Great News For Venus!

Venus are delighted to announce that they have been awarded 5 year funding to work with women and girls through the Big Lottery. The programme is called “Step Together” and will include lots of individual support, group work, training and counselling to women who are often the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.

The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK and this is part of £48.5 MILLION investment nationally. Women and girls are at the heart of more than 60 projects across England which will support them to regain and retain control of their lives, including seven life-changing projects sharing in £3,966,015 across the North West.

Funding is focused on not only providing help for women of all ages faced with extremely difficult situations such as stalking, sexual exploitation, violence against them but also in mentoring and connecting young girls with role models.

Venus will receive £416,863 to work with women who have lost their children to public care or adoption to empower them to manage their own lives. Venus will get involved early when there are further pregnancies and provide support the year after to reduce the likelihood of their new child going into care. Other areas of help will include parenting training, interventions with regards to substance misuse and support to help women to build supportive relationships with family members and friends to build their support network.

The Big Lottery Fund is investing £45.5 million in 63 projects. A further £3 million will be invested in evaluating and learning including supporting the projects as they develop and then sharing details of the work of each so that other women and organisations can benefit in the future.

Geeta Gopalan, Big Lottery Fund England committee vice chair and chair of the funding panel for women and girls said: “Strong evidence from women and girls organisations told us of the increased demand for support, so we’ve been working closely with them over the past year to identify ways that women of all ages can get the right help, information and a listening ear to take control of their lives. We will be working closely with all the projects funded today to share the most successful aspects so that other women and girls can continue to benefit in the future.”

“I am delighted that we can use money raised through National Lottery players to go back into the community and help young girls and women most in need.”

Preventing Homelessness Should Be The Government’s Priority

“The single biggest cause of homelessness in England is now private landlords ending assured shorthold tenancies, leaving nowhere for turfed-out tenants to go: sticking-plaster solutions once people find themselves bedding down in shop doorways aren’t likely to result in long-term housing for the thousands of people on the streets.”

So said Dawn Foster in an excellent piece on the Queen’s speech in The Guardian last week. She points out that demand for temporary accommodation provided by councils has risen sharply as people have been made homeless because they can’t afford to pay the exorbitant rents imposed by private landlords.

However, and here’s the rub, local authorities can make it difficult for people to apply for housing because they have had to live in the area for three years, have been evicted, and be a ‘priority case’ to qualify.

To put this into perspective, the most recent statistics on rough sleeping in England show that last autumn there were 3,569 sleeping rough, up by a third on the previous year.

To tackle this, she says, the government has to:

  • Accept a duty to prevent homelessness rather than refusing to help until crisis point;
  • Accept that homelessness is a symptom of a wider problem, with the housing market dominated by private renting that focuses on economic gain; and
  • House everyone who needs housing, rather than attempting to force a triage system on lives and households that results in young families stuck in temporary accommodation for months, and single homeless people falling through the gaps in care and remaining on the street.

“The problem is that these solutions cost a little more in the short term. In the long term, however, housing someone at risk of homelessness involves a small outlay that prevents costs incurred by councils, police and the NHS if homelessness becomes entrenched and rough sleepers become the responsibility of multiple services.”

“If the Queen’s speech pledged full support to anyone facing homelessness in England, it would be a massive step forward: instead we are likely to see another small bung of cash promised in a similar manner to the autumn statement’s announcement, given to councils who have lost more funding than Osborne is willing to redress, to grab a quick headline without denting the problem.”

Good Food Is Being Needlessly Thrown Away!

Have you ever wondered what happens to food that is unsold or past it’s sell-by date? According to a new report, over one million tonnes of food is being “avoidably” discarded, of which at least 185,000 tonnes could be used to make safe and healthy meals for people who are hungry

According to the Trussell Trust, more than one million people have asked for three days’ food supplies from food banks in the UK this year. In these times of austerity, hunger and food-banks, throwing away 360 million meals is obscene. If this food were saved and redistributed, it would represent a “four-fold increase” on current levels of food being saved.

Richard Swannell, director at waste-prevention charity Wrap, which produced the government-commissioned report, told The Independent: “This is the first time in the UK and even in the world that a survey has gone right down the supply chain to see how much waste is avoidable.

“The key thing is to really understand the scale of the problem – that focuses the mind. What we need to do is actually have a lot more infrastructure that means there is collaboration between industry, retailers and charities. It takes some organisation.”

The report, ‘Quantification of Food Surplus and Waste’, found that almost £300 million could be saved every year through better use of surplus food. More food currently being thrown away could also be used as animal feed, the report added.

Food safety procedures will have to be strict and supermarkets must not simply “transfer the waste problem” over to charities, Mr Swannell said.

“I am fairly confident that the combination of this report and other changes means we are going to be seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of redistribution in the next two or three years,” he said.

Legal Highs – The Final Frontier

A new law comes into force this month aiming to ban all substances that have a psychoactive effect. But will it make any difference?

Over the past ten years the government has struggled to keep up with the rapidly evolving “legal highs” market because these substances are synthetic and each time a new one hit the streets and the government banned it a slightly altered version replaced it within days.

Now, the government is about to bring in new legislation that will put a blanket ban on all ‘novel psychoactive substances’ (NPS). This law, the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, will make it illegal to produce or distribute any substance that has a psychoactive effect, but simple possession will not be against the law – unless it is inside a prison. The law will not apply to really dangerous drugs, such as alcohol and nicotine, of course.

Despite objections from drug experts, who said it is impossible to accurately test or measure psychoactivity, and police, who said it will be impossible to enforce, the law comes into effect on 24th of May. Whether this will make any difference to levels of use amongst particularly vulnerable groups such as the homeless, offenders, or those with mental health issues, is debatable.

“I don’t think this will make any difference to the people we work with,” said Alan Matthews, Chair of Trustees at Bosco House and a drug policy expert. “Over the past 60 years successive governments have kept adding to the list of banned substances and, if anything, it has made the situation worse. Spice was made illegal in 2009, but it’s still widely available in one form or another.”

“The reason Spice (a synthetic drug that mimics the effects of cannabis) has become so prevalent is because cannabis itself is illegal. But Spice and other synthetic cannabinoids are much, much more dangerous than cannabis and can cause real problems. You’ve only got to look at what’s going on in the prison system to see the dramatic effect things like Spice and Black Mamba (brand names for synthetic cannabis) are having.”

“What those of us who work in supported housing need is clear guidance about the legal status of these new substances and the implications for the management of tenancies and premises, and a general raising of awareness about what these things are, the effects and risks, and how to help someone experiencing problems.”

If you need any advice on the new law, or information and training on “legal highs” email Alan at alan@alanmatthews.org.uk

Jobs At Venus and Excel!

Venus have announced that they’re looking for a trainee Centre Worker post for their exciting project, Our Place – Sefton Care Leavers’ Centre, working with young people in care and care leavers in their transition to independence.

The position is for a 15-month contract.  Closing date for applications is 5pm on Wednesday 18th May 2016.

More details and application packs for the role can be obtained from:

Craig Redman, Employer Liaison Officer, Sefton@Work, Sefton MBC, 286-288 Stanley Road, Bootle, L20 3ER, or email craig.redman@sefton.gov.uk

Also, Excel Housing Solutions are currently looking for a part time cleaner, for ten hours a week (flexible times) in the L20 area. You will need your own transport and full, clean driving license and paid mileage will be included. The rate of pay is £7.50ph.

The post is subject to enhanced DBS (paid for by EHS) and two references, one from most recent employer. Applications from both men and women are welcome for this position. This is an exciting opportunity to join a rapidly expanding Housing Association.

Please send your CV to admin@excelhousingsolutions.com

Stealing Food If You’re Hungry Is Not A Crime Says Judge

Italy’s highest court of appeal has overturned the conviction for shoplifting of a homeless man because “stealing small amounts of food to stave of hunger is not a crime” the judge ruled.

Roman Ostriakov, a Ukrainian national, was living rough on the streets in the northern Italian city of Genoa in 2011 when he was caught trying to steal some cheese and sausage worth 4 euros (about £3) from a supermarket. When found guilty of theft he was sentenced to six months in jail and was fined with 100-euro.

The state prosecutor appealed the sentence on a technicality, arguing that he should not have been found ‘guilty of theft’, but rather ‘attempted theft’, because he had been caught before he had left the supermarket premises.

But Italy’s Supreme Court invalidated the verdict.

Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation, which reviews only the application of the law and not the facts of the case, made a final and definitive ruling overturning the conviction entirely.

“The condition of the accused and the circumstances in which he obtained the merchandise show that he had taken the little amount of food he needed to overcome his immediate and essential requirement for nourishment,” it said in a written ruling and was, therefore not a crime.

Bosco Walking Group Scale New Heights To Raise Money

280px-Cat_Bells_and_Friars_CragThe Bosco Walking Group is setting out on an epic journey to raise money for new gym equipment.

The walk, scheduled for Friday 1st of July, will take the grueling path overlooking Derwent Water, in the Lake District, up to Cat Bells, along Maiden Moor and on to the peak of High Spy. It is hoped that the challenge will be completed in a day and, with fair weather and plenty of Kendal Mint Cake, there will be need to call out the Mountain Rescue Service.

Grizzled walker and Bosco support worker, Sue, said: “Earlier this year, staff and residents of Bosco House worked together to form a walking group. We have carried out numerous local walks and the feedback received so far has been very positive and encouraging.”

“The residents involved have reported benefits to their health and social life and are very keen to explore outdoor activities further. So, during one of our weekly meetings, the group decided to embark on a sponsored walk to raise funds to purchase new gym equipment. This will be open for use by all who access support from Bosco House, as well as other local groups.”

Part-time rambler and full-time Bosco support worker, James, agreed: “It’s a challenge, that’s for sure, but it’s one we are willing to take on to raise money for this important issue.”

“Our service users are, in the main, a bit out of shape when they arrive, but with our new gym equipment they’ll be looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger when they leave!”

You can help to raise money by pledging your sponsorship to either Sue or James on 0151 944 1818 or email staff@boscohouse.org.uk

£13,000 Raised For Homeless Man – But He Hasn’t Seen A Penny!

Back in March, we highlighted the Good Samaritan actions of a homeless man who helped out a young woman stranded at Euston station (‘Homeless Man Rescues Damsel In Distress’, news 7.3.16).

After the story went viral on social media, thousands of people were so moved by the story that they donated over £13,000 to get the young man, Mark Collins, back on his feet.

However, according to a report in the Camden New Journal, it has now been revealed that Mark hasn’t seen a penny of this small fortune. Apparently, a homeless charity, Safer Streets, recommended the money should be withheld and donated to a homeless charity – like themselves – instead.

They said: “Giving large amounts of money directly to someone with support needs could have been harmful.”

Safer Streets is a project of the recently re-branded CGL (formerly CRI – Crime Reduction Initiatives). The chief executive of CGL pays himself £180,000 a year, by the way.

Destitution In The UK

A damning new report reveals that, here in the UK in the 21st century, one and a quarter MILLION people each year can’t afford the basic essentials needed to eat, keep clean, and stay warm and dry.

Around a third (400,000) had slept rough, begged or accessed a service intended to support complex needs such as substance misuse, mental ill health and contact with the Criminal Justice System.

The report, Destitution In The UK, is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and is based on detailed research carried out by Heriot-Watt University. It reveals that, even though there are few straightforward reasons for why people become destitute, income (or lack of it) obviously plays a major role.

The researchers found that delays or interruptions to benefits, as well as debt and arrears payments, was the main cause. But, for those with the most complex needs, being unable to afford life’s basics is often the result of a more complex web of factors, including relationship breakdown and domestic violence.

Those with more complex needs experience longer periods of destitution and sometimes have no money for months or even years. This is also true for migrants, particularly those claiming asylum. People in these situations can become incredibly isolated and, lacking friends or a network of support, become reliant on benefits, voluntary services and sometimes begging.

The study found that most people who are fit for work see employment as the best route out of destitution. However, for most, the immediate challenge is resolving issues with their benefit claims and, particularly for those with the most complex needs, finding appropriate accommodation and support to address the wider issues in their lives. Even those who are able to improve their situation remained vulnerable to sudden changes in circumstances, such as their benefit entitlements.

The research is invaluable in highlighting both the scale of the problem, and the complexity of the response that’s needed. There are already good examples of how local areas can help people address the long-term issues that they face – but this report shows how much more work there is to do.

The full report can be downloaded at www.jrf.org.uk

In Liverpool Simple Things Can Mean A Lot

As part of the Liverpool Echo’s campaign to highlight the plight of the city’s homeless, they have listed six things all of us could do to help out.

  1. Call ‘No Second Night Out’. This brilliant initiative between Liverpool City Council and the Whitechapel Centre aims to ensure that no one has to sleep rough for more than one night. If you are worried about someone, you can let the Whitechapel Centre know by calling 0300 123 2041, or email info@whitechapelcentre.co.uk.
  1. Donate! Most charities will accept financial donations as well as other items, and may need volunteers – contact individual charities for details. There are also many other charities seeking to help homeless people in various circumstances in different ways, with most easy to find through Google.
  1. Support efforts to tackle the wider causes of homelessness. Tackling the issue is as much about preventing individuals and families from losing their home as supporting people who already have. Both Shelter and the Citizens Advice Bureau have Merseyside teams offering free, independent advice on housing and related issues such as debt and benefits.
  1. Help with fundraising. Why not encourage others to donate, too, by taking part in fun or challenging fundraising events, or even organising your own. At Bosco House, staff, volunteers and residents are taking part in a sponsored walk in July. If you want to help, give Sue or James a ring on 0151 944 1818 or email staff@boscohouse.org.uk .
  1. Use your vote! With the local elections coming up soon you could contact your local councilor, or candidates after your vote, to find out their policies on homelessness. All elected representatives and candidates want to hear people’s views, and can usually be contacted by email or their websites. Then you can not only decide whether to give them your vote – you are also showing them it is an issue that matters to local voters.
  1. Stop to chat. Many of the rough sleepers interviewed by the Liverpool Echo said they were frustrated and saddened by people’s attitudes towards them. Several said they were very happy when people stopped to chat, ask them about their day or ask how they came to be sleeping rough – even if people didn’t give money. Stopping to chat can also mean you are able to help someone get what they need most – which could be access to a phone, a bottle of water or new socks, rather than a coffee or a few quid.

So here are some simple, everyday things we can all do to help make someone’s day – or even life – better.