01782 450760

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

‘In Plain Sight’: Review and Photo Gallery

VOICES in plain sight
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation manager, VOICES & Claire Ritchie, No one Left Out: Solutions Ltd   You can view a photo gallery of ‘In Plain Sight’ – The Live and Hopes of Invisible People here   VOICES recently commissioned local arts-based companies, B Arts and Rideout, to coproduce a live promenade performance based on actual lived experiences of local people.  The powerful performance, which ran for eight evenings during February 2020, explored the challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness, rough sleeping, mental ill-health and substance misuse.  Audiences were provided with insight and understanding of the effects of long term and multiple traumas through following the journeys of two characters, Tash and Steve. We would like to give huge thanks to B Arts and Rideout and to all involved in producing and managing the performances.  This extends to the team that provided warm, fresh food for each performance and to VOICES staff and volunteers who invested additional time to co-design, deliver, and staff each evening. The performances were extremely well attended.  We are very proud to have engaged with the variety of individuals and services across the city and members of the public who purchased tickets.  Jonathan Gullis MP, Jo Gideon MP and several local councillors… Continue Reading

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

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

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

Scroll to Top