Connection Support https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk We support people facing complex life challenges Mon, 10 Feb 2020 16:13:15 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Navigating Universal Credit & Benefits https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/navigating_benefits_universal-credit/ Thu, 18 Jul 2019 12:09:08 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=4307 Benefits can be bewildering. We've tried to simplify a complicated process with some tips to get you started. Many of us will claim benefits during our lives. We may have been made redundant or be too unwell to work. Some of us will be employed, but will claim benefits to either help make [...]

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Benefits can be bewildering. We’ve tried to simplify a complicated process with some tips to get you started.

Many of us will claim benefits during our lives. We may have been made redundant or be too unwell to work. Some of us will be employed, but will claim benefits to either help make ends meet or to pay for expenses incurred as a result of ill health. Some people will claim benefits if they are employed on ‘zero hours’ contracts when their employer has no work for them to do at the time.

Universal Credit

The benefits system has changed a great deal recently with the introduction of universal credit. This was introduced to bring a wide range of benefits together and to make claiming simpler. Although the new system has its critics, for most people, making a claim can be completed from home using a computer. Under the old system people claimed an ‘out of work’ benefit such as JSA and claimed their housing costs (housing benefit) on top. Under universal credit, living costs and housing costs are now paid together each month. There are some exceptions to this and if you live in supported housing, your housing costs will continue to be paid directly to your landlord.

If you want to make a claim for universal credit, go to: https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

Tips for universal credit readiness

1. Prepare and plan.

Before you do though, make sure you have important information such as your address and postcode, your previous employers and landlord’s details to hand. If you need help you can call 0800 3285644. You’ll get your first payment around 5 weeks after applying online if your application is successful. When you apply, you can ask for an advance if you need help sooner. At some stage during the claim process, you’ll be asked to visit your local Job Centre to provide ID documents. It is also worth remembering that you will be expected to prove that you are looking for work during the duration of your universal credit claim.

2. Get online.

Not everybody has access to a computer and some people find using them difficult. If you are facing these challenges, you can approach an organisation like Connection Support or your local CAB to help you.

3.  Other benefits.

If you are ill or disabled, you may be able to claim ESA. ESA stands for Employment and Support Allowance, the benefit which has replaced incapacity benefit. ESA can be a more difficult benefit to claim than incapacity benefit, primarily because of the medical test – the work capability assessment.

The assessment phase of ESA is intended to last for 13 weeks, but for many claimants it can last a lot longer. In the assessment phase you are likely to be sent an ESA50 limited capability for work questionnaire and may have to attend a medical. At the end of the assessment phase a decision will be made about whether you are eligible for ESA and, if so, which group you will be put in – the support group, or the work related activity group, where you have to attend regular interviews with an advisor. To make a claim go to: https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

Again, if you do not have access to a computer, you can approach organisation such as Connection Support or the CAB for help.

4. Paying the rent.

Some people claiming benefits may need further help with their rent. This can be claimed in the form of a ‘discretionary housing payment’, and is paid through your local council. To find details of your local council, go to: https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council

Connection Support Housing Support Service in Oxfordshire

Our Housing Support service provides support to you if you are at risk of becoming homeless, living in inappropriate or unsuitable housing. Our team provides advice on housing law, can accompany you to court hearings and guide you through the benefits maze.

You can self-refer to access this service (you need to be aged 16 and living in Oxfordshire) or be referred to our Housing Support Team by your GP, social services or housing association or other support service. For a self-referral form and further details about how this service can help you please visit the Oxfordshire Housing Support project page.

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The curtains are opening on a new world for Simon https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/curtains-opening-new-world-simon/ Wed, 23 Jan 2019 11:57:18 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=4023 The curtains are now opening on a new world for Simon. Read about his housing support story. Simon’s life changed when he was made redundant in 2007 and shortly after that he became unfit for work. He was falling over a lot and had lots of tests and MRI scan but they couldn’t [...]

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The curtains are now opening on a new world for Simon. Read about his housing support story.

Simon’s life changed when he was made redundant in 2007 and shortly after that he became unfit for work. He was falling over a lot and had lots of tests and MRI scan but they couldn’t give his condition a name. The Job Centre kept telling him he was fit for work but Simon couldn’t tell them what he had because the doctors hadn’t diagnosed his condition. He found himself struggling to live on £73 a week for rent and food. Simon was in a desperate way and had tried to commit suicide.

He was told by the DWP that if he didn’t apply for work he would be sanctioned. While this was going on he couldn’t claim the full amount of benefits he was entitled to because his condition had not been identified. He felt like a ping-pong ball going between everyone seeking a solution. He didn’t dare go out of his flat because he kept falling over.

He was finally referred to a consultant who diagnosed Simon with vertigo. As we talk he has to press the side of his head and he maintains that talking exhausts him so he’ll be recovering tomorrow but he knows this and can plan it into his week. After nearly two years of struggling on £73 he was able to claim his full entitlement of £115 a week with backdated payments. Simon couldn’t afford to eat every day due to the cost of the bedroom tax. He took the flat with his brother after his mum died but his brother moved out, leaving Simon to pay the shortfall that he is not entitled to because of having three bedrooms.

He was still withdrawn and hoarded in his flat reducing his living space and creating a tunnel through which he entered. Simon shut down in his flat and stayed in it. He was frightened of bailiffs because of outstanding rent mainly due to the crippling bedroom tax and kept his windows shut, even on hot summer days.

He only went out three times in two weeks to get food otherwise he stayed in the flat. Simon was living day to day only ever able to cope with 24 hours at a time. He felt ‘numb, alone and cut off’. He had lost all family ties after being made redundant a few years ago.

Support with Connection Support

Simon was introduced to our Oxfordshire Housing Support service in Witney after the local CAB office put him in touch with us. Although he was nervous at the first meeting with Connection Support he has come to trust Rhonda, his Support Worker. Rhonda and Simon have built a strong relationship of mutual respect.

First on the agenda was food! Simon was not eating for ten days out of the month so food parcels were arranged from the local food bank.

Within three weeks of meeting Rhonda, at Connection Support, Simon allowed her into his flat. She was the first person who he had invited into his flat in nine years! Partly due to distrust but also due to lack of access as Simon was a hoarder you’d have to tunnel your way into his flat. This situation prevented the housing association from gaining access to the flat to conduct gas checks and had been going on so long they had no option but to issue him with a threat of eviction. So Simon needed to clear his flat quickly to avoid losing his home. With Simon’s permission, Rhonda arranged funding for Aspire to clear Simon’s flat.

Simon’s situation has affected his confidence and he has found it hard to trust people, as he says, “Trust takes time”. Before all of this he used to be a D.J. for 30 years and was quite an extrovert compared to his quiet nature now. He now feels empathy for others who are hoarders.

Simon’s support worker, Rhonda has accompanied Simon on important appointments such as to the GP. He is struggling to have enough money to feed himself due to the bedroom tax so moving to a smaller flat is the solution. Through Rhonda’s persistence and support Simon now gets his bedroom tax paid for.

Simon refused to have a bank account for several months of support which caused major problems -we could not apply for Personal Independent Payment (PIP) or make any benefits changes. After going round in circles for several months he finally admitted that he was resistant to having a bank account because he was so terrified of having his money taken away by debt collectors. Opening a bank account has been a massive turning point and changed the way he can manage his benefits and money.

What’s Simon’s life like now?

Since clearing out the flat Simon has much more room to live in and it has invigorated him to keep it tidy.

Looking forward Simon wishes to move to a one bedroom flat and is applying for PIP ( personal independent payment) now he has a bank account to bring in additional income taking into account the difficulties caused by his condition

Simon aims to get out every day and makes it part of his routine. He goes on his bicycle everywhere as he cannot walk unaided. He is able to ride his bike for miles which he does regularly. He says he feels calmer, more focused and able to plan his days. Unfortunately, Simon still has undiagnosed brain issues which impact on his life. Medical services have given up testing him.

He feels more positive as receiving the right benefits and more in control of his finances. Rhonda has taught Simon how to budget to help him manage the money he does receive.

Simon explains “it is like looking through a slit in the curtain which is getting wider and everything is getting better. There is no way I want to go back to the way things were.” He is now looking ahead and is much more optimistic about his future.

Talking about Connection Support and Rhonda, Simon says “Hope. Connection Support has given me hope. Before I didn’t have any. Rhonda, you are worth your weight in gold.”

Connection Support Housing Support Service in Oxfordshire

Our Housing Support service provides support to you if you are at risk of becoming homeless, living in inappropriate or unsuitable housing. Our team provides advice on housing law, can accompany you to court hearings and guide you through the benefits maze.

You can self-refer to access this service (you need to be aged 16 and living in Oxfordshire) or be referred to our Housing Support Team by your GP, social services or housing association or other support service. For a self-referral form and further details about how this service can help you please visit the Oxfordshire Housing Support project page.

* To help protect the privacy of those we help names have been changed.

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Help us oppose mental health cuts in Oxfordshire of £1.6million https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/help_oppose_mental_health_cuts-oxfordshire/ Fri, 04 Jan 2019 13:12:29 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=4010 Help us oppose mental health cuts in Oxfordshire of £1.6million by lobbying your County Councillor Oxfordshire County Council is offering the opportunity to give your feedback on proposed mental health budget cuts following an open letter from the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership, of which we are a member. The letter, signed by all members of the [...]

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Help us oppose mental health cuts in Oxfordshire of £1.6million by lobbying your County Councillor

Oxfordshire County Council is offering the opportunity to give your feedback on proposed mental health budget cuts following an open letter from the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership, of which we are a member.

The letter, signed by all members of the partnership, is in response to Oxfordshire County Council’s proposal to cut mental health funding by £1.6 million by 2022. This would reduce the Council’s share of funding for mental health services in Oxfordshire over the next 3 years for people with serious mental illness.

Here at Connection Support, we’re concerned that these cuts would be the breaking point for many struggling with mental ill health in our county. These proposed cuts would not directly impact ourselves until 2020 but it is obviously a decision that we and our partners in the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership cannot agree with.

Along with our five partners in the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership and eight other organisations, Connection Support has written to Oxfordshire County Council’s elected members with concerns. You can read the letter here.

The plans are currently in draft form, and the County Council is consulting on these proposals. Now’s the time to express your views on these proposed cuts. We would like your support! 

How to show your support

What else can you do?

Whilst the deadline for the formal consultation is 6th January, but the Council meeting at which the proposal will be voted on is not until 14th February, so there will still be opportunities up until that date to influence the decisions of the County Councillors.

Further details are available at: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/budget

What points might you want to make in your email or letter?

We know that short, personal comments will be listened to more than something mass-produced. If you are able to email your comments, here are some key points which may help you compile your response:

  • Oxfordshire needs more funding for mental health, not less.
  • A £1.6m reduction over 3 years will mean a significant reduction to services for the residents of Oxfordshire.
  • The Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership helps 5,000 people each year.
  • Services will have to be cut, and this will have a significant impact in terms of residents wellbeing, homelessness, family breakdown, and increased healthcare costs.
  • The Council should consider making cuts in other areas, not in Mental Health.
  • If you as a client, or a loved one, can give examples of how you’ve personally benefited from the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership and Connection Support that would be a very powerful message.

Don’t forget! The deadline for the formal consultation is 6th January, but the Council meeting at which the proposal will be voted on is not until 14th February, so there will still be opportunities up until that date to influence the decisions of the County Councillors.

Background to the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership

The Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership (OMHP) is the coming together of six specialist mental health organisations, which includes Restore, Oxfordshire Mind, Response, Connection Support, Elmore Community Services and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.   The OMHP is dedicated to creating positive changes and initiatives that directly improve the lives of people living with mental health challenges.  Together, the organisations that make up the OMHP covers a wide range of interventions from the care of adults who are acutely unwell to services that get people back into employment, education, stable accommodation and relationships.  Effective recovery is a holistic approach that includes support, in-patient care, appropriate housing, community services, better physical health, social opportunities and much more.  OMHP provides a complete recovery package to support someone on their journey. You can read the open letter here.

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Congratulations to our award winners of 2018 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/congratulations-staff-awards-2018/ Tue, 27 Nov 2018 12:41:47 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=3906 And the Connection Support 2018 winners are... The weather may have been damp but the team spirits at Connection Support were definitely not as we stepped into The Spread Eagle Hotel in Thame on Friday 9 November. Our staff, volunteers and trustees were all here to celebrate the commitment and support shown to colleagues and [...]

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And the Connection Support 2018 winners are…

The weather may have been damp but the team spirits at Connection Support were definitely not as we stepped into The Spread Eagle Hotel in Thame on Friday 9 November. Our staff, volunteers and trustees were all here to celebrate the commitment and support shown to colleagues and clients over the last 12 months since the inaugural awards in 2017.

Mark Thompson, our CEO, kicked off proceedings by welcoming staff, trustees and volunteers who joined us from our various teams across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. He thanked every one of them for their hard work and commitment in an ever-changing landscape. He reflected back on the year and looked forward to our future plans and vision. Mark reminded everyone of the true difference they make to clients every day and that it is the way they work with clients and partners that makes Connection Support what it is.

The awards were presented by the senior management team sandwiched between the delicious three-course dinner.

Long Service Award

This was awarded to Elaine, Calvin, Patricia and Ursula for 10 years service to Connection Support.

That’s wonderful, thank you for your loyalty!

100% Attendance Award

Well done to all thirteen members of staff for having no recorded absence during the year. Wow, what an achievement to be proud of. You must be highly resilient or super healthy!

Pictured (L-R) are Debbie, Patricia, Melissa and Alexia.

Attendance award

Team of the Year

Connection Support Team Awards

This award was voted for by staff who provided a reason why they supported the nomination. The competition was so tight this year we couldn’t decide on one winning team so we had two!

The first nomination was read out:

‘This team has worked really hard to intervene early to prevent homelessness in Buckinghamshire.’

Yes, you guessed it, it went to The Resilience Team! Karen Ferguson, Team Manager collected the award on behalf of her team.

The judges were also bowled over with this comment on an entry form for a team in Oxford:

‘This team has had a really difficult two years. They have overcome many challenges including changes in management and fluctuating staffing levels. The team has worked tirelessly to meet their targets and welcome and support new staff. All staff manage complex caseloads and all team members go above and beyond.’

A big cheer went up for the Oxfordshire Mental Health Team headed up by Debbie [pictured holding the certificate].

Extra Mile for a Volunteer

We are blessed to have some brilliant volunteers who support our work with clients. Special mention was given to Niran, Aziza, Riki, Jane, Javier, Jane A, Tomine and our Syrian Refugee Project volunteers.

But the winner was Wendy who volunteers for us in Oxfordshire whose nominee comments included:

‘Wendy has given support to my client above and beyond what was needed. She attended hospital appointments, made applications and took him shopping. She always keeps me in the loop. She has made an enormous difference to my client and her support of him enables me to concentrate on my priorities.’

 ‘Always able to help out. A committed and dedicated young woman, Wendy has given an awful lot to Connection Support.’

Well done and thank you Wendy!

Extra Mile for a Member of Staff

There were twenty nominations (wow, our staff do go the extra mile) but there can only be one winner for each county, they are:

For Milton Keynes, Nicola in our Direct Payment and Employment Support Service. Comments on her nomination forms include: ‘This person really made an effort to make this new service work, has embraced new ways of working and has come up with good ideas for how to develop her area of the service over the last year.  They have recently stepped up to a senior post and is supervising two staff in a pretty relentless area of work.  They are open-minded and forward thinking with a really good eye on the detail. They are responsible for managing over £400k worth of clients’ money and making sure that over 300 personal assistants supporting almost 200 very vulnerable people are paid each month.’

Melissa in Buckinghamshire for the Outreach Project supporting homeless people. Comments in support of her award nomination included:

‘This person has achieved some outstanding outcomes with some very entrenched rough sleepers. They embody the Connection way of patiently building a relationship over a period of time with some very distrusting clients. She never gives up on people and always sees the potential in them. She is often the only person that the client will talk to. Other professionals rely on her to draw the client into their services.’

‘She is always cheerful and optimistic and is great to have around the office. This person works some very long hours in difficult conditions but has a passion for the work that is inspiring to others. This person has had to cover a lot for an absent colleague this year and has done so without complaint. They receive a lot of very positive feedback from other agencies– which is a pleasure to receive. This person is a great ambassador for Connection Support.’

Extra Mile Award

The final award of the night went to Deb from Trailblazer and Homeless Pathway Team in Oxfordshire.

Taking a few comments from her nominations:

‘This person is described as one of the hardest working managers. They are always happy no matter what pressure they are under. An excellent team manager, always listening and supportive to their staff members and puts up with a lot!’

‘A pleasure to work alongside.’ and ‘A fantastic manager, very supportive and will go that extra mile.’

And finally…

No award but everyone showed their appreciation, via a loud applause, to Amy Delisser who made the evening happen. A lot of hard work goes into organising us and the venue and we all appreciate Amy managed this on top of her daily challenges!

Congratulations to everyone!

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Johnson & Johnson team volunteer in their community https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/johnson-johnson-team-volunteer/ Tue, 09 Oct 2018 13:24:12 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=3668 Garden transformed in a day In September we welcomed a team of seven volunteers from Johnson & Johnson Ltd in Maidenhead who gave up their day to clear a garden (actually more like a jungle!) at one of our Padstones' properties. Companies are seeking opportunities to give something back to their community. Johnson [...]

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Garden transformed in a day

In September we welcomed a team of seven volunteers from Johnson & Johnson Ltd in Maidenhead who gave up their day to clear a garden (actually more like a jungle!) at one of our Padstones’ properties.

J&J-team

Companies are seeking opportunities to give something back to their community. Johnson & Johnson are no different, in fact it’s in their make-up.

Here’s what their head of CSR, Melissa said about volunteering: “As employees of Johnson & Johnson Ltd, our Credo highlights that we ‘are responsible to the communities in which we live and work’ and we are given up to 5 days per year for volunteering to help fulfil this responsibility. We reached out to Connection Support due to its links to Burnham in Buckinghamshire, which is very close to our Maidenhead office. It’s great to be able to help within our local community and getting to work on a project for the benefit of young people of a similar age to themselves was a great fit for the team of graduate employees who volunteered.”

Reclaiming our lost garden

Patio_before-after

The garden was completely hidden under a web of weeds; we had no idea what we were standing on and what all the lumps and bumps were!

As we ripped at the weeds, we not only discovered that the garden had four tiers, but we also uncovered patio tables and chairs, a hoover, huge flower pots, a voluptuous statue, a lizard and a crisp packet from 2008! By the end of the day the garden was completely cleared and looked fantastic, it felt like such an achievement!

Faye at Johnson & Johnson

 

Dedicated to the end result!

Team member, Gracie B told us: “Seeing the change from the overgrown wilderness to the beautiful garden was incredible. Whilst we worked, I didn’t appreciate how far we’d come but comparing the before and after pictures gave me such a great sense of achievement and pride at how much we achieved in the short period of time. The dedication of the team was illustrated in Matt’s jumping in the skip to make room for the debris, despite several brambles and spiders, and the fact we had to drag Faye away from her pruning at the end of the day.”

Padstones' garden

Garden, what garden? It was hidden by overgrown ivy and bushes. There was also some hidden ‘treasure’ underneath the Sleeping Beauty like bramble.

Team building

Matt (who has recently rejoined the team as a graduate having just completing his final year at university) explained his takeaways from the day: “During my first week of finding my feet, the day provided the perfect opportunity to meet the everyone outside the office environment. It made me feel really comfortable to be joining a new team. No one knew the scale of what we were taking on but it was a great team-building challenge!”

Thanks for making a difference

Debbie, Padstones Team Leader was thrilled with the newly discovered garden: 

“The young people living here will really benefit from having a quiet outside space where they can come and reflect. We now have an alternative quiet place to hold keyworks with residents, it’s wonderful!

Having access to a garden is beneficial in allowing our residents a quiet outside space to relax by themselves or with friends getting away from the sometimes constant stress and headache their daily lives can be filled with. A garden environment has also been shown to improve your health, both physically and psychologically so thank you so much!”

A big THANK YOU to the team at Johnson & Johnson!

Johnson & Johnson team CSR

A bit about Padstones support to young people in Bucks

  • We offer support with independent living skills, applying for benefits, completing forms, budgeting & debt advice, financial advice, registering with GP, dentist, and opticians.
  • We provide emotional support to residents and facilitate links to outside agencies if/when required.
  • We support and prepare residents for move-on and resettlement from the start of them becoming residents.
  • We offer accommodation and support to young people aged 16 – 25 in need, providing a safe and secure environment, where residents can develop their potential and move towards more independent living.
  • We closely monitor residents’ behaviour by picking up early warning signs to prevent substance use or misuse, a decline in mental health, safeguarding and CSE concerns, radicalization.
  • We work with other agencies involved in the residents care.

If you’d like to give back to your local community, perhaps benefit from a team day please get in touch:

Email: volunteers@connectionsupport.org.uk

Tel: 01865 711267 for Oxfordshire

Tel: 01296 484322 for Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes

Photo credits: With thanks to our volunteer, Joseph Loudon.

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Merger to support Young People facing homelessness in Buckinghamshire https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/padstones-merger/ Mon, 04 Jun 2018 15:42:46 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=3475 Merger to support Young People facing homelessness in Buckinghamshire Connection Support and Padstones, providing housing support in Buckinghamshire to homeless young people in the Thames, merged on 1 June 2018. Talking about the merger, Mark Thompson, CEO of Connection Support said “The merger with Padstones provides us with the opportunity to provide housing in [...]

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Merger to support Young People facing homelessness in Buckinghamshire

Connection Support and Padstones, providing housing support in Buckinghamshire to homeless young people in the Thames, merged on 1 June 2018.

Talking about the merger, Mark Thompson, CEO of Connection Support said “The merger with Padstones provides us with the opportunity to provide housing in Buckinghamshire to young people aged 16-25 years of age with support to help them get their life back on track and equip them with life skills for their future. Sharing the same values as Connection Support made Padstones an ideal charity for us to merge with.”

David Bayes, Chairman of Padstones said, “We are delighted to have agreed this merger with Connection Support, a charity that shares the same values as Padstones. It will ensure that our houses in Burnham and High Wycombe will continue to serve the needs of the local community.”

Mark Thompson will become CEO of the merged charity and David Bayes will join the Connection Support board.

For the full press release please click here.

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250 Tractors but just one bag of pasta https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/250-tractors-but-just-one-bag-of-pasta/ Sat, 09 Dec 2017 08:31:11 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=2748 250 Tractors but just one bag of pasta Before reading David's full referral, his current situation was highlighted to me. David had spent all is money on toy tractors and had now found himself in arrears facing eviction. It was certainly a strange circumstance and the referral did not provide further insight, other [...]

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250 Tractors but just one bag of pasta

Before reading David’s full referral, his current situation was highlighted to me. David had spent all is money on toy tractors and had now found himself in arrears facing eviction. It was certainly a strange circumstance and the referral did not provide further insight, other than this reason for the arrears. What was also difficult was that David had no means of communication other than knocking on his door (he was in a shared house) or posting a letter through his door.

So off I went to undertake the initial assessment of David at his house. I was very lucky as I knocked on the door and the downstairs tenant let me in. I did not even show my pass simply advised I was from a charity. This raised its own concerns about access to my potential client which I discuss further into David’s story.

David _safeguarding-worksOnce inside I met David who I remember was very thin and seemed like he had been starved. I know that sounds over the top but during our assessment, I asked David what food he has to eat over the next few days until we next met up. David opened his kitchen cupboard and all he had was an old bag of pasta. As a support worker you are trained to be objective, as David had already stated he had spent all is money on toy tractors the best thing to do was to fix this issue at hand and start to build trust.

I advised David I would be back shortly and discussed the situation with my manager. We agreed that the first thing to do was to get David some food so we got him a food voucher and picked up food for him. The second thing to do was to understand what is actually going on with David’s money as spending all of it on toy tractors at the expensive of your health, was not sensible. I left David with a request to collate his bank statements from the last three months so we could look at his finances in more detail. I would return in 3 days with another food bank parcel as agreed with my manager.

During the next meeting I looked through the bank statements while David put away the food  I had brought from the food bank. The bank statements were very revealing, it turned out the days when David’s pensions entered his account they were being withdrawn, on the same day, at a local supermarket in two large amounts. Having now built a little bit of trust with David, I decided to ask what was happening with the withdrawals and why he had no food. David was unwilling to answer and just advised he did know.

Due to David’s response and now believing that at best there may be some financial mismanagement, and at worse financial abuse, I asked if someone was getting food for him. He advised they were but he didn’t know why he was left without any food. Another look at his bank statements showed there were also large amounts coming directly from his bank. So with David’s permission, we went to his bank on the High Street to ask if they knew what was going on.

The bank manager met with David and I, with his consent, about his finances. It appeared they already knew about these issues. They told me that when David came to the bank on is own he would just withdraw £10-£20 but when he came with, what David advised was a friend, he would withdraw very large amounts of money. As David had asked to take the money there was nothing they could do to stop the cash withdrawal. They advised me that David was on their vulnerable adults list.

David was a little uneasy at this point so we agreed to return another time and I took David home. I was now one month into working with David and so once we got back I decided to have an open conversation with David about what I thought was financial abuse. This paid off as David confided that two people had been taking his money and leaving him with nothing.

Safeguarding Steps
Based on this and with David’s consent we began to implement some safeguarding that would make it more difficult for this to keep occurring. In the meantime, I would speak to my manager about involving other agencies. Whilst I cannot divulge all the safeguarding steps we took, these three steps were the most fundamental in changing the pattern of abuse:

Safeguarding Step 1: To get David to agree to cancel all his bank cards and tear up any cards he had. To prevent the abuse with regard to the local supermarket withdraws.

Safeguarding Step 2:  With David’s permission and working with the bank, we agreed that if David should visit the bank without me, as his verified support worker, the bank would call me. I would speak to him to see if he was OK and attend the bank to make sure if I was in doubt.

Safeguarding Step 3:  With agreement from my manager and David, I would take David once a week to the bank to withdraw money so he could buy food.

Once these steps were implemented I then decided to talk to the landlord and the council to make them aware of the situation. Not having yet met the perpetrators of this abuse, I would now be keeping a close eye on David until we could gain more information. That could be used to raise a safeguarding case and a potential police report. In the meantime, the council agreed to help David with the bidding as he was now on the housing register while at the same time applying for DHP to try and clear the arrears.

Now we were one and half months into the support and the safeguarding had been in place for two weeks. I received a call from the bank in late December advising me that David was asking for money at the counter. They put me on to David and I asked if he would like me to attend the bank. He advised he did and so I made my way to his bank.

On arrival David was stood outside with a woman who I had been told was called Louise. Louise immediately advised she was a friend of David’s and was helping him with things for his house. However, the bank had already confirmed to me that this is the same lady who had made the large cash withdrawals. I spoke to David to advise if this was indeed a friend but he just looked away from the woman. I then advised Louise that David no longer required her assistance and requested she has no further contact with David. She left advising that “I did not know who I was messing with” and David and I went into the bank and discussed the situation further. We were pleased that the safeguarding steps we had agreed had worked.

Once at home, David opened up more about the financial abuse and how he felt threatened by this woman. David consented to me raising both a safeguarding concern and informing the police. At the same time, I spoke to my manager and agreed to get David a cheap mobile so we could call him twice a week to make sure he was alright and that the lady had not returned.

After raising both reports David had social workers assigned and a police officer came to take the details. Unfortunately, David has memory lapses so it was always going to be difficult to prosecute this potential abuse. However, the police were now aware and having met this woman I could identify her and this was backed up by the bank’s CCTV.

David safe and sound at home

I implemented two further safeguarding measures, the first was for the landlord to send out a letter to all tenants asking that they do not admit anyone to the house they do not know. The second measure was that anyone who calls for David should be given my number so I can qualify who they are. This was all agreed with David.

After three months of support, there had been no new incidents of financial abuse. This is a combination of implementing safeguarding steps, cutting up the bank cards, collaborating with the bank and providing David with a mobile phone so I could call David twice a week.

Paul
Support Worker

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New Resilience Service Helps Prevent Homelessness in Buckinghamshire https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/new-resilience-early-intervention-service-helps-prevent-homelessness-buckinghamshire/ Mon, 25 Sep 2017 16:42:27 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=2905 New Service Helps Prevent Homelessness in Buckinghamshire Inspiring stories about how a new support service has changed lives and helped people remain in their homes have been shared at its official launch. Our Resilience Service helps people at risk of becoming homeless, before they get to crisis point.  The service, provided by Connection Support, was [...]

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New Service Helps Prevent Homelessness in Buckinghamshire

Inspiring stories about how a new support service has changed lives and helped people remain in their homes have been shared at its official launch.

Our Resilience Service helps people at risk of becoming homeless, before they get to crisis point.  The service, provided by Connection Support, was commissioned by a consortium led by Aylesbury Vale District Council, working alongside the other district councils in Bucks and Buckinghamshire County Council.  It was funded by a £625,000 government grant, through the Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers initiative, which aims to establish a network of pioneering areas across England to reform the response to homelessness.

A range of issues in people’s lives can put their housing at risk, challenges such as job loss, family breakdown and bereavement.  If several happen at the same time their ability to cope is affected and they may need help to keep their home.  The Resilience team officers work with local partners and organisations across Bucks, offering practical advice and support, as well as guidance on financial matters and help with new skills, to build confidence and prevent homelessness in the future.

Thirty-seven year old mum of four, Jasmine, has already benefited from the Resilience Service pilot project.  A victim of domestic violence, she found herself socially isolated and struggling with her finances and was identified as at risk of losing her home.  A Resilience team officer helped her get back on her feet, so that she is now better able to cope and remain in her property.

At the launch events, Paula and Chris shared their experiences of using the Resilience Service:

Karen Ferguson heads up the Resilience Service team here at Connection Support and says: “Early intervention is key with this service, identifying anyone who could be at risk of becoming homeless.   Our officers work with people to build on their strengths, to improve their life skills and look at everything that’s going on in their lives, giving them the resilience to prevent them from being at risk of homelessness in the future.”

Anyone struggling to pay the rent or keep up to date with mortgage payments can contact Connection Support on (01296) 484322 or email in complete confidence. You can download referral forms and find out more about the Resilience Service.

The service operates across Buckinghamshire and has been commissioned by a consortium of all four district councils in Bucks (Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe), along with Buckinghamshire County Council.  It’s funded by the government’s Trailblazer programme.

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Giving something back to the community https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/giving-something-back-community/ Sat, 27 May 2017 15:16:31 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=2608 Giving something back to the community On a beautiful sunny day in May in the garden of a Oxfordshire Homeless Pathway house in Oxford we were joined by a volunteer, Charlotte Young from Nielsen. Before the transformation Charlotte decided to volunteer with us as part of the Nielsen’s annual Global Impact Day [...]

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Giving something back to the community

On a beautiful sunny day in May in the garden of a Oxfordshire Homeless Pathway house in Oxford we were joined by a volunteer, Charlotte Young from Nielsen.

Volunteering

Before the transformation

Charlotte decided to volunteer with us as part of the Nielsen’s annual Global Impact Day where every member of staff around the globe gives back to the community.

Talking about her the volunteering experience Charlotte said, “It was a glorious day, great to be out in the sunshine and not sat a desk! I enjoy gardening so it was ideal for me and a lovely day with a great bunch of people. I enjoyed meeting Martine and Jody who live at the shared house. Their stories are very inspirational.”

volunteering in action

It’s starting to look like a garden!

The garden in Blackbird Leys was transformed from a tired unloved backyard to an attractive courtyard garden in a few hours. The Connection Support team had arranged for donations of an old wooden bench, pots, seeds and plants. It’s now a welcome retreat for Martine and Jody and the rest of the residents.

Speaking about her day with us, Charlotte said:

If you’re seeking to ‘give something back’ I’d recommend volunteering your time with Connection Support. I could instantly see the difference my day had made and everyone made the day so much fun! I was treated to homemade baklava and bacon butties, what could be better than that?

Bench and beds transformed

A changed garden in one day!

To find out more about volunteering as an organisation or individual, please contact your local Volunteer Co-ordinator in Oxfordshire, Milton Keynes or Buckinghamshire or email volunteers@connectionsupport.org.uk.

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Helping Syrian refugees https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/helping-syrian-refugees/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 14:06:14 +0000 https://www.connectionsupport.org.uk/?p=2396 Creating a new life for Syrian refugees in Oxfordshire We’ve been helping Syrian refugee families settle into Oxford since 2015 as part of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS). Helping them relocate from camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. We are delighted to share that we are able to extend this project after successfully [...]

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Creating a new life for Syrian refugees in Oxfordshire

We’ve been helping Syrian refugee families settle into Oxford since 2015 as part of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS). Helping them relocate from camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

We are delighted to share that we are able to extend this project after successfully being awarded the contract in Cherwell (covering North Oxfordshire including Banbury and Bicester). We will be supporting six families over the next 2 years.

How will we support them?

Our work starts as the refugees land at the airport and continues for a whole year. We fully support these households and help them integrate into the local community.

We liaise with social services, help them find housing, get their children into education and help them learn a new currency and budget. We explain the everyday such as transport, shopping and cultural differences.

The photo shows Paul Reid from Aspire [on the far left] with our Syrian Men’s Group. Aspire create work placements and employment opportunities to people who face barriers. Two of the members of our Men’s Group (whose can already speak English) are meeting Aspire with the aim of improving their employment opportunities.

The Syrian refugees attend a course to help them learn English but we are seeking Arabic speaking volunteers to help translate.

How could you help?

If you speak Arabic you can help the families settle into a new culture and country. For example, your language skills could help translate at meetings and GP and hospital appointments. This would make such a difference to our Syrian refugee families.

Connection Support volunteer, Nuha, explains how she helps:

Lise Jamieson heads up the Syrian Refugees project at Connection Support:

Arabic speaking volunteers have been a valuable resource to the smooth running of this project in Oxford. They have been vital in helping these vulnerable families to settle and integrate into the community. The volunteers have helped with translation/interpreting at support meetings and are able to support the families in their journey to independence by offering reassurance and understanding. The volunteers have a key role in helping the families become familiar with their local area and things like local bus routes, shops, health centres and schools and introducing them to the Syrian community.

Make a difference with us

If you speak Arabic and live in North Oxfordshire, where we are expanding our project, such as Banbury and Bicester please contact our Volunteer Co-ordinator, Angie. It might be 2-3 hours a month, any time you can give to will make a big difference to the Syrian refugee families.

We would welcome volunteer drivers for a mini bus to collect families from the airport, great if you have access to a minibus!

The parents come with skills which they would like to put to good use so if you are an employer with a permanent, contract or work experience opportunity please contact us and we can liaise with the family. For example, the refugee families we’ve been supporting so far have boasted cooks, carpenters, seamstresses, taxi drivers and farm workers.

Help our Syrian refugee families create a new life in Oxfordshire. Contact us today for volunteering opportunities or if you’d like to help in other ways.

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