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Peer Navigators

Hear Us Welfare Benefit Surgeries
Hear Us / Peer Navigators

While the majority of claimants would be able to learn how to manage some aspects of their claims, aspects the workshops would focus on, there will always be some who will need support, even with those aspects.

As part of the project we hope to be running in the future, we would recruit a team of volunteer “Peer Navigators”; service users who can give those individuals the support they need to manage their claims.

We hope to recruit these volunteers from our past and present clientele, as we would want them to use their own lived experience of mental illness, experience of being on benefits and their knowledge of the ethos and principles, at the heart of our organisation, to support the most vulnerable in the mental health community.

We would also want to involve these volunteers in delivering training to organisations so their staff can support their service users to make and maintain claims. We work with many services whose staff are responsible, and who are funded, to help the service users with the benefits but they do not have the training. These workshops would be funded by the organisations to help fund Hear Us. We know of organisations that come to us to support their service users,

We would also hope that the experience of volunteering as “Peer Navigators” would help them to grow and we would support them with this growth and help them, as best we can, to work towards any goals they may hope to achieve from volunteering for this role.

We would also continue to provide support to clients with complex cases, and Tribunals.

With the recognition of this need for a proactive approach to the issue of welfare benefits and a determination to deliver education to service users we can build a more resilient community as well as directly supporting those in need.

We also expect that we will need a part time Community Relations Project Worker to liase with statutory and other voluntary sector staff to ensure that services for financial support are improved across the statutory and voluntary sectors in Croydon.

To continue to provide a comprehensive welfare benefits service for people with complex needs AND support people to take control of their own benefits and financial situation, we estimate we need approximately £93,000 per year for the next three years. This would be made up of £89,758 in year 1, £92,450 in year 2 and £95,224 in year 3. This will ensure we support 255 people across Croydon, through the involvement of 5 volunteers and 2 full time and 1 part time (at 18.5 hours per week) staff. 

We would like to deliver the following outputs over the next 12 months:

  • Support people with complex needs to better understand and cope
  • Developing Expert Skills: Building confidence and hope
  • Campaigning for Change: Improving attitudes and support

By enabling people to understand more about the benefits system, we can empower them to interact with the benefits system without it negatively impacting on their health by running workshops to equip people with the knowledge and confidence to apply for and maintain their own claims so that service users will gain skills and confidence to manage their benefits, reduce anxiety and depression, and enable people to stay well.

There is also an ongoing need to support people with more complex needs for tribunals and complex claims. Existing services cannot provide the intensive, one to one support that the smaller yet more vulnerable client group needs to navigate an increasingly complex and changing system. Demand for our service heavily outweighs capacity and referrals from primary and secondary care (SLaM) are increasing exponentially week on week. Between July 2017 and June 2018 clients made over 1000 visits to our office during which we provided 2515 support hours. Helping clients to gain full financial entitlement will mean improved income, health and well-being c.f. from a one-year pilot we expect 75% of service users to be at least 40% better off within 2-6 months. It will also reduce GP visits as their mental health improves as a consequence (less stress).

We also want to train up a team of peer navigators recruited from people with experience in claiming benefits to support others. During the first quarter, we would aim to create the workshops, test them and analyse them in the second quarter before launching it in the third quarter. We would identify Peer Champions (service users with lived experience of welfare benefits) through self-confidence and self-esteem workshops, train them to deliver and support users to self-manage their benefits. They will lend to fend for themselves and will therefore grow in confidence. In turn, they will feel more empowered to play an active role in their communities (participation in sports, hobbies, voluntary work and paid employment).

Within in the wider regional context, we also want to campaign for change to the welfare system. Part of the campaign to reduce the time period from 6 to 5 weeks for receipt of first payment for UC (CPAG as lead campaigner) we know that with the right approach we can help make changes which have a significant positive impact on people’s lives e.g. parity for mental and physical health, UC online claim, charges by GPs for supporting information by using our evidence based results.

Achievements

  • The difficulties that our client group experience often throw up barriers that can make it difficult for services to engage with them and for them to engage with services, some examples are; being unable, or find it very difficult, to leave the house due to mental and/or physical health problems, being unable to work with a particular gender due to past trauma and difficulty trusting services statutory and voluntary. The individuals who face these barriers are no less deserving of help and we are proud to have given them the same help and support as someone without them.
  • An exceptional success rate for tribunals and a considerable amount of money recovered from the DWP for service users.
  • Saving people from homelessness through applications to discretionary schemes, supporting people to access debt support and maximising income.
  • Helping people to access travel and Motability schemes enabling people to become more independent and better able to access opportunities in the community.
  • One of my proudest achievements is having been an inspiration to other service users; a number of our clients have told me that I am an inspiration to them by showing that people with mental health problems are capable of supporting others and making a difference.