This is a guest blog from one of the winners of the 2019 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) – it focuses on the PF Counselling Service, written by Director, Alison Hampton.
PF Counselling Services, which has been established for over 30 years, is a professional, caring, COSCA-recognised organisation which plays an important part in the delivery of mental health services and talking therapies in Edinburgh.
FOCUS ON: ART IN ACTION
‘If your world’s never interesting and always predictable, eventually you will keep your eyes shut and you don’t need to see it because you know exactly what’s going on round about you, you become almost totally desensitised to everything. It’s a kind of learned dis-engagement.’
The Scottish Contemporary Arts Network launched the Art in Action campaign to champion the valuable role visual art plays within communities across Scotland – and to call for stronger recognition of this value when it comes to decision-making.
Art has the power to move us, to look at ourselves and those around us through a different lens – to bring into focus and celebrate different ways of being. Art creates a space to reflect on who we are, it informs a common language, often where none has existed. Artlink’s Ideas Team and sensory work is one of the case studies for the Art in Action campaign. The work creates experiences where we take the time to learn from each other and change happens as a result. It reinforces the message that culture and creativity are not an add-on; that they are part and parcel of how we live our lives.
Watch the film: a film has been produced to accompany the written case study – click here to view.
Find out more: The Ripple Effect – research report on the impact of contemporary arts practices on people with profound and multiple learning disabilities by The University of Dundee and Pamis.https://www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk/
Things are moving along nicely with the next recovery project in Edinburgh. Discussions and plans are underway with regards to the long term project, taking into account things like locations, social enterprise involvement and other operational considerations.
The interim project, now called ERA – Edinburgh Recovery Activities – will be live soon, following input from the community on activities and ideas. The purpose of the project is to provide fulfilling, fun and enjoyable experiences for the recovery community whilst the core, longer term project is organised.
ERA projects will hopefully link in with the new base once it opens its doors. The most popular suggestions that we recorded in the early part of 2019 revolved around the need for green space activities, personal development classes like yoga, and a social event open to those in recovery and their family members. We also have an exciting opportunity to set up something along the lines of a practical skills program. We will get these up and running as soon as possible so please get in touch to offer ideas or support.
This is just the beginning – we’re looking for other suggestions too, maybe creative groups, outings to places of interest, walking groups, sports groups, training days, club nights – whatever the community feels would be beneficial and provide valuable experiences.
Working across the community with those in many stages of recovery, we’re keen to help build connections, adding to the feeling of support and unity. Whatever it looks like, we need it to be firmly based on ideas and suggestions from the recovery community above all. Please feel free to send me over suggestions and ideas which I’ll then set about gauging interest with other community members and making the necessary arrangements for the group or activity to take place.
I’ve been speaking with individuals and organisations who run venues, centres and halls in order to facilitate groups that might be suggested. Likewise, if there’s an interest in a particular group that isn’t venue dependent, I can organise that too.
We’re also keen to link in with other organisations around Edinburgh providing complementary support. We will also set up a process for offering micro funding for relevant groups and projects delivering on specific criteria which align with ERA’s goals and principles.
For any information, idea contributions, volunteering or anything else, you can contact me via email at Michael.email@example.com or on 0131 555 9100.
The success of the project lies in the effort and drive of the recovery community, something that we’ve seen can do amazing things so far. Let’s keep it going.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/EdinburghRecoveryActivities
Twitter – @EdinburghRecov1
Instagram – EdinburghRecoveryActivities19
Eligible carers are now entitled to a Carer’s Allowance Supplement of £221 paid out as a lump sum twice a year. The supplement is a much needed and welcomed benefit to carers who often struggle to earn an income alongside their caring duties.
The Edinburgh based charity VOCAL has been supporting carers since 1994 and offers advice on carers’ rights. Sebastian Fischer, Chief Executive of VOCAL said: “VOCAL works with over 9,000 carers each year and can evidence the widespread and growing impact of caring on people’s economic wellbeing, with women most badly affected. For many, caring means a spiral into isolation and poverty.
“In a recent VOCAL survey of 1,228 carers, 48% agreed that being a carer had made managing money and finances more difficult with a third paying for care out of their own savings. A quarter have had to reduce their working hours to care and a further quarter have had to give up work altogether.”
Carer’s Allowance Supplement
Carers who live in Scotland and have been receiving the DWP Carer’s Allowance, will be notified on Monday 16th April if they are entitled to the supplement. The supplement will equate to an extra £8.50 per week and will be paid out automatically.
Shirley Morris who leads VOCAL’s ‘Money Matters’ support for carers credits the supplement as not only a financial aid but also a boost in recognition of the carers’ work.
She said: “Carers are very encouraged by the increase in the carers allowance supplement. It is a very welcome boost to carers’ income and recognition by the Scottish government of the vital role they undertake.”
“Dignity, fairness and respect”
The sum is paid out by Social Security Scotland, a recently founded public service by the Scottish Government as a result of a public consultation on what benefits are needed and how these benefits meet people’s demands.
The consultation revealed that the people felt their individual needs were lost in the system. Social Security Scotland states that its aim is to approach issues surrounding benefits with dignity, fairness and respect. The transition of the other benefits delivered by Social Security Scotland will be gradually released over this parliamentary term.
To find out if you are eligible for the Carer’s Allowance Supplement click here.
For more information on Social Security Scotland, click here.
We read with interest EVOC’s article ‘Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership’s new Chief Officer, Never Afraid to Challenge: Interview with Judith Proctor (15 August 2018)’ and were heartened by some of her commitments ensuring that local third sector organisations would play a key role in helping to address some of the current challenges faced.
This we would say is crucial throughout Scotland at local levels. Equally so is the involvement of those who use the services,as social care users have, until recently, had very little say in decisions about the local delivery of integrated services.
We agree it is important to invest locally in a wide range of services, including those to support the various Self-Directed Support options, advocacy for decision making, and so on. One way is to commission local Disabled People’s Organisations such as LCIL who provide a range of helpful services and are run by disabled people themselves.
Good social care has many functions other than merely “keeping people safe” – what about supported risk taking? When thinking about ‘reducing loneliness’, we also need to look at quality of life and having enough to live on (charging for social care should be abolished to this end). Going further than involving people in the community there need to be real opportunities to participate in local decision making.
Users of social care services may also find the phrase “hospital at home” alarming. It is reminiscent of the Scottish Government’s ill-advised “There’s no ward like home” advert that included the image of the older man, Mr McCluskey, surrounded by health and social care workers on an elongated sofa.
We have seen a generalised focus at all levels on health outcomes for individuals throughout the integration process. Getting social care packages in place for people already discharged – to prevent ‘bed blocking’ – is important, but so too is their wider integration back into their family, community, and so on. Social care has much wider implications which merely include the preventative well-being agenda to improve lives; it must also realise people’s human right to Independent Living.
Later in the interview Judith expresses the need to think about ‘how we are supporting older people and [disabled people] to link into their community and be active citizens’. Revitalising the local third sector is one way of ensuring this.
The legislation applying to social care includes the duty to engage with those who use the services. Yet we know there are still barriers to adult social care users having true choice and control, partly because of the tensions between local procurement and Self-Directed Support. Involving them in how Partnerships plan might prevent such tensions occurring.
Our 2015-16 Health and Social Care Integration Engagement Project, which worked with disabled people and Third Sector Interfaces (including EVOC), recommended:
“Disabled people have the lived experience of the consequences of other people’s decisions about their health and social care, so their perspectives should be one of the primary sources of evidence when designing and implementing health and social care services.”
Inclusion Scotland are running a national, Scottish Government funded People-led Policy Project, a policy panel and core group of adult health and social care service users who will actively use their lived experience and expertise to influence policy going forward.
This project will gladly engage with CEOs of local Health and Social Care Partnerships. Indeed, we believe this kind of ambitious, radical change to involving people in decision making – People-led Policy- needs to be happening at local levels too.
Dr Pauline Nolan
Policy and Localisation manager, Inclusion Scotland.
Inclusion Scotland is a ‘Disabled People’s Organisation’ (DPO) – led by disabled people ourselves. Inclusion Scotland works to achieve positive changes to policy and practice, so that we disabled people are fully included throughout all Scottish society as equal citizens.
Sources: “Health and Social Care Integration Engagement: Opportunities missed and challenges to be met” Inclusion Scotland
Glenda Watt from The Scottish Older People’s Assembly provides a guest blog on SOPA in Parliament
Clare Adamson MSP, Tom Berney Chair of Scottish Older People’s Assembly and Jeane Freeman OBE MSP and Minister for Social Security began the proceedings of our 9th Assembly in the Scottish Parliament on Monday 23 April 2018.
We had an overwhelming response to attend our event but sadly could not accommodate everyone who applied. However, amazingly, 130 people did participate in our four workshops dealing with: Funeral Poverty, Bevridge’s Giant Five Evils – where are we now?, Sustainability of Adult Social Care, the Prevention and Management of Falls, and Scams Towards Older People.
To celebrate 2018 as the Year of Young People, the afternoon session opened with a lively interactive discussion on Human Rights with members of the Children’s Parliament, Scottish Youth Parliament and Scottish Older People’s Assembly. Alison Johnstone MSP and Clare Adamson MSP closed the session with a Question Time.
It certainly appeared that the guests enjoyed the event and the following comment from Dundee Voluntary Action was a treat to receive -“We thoroughly enjoyed our first Scottish Older People’s Assembly yesterday. It was a fabulous day with great discussion. We look forward to working closer with you this year.”
I recently attended Empowering our Communities, an event organised by the Scottish Government’s Ingage team.
The event was billed as ‘a pop-up day of advice, inspiration and connections’. Like many of the delegates present, I’ve attended quite a few of these ‘inspirational’ events over the years, only to later be deflated by the grinding reality of funding cuts, tokenistic consultations and partnerships that are really partnerships in name only.
Community planning systems and structures come and go, but one key element crucial to making it work is so often the thing that’s missing: the community! There are reasons to be optimistic that the new Localities being introduced across the city could see this change, however.
Recent legislation like the Christie Commission and the Community Empowerment Act has given communities substantial new powers. Statutory agencies are now obliged to work with communities to produce community plans that have communities at their heart. And with an emphasis on genuine partnership working, we should see an end to top-down community planning, with councils and other statutory services doing things with communities and not to them.
And given austerity and funding cuts in statutory services over recent times, there’s an acceptance that councils and statutory agencies simply can’t deliver services in the way they have in the past. There is a realisation that there really has to be a new way of working.
Some local authorities have readily addressed these changing circumstances, and one of the highlights of the Empowering our Communities event was the premiere of Rocky Road, a short film made by Media Co-op.
Rocky Road tells the story of a ‘switched-on’ Council – East Ayrshire – working alongside community activists, supporting them to help save their local community centre. Without wishing to spoil the ending (!) the film illustrates just what can be achieved through trust and by genuine partnership working.
The film had a particular resonance for me as community centres in my own neck of the woods are currently going through challenging times as a consequence of the city council’s ‘transformation’ programme. They face uncertain futures as the number of front line Community Learning and Development staff has been slashed, with no indication yet of how centres which provide vital community services are to be managed and run in the future. The film, at least, had a happy ending – it remains to be seen if our local community centres will, too.
The film demonstrated that with enlightened thinking things can change, but there needs to be a will to bring about that change. That will is certainly there in the third sector, where partnership working has been the norm for as long as I can remember. But this time, there are encouraging signs that the will to work together is also there within the statutory public services – they are certainly talking a good game.
Talk is cheap, of course, and ultimately we must judge our partners not on what they say, but on what they do. Localities are in their infancy, but if communities are engaged from the outset maybe this time we can get community planning right. After all, no-one deliberately sets out to deliver poor public services, so it’s in all our interests to make this work. And wouldn’t we all love a story with a happy ending?
The film can be found at
Dave Pickering, Community Action North (CAN)
Chair, Forth & Inverleith Voluntary Sector Forum
In current society, there is so much pressure to find a job, make an income and pay the bills. There is increasing demand for people to find a suitable and financially sustainable job, which is very difficult to find. Volunteering can help people to find roles which they enjoy doing, gives them personal fulfilment and enables them to contribute to their community.
When I was preparing to graduate, I started seeing an advisor at IntoWork. The idea behind IntoWork is to help people with disabilities look at their skills and find suitable employment, as well as volunteering roles. From my own experience and from other’s I know accessing employment, even through IntoWork, can be highly challenging. I applied for both volunteering roles, and paid employment, and got a voluntary peer support role with Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living.
This was an excellent starting point, as I was able to use my experience as well as the models of disability, which was the framework for my dissertation. We had four very in-depth training sessions about how to give valuable advice and support to people who had a similar experience to us. There were also support groups and workshops, which were great to attend, to learn more about the organisation and get to know the people who use their services. The support groups are ongoing which is a refreshing way to be involved with LCIL. They also put on linked peer-support groups where a group of people spent a number of months looking at “becoming unstuck” which covered ways in which the system was fixed in a way which caused difficulties for people with disabilities, and to share ideas about techniques to approaching challenges in the system. This was a great way to get to know people and share our experiences with others.
After looking at a few other opportunities, IntoWork decided to close my case as they told me I was doing really well, however, I was only really doing a little bit of work with LCIL – which was great, but I still felt I had a lot to give. At one of the LCIL sessions, someone mentioned that Volunteer Edinburgh had a service where people could advertise what they had to offer, to a various number of organisations. I went into the drop-in and spoke to someone about advertising my experience, and created my own advert. I stated that I was one of the first people to take on a self-directed support budget, and I was hoping to help other people on their journey on accessing the support they need to achieve their goals. After a few weeks, I had around six different organisations contacting me, who had seen my advert and were keen for me to become involved with their organisation. I had to work out which organisations were worthwhile investing my time in. I had a meeting with the organisations and from there I started to volunteer with Children’s Inc., Crossing Countries, Beyond Boundaries and Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council. This was a great approach to volunteering as I felt reassured that these organisations were already keen to work with me, before they even knew who I was. This seemed to be a much more relaxed approach to entering the world of work, and even though it is classed as volunteering and not paid employment, it is a very effective way to find different opportunities. Having created the advert myself, I was stepping out and introducing myself to Edinburgh, by saying this is what I have to offer, and I want to make a difference.
The work I am involved in at Children’s Inc is around encouraging and giving advice to families who are trying to access services, but might struggle to have enough support to be able to get the right information to have positive outcomes for the child. There is a need for parents to be supported when they need it. There is an opportunity for families and organisations to meet and talk about different sources of a successful activity for a child either with disabilities, or support with looking into self-directed support etc. This is a vital source of information for families to have, as they may not know where to go to find that information. I also helped to organise an Easter event for children and families. This event was great for families and service providers to come together and learn from different organisations. This was a huge success as around 30 children and their families attended. Here I shared my experience of the transition process through showing families the way in which using person centred planning was the key element for helping people through the process. By using person-centred plans people can map out their vision and work out what support they have. This useful tool to show parents and professionals can have conversations about the support their children have and can receive.
I love the rewarding feeling I get when I volunteer. There is something special about using your own experiences to try to help other people, which should not be down to paid professionals. Being a volunteer can teach you a vast amount of skills about how organisations work. There are hundreds of volunteering opportunities within Edinburgh, which people can apply to. This ranges from working in a charity shop to supporting someone to live an independent and fulfilling life. Volunteering enables people to use their skills effectively to help other people achieve some kind of work. I think there is a certain amount of stigma around volunteering, especially around people with disabilities, however, it is a good way to get involved in organisations and it could lead to employment.
More about Ashleigh
I grew up on a farm in Dumfries and Galloway with Mum, Dad and younger sister Helen. After leaving school in 2010, the pilot project for self-directed support was just starting. At this point, I was lead to believe that I was only entitled to critical need. This meant I could not attend college, or live my life the way I wanted. I was part of a self-advocate group where I found out about self-directed support and met Joe Gough from the Council who was my guide through the whole process of employing a P.A to accompany me to my local college. This worked out really well, and I used an agency for social hours. After two years studying higher care, sociology and psychology at my local college I wanted to further my education so I applied for an HNC in social sciences, and then onto university.
I studied Psychology and Sociology at Queen Margaret University, which helped me develop a passion for understanding people and the way society influences them. I really enjoyed university, from studying interesting parts of social interaction to being involved in very exciting missions weeks with the Christian Union. Within my degree, I focused on disability issues within my studies. This included European Social Policy where I examined self-directed support in both Scotland and England, and my dissertation was around students with disabilities and their experience of university. These topics are very close to my heart as without self-directed support I would not be able to attend university.
Ashleigh volunteers with EVOC one day a week and has been working with our team to assess how effectively Self-Directed Support is being delivered in Edinburgh.
You can find out more about volunteering by visiting www.volunteeredinburgh.org.uk
GUEST Blog by Gillian Ritchie, Welfare Reform Officer, City of Edinburgh Council
The successor arrangements to Crisis Loans for Living Expenses and Community Care Grants is a national scheme delivered through local authorities called the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF). The SWF has been in place since April 2013 and following the passing of the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill 3 March 2015 in the Scottish Parliament a statutory duty has now been placed on local authorities to provide welfare funds. For more information on the SWF system, see the SWF Information leaflet – 2016.
The Scottish Welfare Fund has been operating in Edinburgh since April 2013. A lot has changed since then with the majority of applications to the fund now being made by telephone or online.
This year the total budget is £2,531,436 for both Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants. The total spend up to the end of February is £2,124,770 (84% of the budget for 2015/16). The budget for Crisis Grants is £606,000 and the spend to date is £572,727 (94% of budget). 93% of applications for Crisis Grants are being considered within 2 days and approximately 89% of applications for Community Care Grants are being considered within the target of 15 days.
Both Crisis Grant and Community Care Grant applications have been considered for medium and high priority cases since January 2015 and this will continue for the immediate future in 2015/16. However, pending pressures expected in 2016 from Welfare Reforms may lead to a return to High Priority only to ensure that the most vulnerable citizens can be protected. The monthly spend levels for both grants continue to be monitored on a daily basis to allow appropriate adjustments to be made to the priority levels or budget allocation.
The Furnishing Service provides furniture packages for Community Care Grant awards and has delivered approx 90% of ordered goods within agreed timescales. Positive feedback has been received from the SWF team and customers about the service they receive.
From April 2016, the review process for SWF decisions will change and second tier reviews will be carried out by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). Initial discussions and consultations have taken place, and the service continues to work with the Ombudsman to ensure a smooth transition to the new function. The following leaflet gives more information on how to challenge SWF decisions – SWF – Challenging decisions – 2016.
The case studies below give a snapshot of the impact that the SWF system can have on individuals and their families. People in need who are eligible to apply can make a claim by calling 0131 529 5299 or online by following the link here.
Case Study 1 – Community Care Grant
An online application was made to the SWF team by a couple with 6 children ages 18, 16, 14, 13, 4 and 3 years old. The couple are in employment with zero hour contracts and in receipt of CTC and WTC but repaying back debts to HMRC as well as other outstanding debts.
The family needed some basic items such as carpet, beds and a cooker without the help from SWF there was an increased risk of the children being taken into care. A number of other agencies are helping the family with issues around the condition of the tenancy, care of the family and debts. The need for the requested goods has been supported by their family support worker. The SWF team are working with the family support worker to see if further household items can be provided which could help the family unit remain together.
Case Study 2 – Crisis Grant
The SWF team received a telephone application from a woman in distress as she was fleeing domestic violence. She was receiving support from Women’s Aid with safe and secure accommodation but she was unable to get it as she had had to leave her home with no money, clothing or personal belongings. This situation was exacerbating her mental health issues.
The SWF team established that the applicant had previously suffered from domestic violence and her partner had been in prison. They were able to assist the applicant as her health and wellbeing was at risk and provided her with help with travel costs, money for food and toiletries.