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Improving Fair Access to Services through the Citywide Learning Programme

VOICES fair access to services
Author: Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   In October 2020 VOICES and Expert Citizens C.I.C. launched several systems change legacy projects as the focus for the final year of fulfilling lives:  supporting people with multiple needs in Stoke-on-Trent. The legacy projects include   ·         Valuing Lived Experience ·         Citywide Learning Programme ·         Telling the Story Once ·         Housing First ·         Legacy Conference ·         Evaluations ·         Fair Access to Services   The ‘Fair Access to Services’ project involves several workstreams supporting improved legal literacy and providing support and advocacy tools:     To improve legal literacy around homelessness, housing, and welfare benefits advice, we have been working with stakeholders to develop a learning delivery plan that includes sets of bespoke workshops to be delivered through the citywide learning programme from February through to September 2021. This is how we achieved coproduction of these workstreams: In early 2021 Anna Mather, Project Officer – VOICES, facilitated several online consultation sessions with key partnership stakeholders; the aim of the sessions were to identify specific learning needs of local services in relation to housing and welfare benefits advice.  This was different to identifying general trainings needs as the themes identified were based on actual real lived examples in which staff had previously received training but became faced with trying… Continue Reading

How partnership work and coproduction are creating new ways of working in a learning organisation

VOICES restart coproduction
Authors: Anna Wilcox, Director of Services, Restart & Martin Schofield – Client Support Manager, Restart   The Restart service provides supported housing.  Our specialism is working with the most vulnerable ex-offenders who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We recognise that often our clients have experienced a lifetime of personal challenges, which has significantly contributed to their circumstances.  Our purpose is to support clients in addressing complex issues such as homelessness, offending behaviour, family and community relationships, unemployment, mental health, drug and alcohol dependency, learning and life skills, with the aim of achieving independent living.   In October of 2019 Saltbox appointed a new Director of Services. Our commitment to provide a holistic approach to meet the needs of our clients has seen a restructure of the Restart management team.  This included placing a Quality and Development manager alongside our Client Support Manager to enhance the quality of the service. Our team includes 7 dedicated Support Workers, a property services team including a maintenance and domestic service, input from our Chaplain offering pastoral care, Work Coach for those clients who are seeking employment or training, and engagement with our Clinical Nurse, who provides substance misuse expertise. Our Client Development facilitator provides purposeful… Continue Reading

Coproducing learning opportunities with Adult Social Care in Stoke-on-Trent

VOICES care act toolkit
Author: Stephen Willis, Service Coordination Project Officer, VOICES   The legacy project team who are responsible for promoting the use of VOICES Multiple Needs Care Act Toolkit have been busy with the development of bespoke workshops with colleagues from Adult Social Care.  We recognised an opportunity for Adult Social Care to join us in this project to communicate the value of the toolkit and to explain to the citywide partnership what happens following a referral to Adult Social Care.  Since January 2020 we have attended several online sessions together that have resulted in the co-design of learning content to be shared across the city ahead of a schedule of bespoke workshops to be co-delivered alongside colleagues from Adult Social Care.   The workshops are being aimed primarily at partner organisations who intend to incorporate the use of the toolkit into their daily working lives when working with customers. They will also benefit from regular access to the Project Team post- workshop for guidance and reflection on the Toolkit’s use. It is hoped that the Toolkit will prove to be, not only a useful document when making a Social Care referral but will also serve as a training aid and a practice-based instrument to inform… Continue Reading

Volunteers Week: Big Thank You

VOICES big thank you
Authors: Lee Dale, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES & Penny Vincent, All The Small Things CIC   What is Volunteers week? As well as helping others, volunteering has been shown to improve volunteers’ wellbeing too. It’s human nature to feel good after helping someone out. Volunteering can also help you gain valuable new skills and experiences and boost your confidence. Volunteers Week takes place between the 1st and 7th of June every year. It’s a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our focus has been, and remains on, supporting volunteers to take on coronavirus-related volunteering roles to help communities cope with the many consequences of coronavirus. It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the pandemic response and it’s important that we acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of current volunteers. We are looking forward to Volunteers’ Week 2021 to recognise the huge role volunteers have played.   Big Workshop Day – 2nd June 2021 In collaboration VOICES, 1000 lives, Expert Citizens CIC and All the small things will be holding a workshop day where we have a schedule of learning topics to develop new skills related to volunteering and people interested in taking social action. In… Continue Reading

Interprofessional working: “Come with me if you want to live”

VOICES endocharditis event
By Anna Mather, Project Officer, VOICES   In 2019 two of our cities Cardiology Consultants Dr Satchi and Dr Whittaker were on the Endocarditis ward, they recognised people experiencing multiple disadvantage, especially where addiction issues are present, often struggled when admitted to hospital as an inpatient. After recognising these difficult cases Dr Whittaker and Dr Satchi reached out to services in the wider community to gain a better understanding of their roles, they wanted to create the necessary changes to ensure that any patient they may have on the ward with multiple and complex needs in the future is supported in the best way possible,  based on the individual needs of the patient. From this an event was co-organised ‘Come with me if you want to live’, originally due to happen in April 2020 but due to C19 had to be changed to an online event. The rescheduled event happened on Tuesday 27th October via Zoom. Many professionals came together, including VOICES, from varying disciplines to share learning and understanding but also to create a pathway of support for individuals who maybe on the ward with multiple and complex needs. The day focused on the value of interprofessional working and changing how we look at the work ‘team’…… Continue Reading

Listening and Learning: Prison Discharge & Welfare Benefit Specialist Support

VOICES prison release & benefits
By Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES   The 2018 independent evaluation of integrating a welfare benefit specialist within the VOICES team (1) provided us with evidence-based conclusions of what works well in ensuring that people experiencing multiple disadvantages can access the correct welfare benefits that they are entitled to.  The evaluation also demonstrated that the model works more effectively in offering learning, consultation and direct support to frontline staff when compared with traditional style and ad hoc training sessions.   Following the evaluation, VOICES accessed systems change funding to pilot the Welfare Benefits Listening and Learning (WBLL) support across the citywide partnership – welfare specialists became part of the teams at Brighter Futures, Housing First and Concrete and are working with staff to increase their knowledge, skills, and confidence to better understand the welfare benefits system and to support customers with claims and appeals processes.   Recently VOICES has undertaken work with a focus on prison discharge; a five-month community of practice including a published prison discharge plan case study (2) and current engagement in a national evaluation of prison discharge led by CFE – appointed evaluators of the Fulfilling Lives programme.   Following the community of practice, discussions took place between VOICES, CASNS (Citizens Advice… Continue Reading

No Recourse to Public Funds – Help is at hand

VOICES public funds advice
Jude Hawes, Specialist Services & Equalities Team Manager Staffordshire North & Stoke on Trent Citizens Advice Bureau   During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and the “Everyone In” Initiative, local homelessness services ‘discovered’ a significant number of homeless migrants who were described as having ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) So, what is NRPF? Where a migrant’s immigration status includes the NRPF bar, it means that they cannot access many resources usually provided by the state. They are prevented from accessing Public Funds such as welfare benefits, local authority housing, and free school meals for example.  If they lose their job or the support of their sponsor/spouse/family they are often at risk of destitution and homelessness. The  cases most frequently seen at Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke (CASNS) are women in the UK on ‘spouse’ visas who experience domestic abuse; people who entered the UK to work but then lost their job; or migrants with leave to remain in the UK on human rights grounds, for example as the parent of a British child. In almost all these cases their permission to remain in the UK carries a condition of having ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF). Often these migrants are forced to remain in abusive… Continue Reading

Commissioning 2.0: There’s a ghost in the machine analogy

VOICES Commissioning 2.0
Andy Meakin BA(Hons) MBA VOICES Project Director   In the first article of this series (available via this link), I stated that the cyclical model of commissioning often fell short when applied in the context of health and social care services.  In this second article, I’ll consider just two of the often-unstated assumptions of that model and their consequences which has led me to the conclusion that commissioning must change.     The cyclical model of commissioning, Commissioning 1.0, is based on a simple machine analogy applied to services.   Raw materials are input to a specific process that leads (with an assumed high degree of consistency) to a known output.  Occasional undesirable outputs are considered the result of either defective inputs or processes and are, therefore, issues of performance that are sensitive to corrective action.  In the context of commissioning physical products these assumptions hold true.  It is very possible to specify the dimensions of office furniture with a high degree of accuracy.  The raw materials can be accurately replicated.  Similarly, the process of assembly and delivery is easily reproduced.  External variables that might impact on the quality or quantity of the product can be controlled effectively.  Therefore, a consistent output can be relied upon and,… Continue Reading

The show must go on…

VOICES the show must go on
By Saul Turner, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES   In the summer of 2019, working with people in recovery and leaving detox, we identified that there was a gap in opportunities for people in these circumstances to connect with others.  On exploring options, customers and volunteers told us that they would benefit from having a weekly opportunity to get together, enabling a safe environment in which they could share their achievements, struggles, worries and concerns. Several were experiencing mental and physical difficulties and felt alone. We decided to look at ways that we could support people to connect and, as a result, “Snapback” was formed. This is a weekly meeting for peers to share and support each other. The group soon expanded to having 2 accessible venues per week plus once weekly within the local detox unit (Edward Myers Unit).  The groups had just started to establish themselves and grow in attendance, then running into March 2020 …. the world as we knew it stopped and COVID-19 made its deadly appearance.  At first, we felt, there was nothing we could do; everywhere was shut – no venues, no meeting face to face, 2 metres apart, masks and bubbles.  Even when restrictions were eased between… Continue Reading

Listening VOICES: Project management that makes listening and learning systematic

VOICES jellymould
Author credit: Jo Johnson, Jellymould co-founder and project manager of a new digital service for VOICES   I’m a co-founder of Jellymould, a small design agency working with charities and social businesses, mostly within the homelessness sector. In my role, I’ve gained 20 years’ experience of leading the design, delivery and ongoing management of numerous digital services and websites. We recently began work on an exciting new project with VOICES, and it’s been interesting to learn about their approach to managing projects and designing services and the similarities between us, despite our different expertise. Jellymould is a user-centred design agency – that means that we put users, their goals and needs, first. And, for a designer, a user is anyone who will use or be affected by our work, so if a project’s users happen to be people with lived experience of homelessness, it’s their goals and needs that are our top priority. To enable us to do this methodically, we’ve evolved an approach based on Design Thinking, fairly common in modern product design. Apple and Google have adopted it, for example, and it’s taught at MIT, Stanford and Harvard. It involves engaging the product’s users and other stakeholders systematically throughout each of the… Continue Reading

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