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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

In Plain Sight – The lives and hopes of invisible people

VOICES in plain sight
An interactive journey with storytelling buskers, following the lives of Tash and Steve; two individuals from Stoke-on-Trent who experienced homelessness and rough sleeping in their struggle to survive. Exposing the myths around rough sleeping we look at the real life stories of the people and professionals involved.  Asking our audience to identify ways to improve the journey from street to home. Why does Steve live in his car? How can Tash get a house?   VOICES are proud to have commissioned Stoke-on-Trent based arts organisations B-Arts and Rideout to coproduce an interactive promenade style production, based on real lived experiences, to explore and dispel the myths and fallacies often associated with homelessness and rough sleeping. As part of our work here at VOICES we seek to empower people experiencing multiple needs (combinations of homelessness, mental ill health, addiction and offending) to make changes to improve their lives, and to influence services to be the best that they can be to ensure the right support is available to everyone, if and when its needed. To enable this to happen work needs to be done to understand the drivers behind the barriers people experience. Telling the real stories of real people is central to achieving… Continue Reading

#seethefullpicture – Improving Access to Mental Health Services for People Facing Addiction

VOICES seethefullpicture
20th January to 16th February 2020 A campaign launched by the Fulfilling Lives Programme.   Introducing the second national communications campaign for the Fulfilling Lives Programme! On Wednesday 3rd July 2019, the Fulfilling Lives Programme launched the first-ever Multiple Disadvantage Awareness Day with the #tag #seethefullpicture. The day aimed to raise awareness of the stigma associated with Multiple Disadvantage and also the reasons why people come to face complex needs. Using a mixture of events, website and social media content, the campaign reached nearly two million people! Following on from the success of this campaign, the second national communications campaign launched on Monday 20th January 2020.   What is the aim of the second campaign? Improving Access to Mental Health Services for People Facing Addiction Substance misuse and mental ill health are the most commonly experienced needs for service users (beneficiaries) on the Fulfilling Lives Programme, and there is a high degree of overlap between the two, with 90 per cent of beneficiaries experiencing both. Fulfilling Lives partnerships report that the vast majority of clinical responses require an individual to address their substance misuse, before mental health treatment can be provided or even a needs assessment carried out. This leaves many beneficiaries in a ‘catch 22’ situation where they… Continue Reading

Employment Opportunity: Service Coordinator

VOICES vacancy
This is unique job opportunity to work as part of a vibrant and supportive team. VOICES are now recruiting for a Service Coordinator. This is an excellent opportunity to add to your existing skillset and to be part of a unique programme with a national profile. You will work with a small caseload and have the opportunity to take part in a comprehensive learning programme and work alongside people with lived experience of multiple needs. For an informal chat about the role please give us a ring on 01782 450 760 and ask to speak to the Head of Service Delivery, Bruno Ornelas.   Job Title:  Service Coordinator Salary: £21,819.02 Hours: 37 hours per week, Monday – Sunday, flexible to meet customer needs Job Ref: A543   Closing date:   Monday 30th December 2019 Interview date:  Thursday 9th January 2020   Click here for full person spec Click here to download an application form   These posts are funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund until 2022. Brighter Futures is an equal opportunities employer. We welcome applications from people with  lived experience of multiple needs.   … Continue Reading

Communities of Practice: Update

VOICES cop sized
By Steve Freeman, Solution Focused Practitioner   The current round of @SoTCoPs began in September with a theme of Engagement and is nearing its final stages. Part of the first meeting was a discussion of the term engagement. Is this a pejorative term? Are there better terms or simply euphemisms? Sharon Sharman’s recent piece highlighted the inequity of labelling people as ‘difficult to engage’. Well worth a read https://www.voicesofstoke.org.uk/2019/08/30/please-dont-call-us-difficult-engage/ Sharon’s article mentions elements of unconscious bias. This is a process by which we act in ways that are less than helpful without thinking about it. Unconscious bias exists and it’s better to be aware of it than try to deny it. More information here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5333436/ For the @SoTCoP Engagement series we are taking a systemic view of engagement; how can providers, communities and community members’ best engage internally and externally to maintain and improve services for people experiencing a range of challenges. What would have to happen for engagement to be seen as a skill and an objective rather than a label to stigmatise people attempting to access services? The term ‘silo mentality’ has been around for decades. Increased demand and diminishing funding for statutory and third sector bodies have made this more evident over the past… Continue Reading

Lost – Recognising and responding to loneliness

VOICES lost loneliness
By Steven Talbot, Training and Consultancy, Steven Talbot Consultancy   “A subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want.”  Perlman, D.   Hello all, I’ve recently been delivering my course, ‘Lost – recognising and responding to loneliness.’  The course was designed in collaboration with customers from across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. VOICES commissioned me to spread the word through their citywide learning programme1, especially regarding the amount of people across Stoke-on-Trent who are experiencing loneliness. The VOICES project is aimed at testing alternative approaches to tackling systemic barriers to effective support along with learning and evaluation to identify what works well.  The project has achieved numerous examples of coproduction and lived experience (Expert Citizens) is included in the design, development and delivery at all levels. I was asked to create the course to assist workers in recognising the signs of loneliness, tackle the issue, listen to customers and support people into embracing company and companionship. Learners are often shocked by the figures and statistics relating to loneliness, especially the amount of young people and young parents who are isolated and alone.  There’s a slight myth… Continue Reading

Hindsight is a beautiful thing: Reflections of a Service Coordinator

VOICES Reflections of a Service Coordinator
By Anna Mather, Service Coordinator, VOICES I was recently asked “if I could go back and give myself advice when becoming a service coordinator what would I say to myself?” It’s a very good question, what would I say? Well firstly I would remind myself ‘you are service coordinator and not support worker.’ What’s the difference I hear you ask? Well as a coordinator your role is to coordinate services to provide support for our customers, as opposed to providing support directly, even though as a human being it’s built in me to do my best to support any anyone I work with. However, by doing this, I learnt the hard way that if you ‘support work,’ it is incredibly hard. You have one set of hands, you have the timescale of one role – if you don’t stick to it the customers suffer, and so do you. Secondly, (I want you to work with me on this one) it is ok to say ‘no’. It doesn’t matter if you say no to a customer or another service, in some cases it may even be your own colleague’s, but it is OK. Obviously, I don’t mean saying no just for the sake of it,… Continue Reading

High-ho, high-ho, it’s off to plant some tree’s we go!

VOICES tree planting
VOICES Service Coordinator Elena Casilli recently accompanied her customer Brad to a tree planting event, organised by Fenns stationary supplies, in a bid to offset the carbon footprint created by printing and photocopying for business purposes over the last year. This is what Ellie and Brad had to say: We trekked to the Young Peoples Forest at Mead Derbyshire where we were kitted out in our wet weather gear, we were given instructions and then we were let loose, the saplings and shovel collected and off we trudged through the fields to plant Beech and Oak saplings. Brad and I worked great as a team – he shovelled and I planted on a day best described as wet, muddy and cold. Brad was ‘chief hole digger’ and I was ‘sapling planter’. Brad was digging the holes much faster than I was planting and trying to motivate me to work faster (to no avail!) and Brad ended up doing both jobs at once. There was a ugly incident whereby I lost my footing and face planted in the mud… Brad came along and lifted me out and cheekily muttered “you’re not too good on your feet duck!”. I asked Brad to share his thoughts about the day and he wrote, “ we got stuck… Continue Reading

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