Email: info@wcen.org.uk Phone: 44+ (0) 207 720 9110

Advice and Advocacy

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In Partnership with Citizens Advice Wandsworth

What is the challenge?

  • Over the last few years, one of the most worrying trends is the significant increase in situations where people have reached an emergency in relation to a lack of basic needs such as food, shelter, fuel and basic health and/or social needs
  • In Wandsworth 4078 people recieved emergency food in 15/16, a 25% increase on last year. Excess winter deaths are highest in London. 50% of people with debt have a mental health problem

What have we done?

  • In a recent report, 67% of people who experience severe and multiple disadvantages said they are more likely to speak to a trusted friend or neighbour as their first contact when they experience hardship crisis
  • We brought together groups who are supporting communities experiencing hardship challenges to identify the places and spaces where early intervention advice and advocacy may be able to prevent people falling into crisis
  • Successfully applied for resources from the Big Lottery to develop a community centered advice and advocacy network

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What we would like to do next

  • Build on existing community knowledge and skills by providing information and training in advice and advocacy where the gaps exist
  • Offer Citizens Advice referral routes and casework support. Extend referral routes into statutory services so that a more coordinated and joined-up range of support is made available
  • Gather stories and case studies to build an evidence base on what is needed to support people out of hardship and crisis.

Our Project with Citizens Advice Wandsworth

This is a  four year project (commencing summer 2016) to help people in crisis take back control of their lives in Wandsworth. The Big Lottery Fund is funding the project. We will work with community, social and faith networks and groups to provide tailored, community-based advice and advocacy for local people.

Support will focus in particular on older and isolated people, people with mental health issues, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, care needs, drug and alcohol issues and in newly arrived migrant and refugee communities who are suffering hardship. It will address the underlying causes of crisis through advice on issues such as employment, homelessness, debt, and health problems. Citizens Advice Wandsworth will train community champions to provide ‘advice first aid’ and put people in need in touch with the support they need to improve their circumstances and has advisers who can take referrals of people who need advice.

Co-Design of the Advice First Aid Training Programme

Potential Advice First Aid trainees and representatives from Help Through Hardship Crisis project partners came together in March to discuss and co-design the pilot Advice First Aid training programme.

Representatives from Age Activity Centre, Elays Network, LittleVillage, S.T.O.R.M, Putney Wellbeing Friends, WCEN and Citizens Advice Wandsworth participated in the workshop. The group discussed  situations Advice First Aiders will face and what skills and resources they need to gain, through the training programme, so they can assist people effectively.

Issues around homelessness, social housing, mental health issues, addiction, claiming benefits, domestic violence, asylum seeking and pay day loans were discussed and participants discussed their training needs in order to be able to work with individuals experiencing these hardships in their communities.

 Training

The first Advice First Aid training course took place in June 2017 at Citizens Advice Wandsworth offices in Battersea Library. The training was held on 3 days over 3 weeks and aimed to equip the participants with the knowledge and skills to provide information to people facing hardship and support them in accessing appropriate local resources.

Representatives from Age Activity Centre, Elays Network, LittleVillage, S.T.O.R.M,  St Mungo’s, Family Action Newpin, Mushkil Aasaan, WCEN and Citizens Advice Wandsworth participated in the training. Topics covered included Welfare Benefits, Housing and Homelessness, Debt, Confidentiality, Interview Skills and Resources and Referrals.

Feedback from the participants was very positive and the group are now practicing their skills in their volunteer and staff roles, supporting people facing hardship. The group will meet again in September 2017 to share their experiences and plan their next steps.

People from ten organisations in Wandsworth came together to complete the introductory ‘Advice First Aid’ 2nd cohort training course in November.

A diverse group of staff and volunteers from the Community Church Putney, Earlsfield Food bank, St George’s University Hospital TrustEritrean Muslim Community Association, Sunni Muslim Association, Islamic Culture & Education Centre, Elays Network, S.T.O.R.M Empowerment, Jimmy Asher Foundation and Be Enriched participated. They have in common their day to day interaction with people facing hardship in the borough and a desire to work together with other organisations to assist people in navigating the systems which affect their lives.

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Conference

Our first Help through Hardship and Crisis conference, held in partnership with Citizens Advice Wandsworth, was on Wednesday 26th July 1.00pm for a Networking Lunch and Conference 2.00pm-5.00pm at Springfield Hospital, Tooting.

The purpose of the conference was to explore issues of hardship and crises that we have emerged through the first year of the project, and to hear from a range of public services and community organisations and members on how they have sought to address them, and in what ways the different systems that we work with can work together to create better pathways for people who are in need of help and support.

The focus of the Conference will be on how we all, in our systems and networks, are responding to the multiple challenges which we are facing, and how we are and must continue to collaborate to become a more responsive and intelligent environment.

We were welcomed by Mark Potter, Medical Director South West London and St Georges NHS Mental Health Trust, and our conference hosts, who were responding to the need for early intervention and prevention by coproducing service redesign and delivery with community networks. The Big Lottery responded to hardship & crisis by developing a grant fund to help address these issues and we are pleased that Lindsay Marsden, Portfolio Development Manager, was able to speak on this. Phil Jew, CEO Citizens Advice Wandsworth, sketched out our local environment and how our partnership has responded to the Big Lottery call for action. Our panellists spoke on the illustrative case studies (attached) that have emerged from the first year of our project. How are their systems currently responding to these issues?  What would they like to see done better?

Over 80 people from across our systems and networks have attended, providing us with a collective opportunity to share and understand the barriers and opportunities to become more collaborative. The conference closed with Paul Martin, CEO Richmond and Wandsworth Borough Councils, offering some reflections on the challenges and opportunities for system change.

We presented two complex cases of hardship, which require collaboration across systems and agencies and invite a representative panel of agency and community experts to speak too:

  • The types of hardship or crises they experience in their service and/or community?
  • What kind of (system, network, knowledge, information, support…) would they like to have in place to make it better and easier for them to support people in hardship or crisis?

We discussed these as a panel, and as a conference, seeking to emerge the joined-up pathways and routes to better and smarter relationships and collaborations.

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To download the Agenda please click here

To download the case studies for the conference please click here

 

For more information please visit Citizens Advice Wandsworth’s website here

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