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National Expert Citizens Group Update

VOICES NECG update
Author: Lee Dale, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES (NECG Member)   Throughout the Fulfilling Lives programme VOICES and Expert Citizens have been working closely with the National Expert Citizen Group (NECG) hosted by Revolving Doors. During the past 16 months due to the pandemic, we have continued to do this, albeit remotely. All the Fulfilling Lives lived experience teams have shown true commitment throughout this process, and their input is helping to shape future services for those experiencing multiple disadvantages.   The aim of the NECG is to ensure lived experience shapes system change and creates future services that are; co-produced, accessible, and designed for people who have experienced multiple disadvantages.   Helping create services designed for people with co-occurring substance/alcohol use and mental health (‘dual diagnosis’). This will include providing support for people who want support but are not yet abstinent. Improving support for people leaving prison and people with repeat contact with the criminal justice system. Developing approaches to prevent drug related deaths and adapt to changes in drug use (e.g., rise in crack cocaine, prescription drugs and new psychoactive substances). Developing appropriate accommodation options for people who are experiencing multiple disadvantages. Designing services that are appropriate for women that have experienced multiple disadvantages.   Regional… Continue Reading

VOICES Legacy Celebration

VOICES legacy
Author: Dean Spruce, Communication and Media Manager, VOICES   The VOICES partnership in Stoke-on-Trent is one of twelve areas in the UK to have received fulfilling lives funding through The National Lottery Community Fund back in 2014, to enable us to improve systems and services for people experiencing multiple disadvantage.   It’s been quite a journey to say the least with learning to be had at every step along the way, and as we now approach the end of our journey planning has begun for the end of project celebrations to be held on March 10th 2022.   During the day we will be taking a look back at what we’ve learned and achieved over the life of the project, with lunch provided, as well as looking forward to the next chapter in the launching of the Changing Futures programme. As more information becomes available we will keep you updated through VOICES News and the VOICES website….. Stay tuned… Continue Reading

From Fulfilling Lives to Changing Futures in Stoke-on-Trent

VOICES Changing Futures
Photograph from StokeonTrentLive – Pictured: Jo Gideon (MP Stoke Central), John Mothersole (Chair of the National Lottery Community Fund),  Cllr Abi Brown Leader of the Council, Andy Meakin (VOICES Project Director), Darren Murinas (CEO of Expert Citizens), and Eddie Hughes MP Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing. Author: Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES   On Friday, 16th July we were delighted to host the Minister for Housing and Rough Sleeping, Eddie Hughes MP, to celebrate the award of £3.9m to Stoke-on-Trent through a programme called Changing Futures.  VOICES partners and stakeholders were central to pulling together the successful bid which builds on local learning from the Fulfilling Lives project.  Changing Futures will provide tailored support to people experiencing combinations of homelessness, mental ill-health, addiction, contact with the criminal justice system, and domestic abuse. Key components of the model draw on learning from the VOICES partnership, which is led by Brighter Futures, including a multi-agency team of Case Coordinators, additional social care and psychological support, and improved access to primary care through a ‘health hub’ approach.   Mr Hughes told StokeonTrentLive:  “We need to look at the individual and help them deal with all of the challenges that they face, rather than sending them to five different places… Continue Reading

Principles of Housing First – Part one

VOICES housing first principles
Author: Steve Willis, Project Officer, VOICES   In the last newsletter I listed the 7 Principles of Housing First England and over the next few editions I aim to look at these in some detail and describe how some of the principles have ‘non-negotiable’ or essential aspects which separate the Housing First model from other support services.   People have a right to a home Prioritising access to housing as quickly as possible is a central tenet of Housing First and gaining suitable and stable housing is not contingent on any conditions other than willingness to maintain a tenancy. This diverges from many supported housing services who may ask to see evidence of the person’s recovery before accommodating them. Regular engagement with substance misuse services or having mental health support already in place can be potential conditions to be accepted onto a housing waiting list but can also be difficult to achieve when rough sleeping or living in unstable accommodation. Non-conditional access to housing is a ‘non- negotiable’ factor. Stability of tenure is another ‘non-negotiable’ aspect to being considered a Housing First Service. The individual will have their own tenancy agreement and will not lose their housing if they disengage or no longer require the support.… Continue Reading

A Learning Legacy to promote improved Legal Literacy in Stoke-on-Trent

VOICES legal literacy
Author: Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   As the VOICES partnership is approaching the end of the funding period (March 2022) we have focused our work this year on a series of legacy projects – issues and themes of the projects have been influenced through our external evaluations, our experiences, consultation with stakeholders and local people with lived experiences of multiple disadvantages.  One key element across the legacy projects is that they are co-designed, co-delivered and evaluated with Expert Citizens C.I.C. and partners who can contribute their specialist knowledge and skills in the delivery of bespoke learning opportunities and inform us of gaps, barriers and needs within our local system. Working with our experienced Service Coordinators and Community Development Coordinators we involve stakeholders to coproduce the content and activities for each of the legacy projects.  Some projects include several workstreams – for example – ‘Fair and Equal Access’.  Workstreams within this project include:   Embed the Multi-agency Resolution Group Improve Discharge from Hospital and Prison DITTO (A project aimed at assessing the feasibility of a technical solution that reduces the number of times people have to tell their story) Promote Improved Legal Literacy   Promoting improved legal literacy includes the design and delivery of… Continue Reading

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Leaflet

VOICES mental health
As part of the Suicide Prevention Community Champions Project our colleagues at Brighter Futures have produced a community leaflet as a source of support for anyone who may be struggling with their mental health, or for someone worried about another person.   You can download this leaflet in PDF format by clicking here.     … Continue Reading

Changes to ‘housing allowance for single people’ – Information leaflet

VOICES CAB leaflet
  Our friends and colleagues at Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent have recently produced a leaflet detailing changes to the way ‘housing allowance for single people’ is calculated. As a result of these changes, additional groups of care leavers and former hostel/refuge residents could be eligible for higher amounts of Universal Credit for housing costs or Housing Benefit, but the DWP/Council systems won’t identify them automatically.   If you or your organisation work to support people experiencing multiple disadvantage you can download a pdf copy for printing/reference here. We encourage you to share this information with your colleagues and networks.   The new rules include changes to:   The shared accommodation rate New Rules for under 35’s Care Leavers under 25’s If you’ve lived in a hostel or refuge   Other special circumstances Disability Benefits Former Prisoners       … Continue Reading

Volunteers Week 2021 Celebrations Stoke-on-Trent

Click video above to play   This year’s Volunteers Week took place between the 1st and 7th of June. On the 4nd VOICES in collaboration with 1000 lives and Expert Citizens CIC held ‘The Big Thank You’ to celebrate and thank volunteers across the city for their kindness and hard work. It goes without saying that the past year has been both different and difficult – the response from volunteers up and down the UK has been integral to our unified response in supporting our communities. Never has it been so  important to take the time to recognise and acknowledge this, and so a massive thank you goes out  to everyone that came along to make for such a great day! We hope you enjoy the video of ‘The Big Thank You’ above, in addition you can view the comments and feedback from the ‘live chat on the day, here..… Continue Reading

Improving service transitions for people experiencing multiple disadvantage: Prison release webinar

Click video above to play   The experience of prison for people facing multiple disadvantage is often a reoccurring series of short sentences, which create huge disruption to their lives with limited benefit in terms of rehabilitation. Among Fulfilling Lives beneficiaries, there is an association between spending time in prison and having poorer outcomes. In this webinar that took place on the 10th June 2021, the evaluation team shared findings from their recent study exploring the experience of prison release for people affected by multiple forms of disadvantage and how this transition might be improved. The VOICES team were privileged to take part, presenting the findings, and subsequent recommendations, of a real-life example of a prison discharge plan entitled, “An Improbable Journey.” (click here for a downloadable pdf)   Below is some feedback kindly provided from attendees of the webinar:   “I have been tasked with strengthening relationships with our Referral Agencies who issue vouchers on our behalf and setting them up as E-referrers. E-referral codes are generated through a foodbank data system and can be issued verbally or via text message so no more red paper vouchers! I attended the webinar to gain a better understanding about the difficulties that prison leavers face. I also wanted… Continue Reading

VOICES legacy: ‘Housing First’

VOICES housing first
Author: Steve Willis, Project Officer, VOICES   The legacy project working towards mainstreaming Housing First in Stoke-On-Trent has made good progress so far. The project has been extended by a year. We have supported the Centre for Health And Development (CHAD) to evaluate the service. Watch this space for their findings! Over the past couple of months the Project Team has been focused on writing recommendations which we hope will inform a final service specification which will aim to secure incorporation of Housing First into the local system after VOICES has ended in March 2022. As well as drawing on our local learning, the recommendations we have written closely follow guidance from Housing First England and specifically the seven principles they state that a Housing First service should follow, based on the evidence of what works for people experiencing multiple and complex needs:   1. People have a right to a home 2. Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed 3. Housing and support are separated 4. Individuals have choice and control 5. An active engagement approach is used 6. The service is based on people’s strengths, goals and aspirations 7. A harm reduction approach is used   https://hfe.homeless.org.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/The%20Principles%20for%20Housing%20First.pdf   Over the coming months we will look at these principles more closely… Continue Reading

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