The legacy of VOICES
The VOICES project (2013-2022) was funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund as part of the Fulfilling Lives programme. Stoke-on-Trent was one of 12 areas to share £112m over eight years which ended in March 2022. The programme's objective was to test alternative approaches to improve services and systems for people experiencing multiple disadvantages (by this we mean combinations of homelessness, mental ill-health, addiction and offending behaviour).
VOICES mission was to empower people experiencing multiple disadvantages to change their lives and to influence the services they access.
VOICES was a partnership project delivered by an operational team that coordinated a range of services and stakeholders around people experiencing multiple disadvantages. Part of its mission was to change systems through casework and assertive advocacy to help people secure access to appropriate services. Even within the partnership, this was not always easy. Work needs to be done to understand the drivers behind these barriers, which may be, for example, skills-based, culturally constructed, or process-driven.
Central to all the work undertaken are the voices of those with lived experience. VOICES customers were people whose lives have been seriously affected by events and conditions over a prolonged period. They may have presented frequently at emergency health care facilities, drug and alcohol services, homelessness services or mental health services. Some were well known for ‘blue light’ services such as the fire, police, and ambulance services. Labels such as ‘chaotic’, ‘hard to reach, or ‘frequent flyer’ may have been applied to VOICES customers by some services.
There may also have been specific exclusions from services in the past. Some VOICES customers even felt that services had given up on them.
As part of this push for systems change the VOICES Learning Programme aimed to contribute to systems change to improve services for people experiencing multiple needs in Stoke-on-Trent. Learning is central to VOICES; the ambition in the original project plan was for Stoke-on-Trent ‘to be a Learning City’ through the Learning Programme and co-production of solutions with Expert Citizens.
The Care Act Toolkit
VOICES Legacy Evaluation
Housing First Stoke-on-Trent
Alongside VOICES, Brighter Futures led the Housing First Stoke-on-Trent pilot from 2018 through to 2022. The service provided a pilot scheme for 22 people, that have been excluded from other services, to find, maintain, and thrive in a tenancy of their own. It provided a foundation where support and housing were kept separate, and housing was provided first as a right and not last as a reward. Housing First customers are people that have been excluded from other services through multiple disadvantages, trauma, and distrust of other services that haven’t worked in the past. Housing First Stoke-on-Trent found time to get to know the real person behind the label. Find out their strengths and support to work towards a Brighter Future.
Specialist Housing First Women’s Worker
Housing First Stoke-on-Trent secured funding from Homeless Link to fund a Specialist Homeless Women’s worker, to provide enhanced support to the women supported by the service (i.e., in addition to the standard support provided by Housing First Stoke-on-Trent).
The project worked with female customers, for example, around safety and security measures in and around their homes and working with each customer to offer non-clinical interventions to address the impact of trauma, including self-care. The project is important to learn about the customers, their needs (met and unmet), strengths and experiences, perceived impact of the Specialist Homeless Women’s worker, and to identify any benefits and challenges that could improve support for women locally in the future.
Bobby talks about being “institutionalised”, with a history of repeated (non-violent) offending to fund his substance use, and time in prison.