturday afternoon from the sofa. I remember avoiding church on Sunday by agreeing to watch Songs of Praise – on our rented Rediffusion TV – and then turning over to watch The Muppets instead. I changed channel using a dial situated behind the curtains. And, I remember my older brother turning out all the lights on the landing when I went to the loo so that he could hide under the stairs to jump out and scare me. In all that time, I don’t remember anyone ever coming into our house uninvited. What ’s more, I am confident that my family’s reaction to such an intrusion would not have been a warm one. It was not our property, but it was our home. A… Continue Reading

Steve’s Story

VOICES steves story
This summer I had many reasons to celebrate. I reached my 40th birthday; I achieved a new job with the VOICES project, and best of all I became father to a beautiful baby girl. The last two years have marked a real turning point for me. I was born in Stoke and have lived here all my life. After leaving school, I worked in the construction industry for over 20 years with my Dad. Through my hard work, I built a reasonable life with a mortgage, social life, and the usual trappings of domestic life. However, over several years, drink and drugs started taking over my life. Although I continued to work as a functional addict for a long time, the impact of my addictions grew. I lost my driving licence twice for driving while drunk. I received a police caution for possession of cocaine and developed a reputation for being drunk and disorderly at football matches. I was also charged with assaulting a police officer. By 2010, I could no longer afford to pay the bills and became homeless. My lifestyle had a chronic impact on my mental and physical health to the extent that I was very unwell. I suffered… Continue Reading

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