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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

Stoke-on-Trent Communities of Practice: New Season

By Lee Dale, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES   After a momentary pause and much reflection, we are proud to announce that once again we have started a new series of community of practice sessions. If you are unfamiliar with the concept and want to know more CLICK HERE to read a previous article, written by Steve Freeman, COP chair. Its important to say here that these sessions are not intended to be a “talking shop” and previous seasons have proven that this certainly isn’t the case. Our aim is to bring professionals and individuals with lived experience together in a safe environment to discuss and share good practice as well as highlighting barriers and system blockages within the sector. A huge part of the learning comes from the networking that takes place where discovering each others roles and what we can do for each other really adds value to our work. We run our community of practice on a monthly basis and provide refreshments and a working lunch.   If this is something you feel would add benefit to your organisation / workforce please contact our community development coordinator Lee Dale on 07769 177 192 or email lee.dale@voicesofstoke.org.uk who will happily add you to the mailing list and… Continue Reading

25 years of The National Lottery

Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.   The National Lottery has made more than 5,500 millionaires but its primary purpose is giving to good causes – over 565,000 individual grants have been awarded across the UK, that’s the equivalent of 200 life-changing projects in every UK postcode district. VOICES is funded by the National Lottery through the National Lottery Community Fund as part of Fulfilling Lives: Supporting people with multiple needs. Stoke-on-Trent is one of 12 areas to share £112m over eight years. The programme is aimed at testing alternative approaches to tackling multiple needs with a view to identifying more effective ways of working and embedding positive practice. The 25th birthday is a moment to celebrate the extraordinary impact The National Lottery has had on the UK, and to say thank you to National Lottery players for contributing around £30 million to good causes every week, and so from everyone here at VOICES, we thank you all. The official birthday is 19th November 2019 and from 14 October until 6 December the National Lottery will connect the public to… Continue Reading

Safeguarding, homelessness and rough sleeping

By Bruno Ornelas, Head of Service, VOICES Adult safeguarding has seen a considerable shift in how it responds to adults at risk of abuse and neglect. Over the last decade legislative reform has led to considerable changes in how adult safeguarding and community care is arranged and understood.  For example, placing self-neglect within adult safeguarding fundamentally re-frames notions of adult protection duties, which prior to the Care Act 2014 had focused on harm caused by a third party; this was a position maintained by governmental guidance No Secrets (DH, 2000). The Care Act 2014 also places the work overseen by local Safeguarding Adult Boards (SABs) on a statutory footing. Local authorities are now required to establish SABs to provide strategic oversight and to carry out its duty under the Care Act 2014. The specific hosting components of Schedule 2 (Care Act 2014) require Safeguarding Boards to: Publish and implement a strategic plan, publish an annual report and include reporting on findings from Safeguarding Adults Reviews (SARs), and to decide and provide reasons for when a SAR is, or is not, commissioned. (DH, 2016). Despite these legislative developments, reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian highlight that SARs, where rough sleeping… 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

Emerald Publishing Literati Award for Excellence

VOICES literati award
Two members of the VOICES team have been awarded the ‘Emerald Literati Award’ for their recent contribution to an academic article. Project Director, Andy Meakin, and Head of Service Delivery and Safeguarding, Bruno Ornelas, co-authored the article; ‘Increasing Access to Care Act 2014 assessments and personal budgets among people with experiences of homelessness and multiple exclusion: a theoretically informed case study’ with academics and other partners. The award-winning article, described as outstanding, demonstrates the coming together of the local authority, third sector services, and other experts to further positive practice. On the award, VOICES Director Andy Meakin says: “I’m delighted that our article highlighting the potential impact of the Care Act for people experiencing multiple exclusion homelessness has been recognised by the Emerald Literati Awards 2019.”  “We’re extremely grateful for the work and support of our academic colleagues Michelle Cornes, James Fuller, and Jill Manthorpe of Kings College London, and Karl Mason of the Royal Holloway University, as well as Bridget Bennett of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.”  “The Care Act Tool Kit, we put together, supports the efforts of frontline staff with their advocacy for access to social care assessments.  We’re pleased with the progress so far and continue to build on these results.” Bruno Ornelas said,… 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

Alternatives for Universal Credit claimants with limited access to bank accounts

VOICES uc payment alternatives V2
By Lisa Kearns, Welfare Benefits Caseworker, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent   What is the problem? Currently Universal Credit does not allow claims to be made with no bank account. This is causing difficulties for people without their own bank account. DWP are recommending that claimants with no bank account and who are unable to open their own account, can use a trusted third party account to enable them to make a claim. This third party then becomes responsible for ‘issuing’ money on payday, and often faces no repercussions if this money does not reach the intended claimant. Claimants can also find that they lose contact with the person who is receiving their money, and are therefore unable to receive ongoing payments without updating their claim with someone else’s account.   What can we do? The Jobcentre have access to different routes to pay a claimant if they have no bank account, including opening a Post Office account and the Payment Exception Service (PES) (previously Simple Payments). We have found that frontline Jobcentre staff and UC helpline agents are mostly unaware of the PES and deny its existence. They also often signpost to the Post Office regarding opening accounts, who are unable to help.   What is the Payment Exception… Continue Reading

Sharing Learning with the Fulfilling Lives Projects

System Broker Diane Allman talks to us about the teams recent visit to the Blackpool Fulfilling Lives project.… Continue Reading

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