Saturday 6 July was Norwich’s Lord Mayor’s Celebration, a parade through centre of Norwich that included dancers, musicians, performers, floats and puppets. This year, pride of place at the front of the procession was taken by the Norwich Financial Inclusion Consortium, a group of charities that includes Shelter Norwich.
The Norwich Financial Inclusion Consortium led the parade because they were named the Lord Mayor and Sheriff’s Civic Charity of the Year, due to the consortium’s work helping people with a variety of financial and debt problems, including issues with claiming Universal Credit.
Partnerships are key for a small hub like Norwich. They allow Shelter to help more people and to help people with complex needs, of which a housing problem might only be one part. ‘What we are able to offer in partnership is a holistic approach to a service user’s issues,’ Hub Manager Lesley Burdett said.
The Norwich Financial Inclusion Consortium is a collaboration between national and local charities. As well as Shelter, Citizen’s Advice Norfolk, Age UK Norwich, Norfolk Community Local Service (NCLS), Mancroft Advice Project (MAP), and Equal Lives are all involved in the project. From a client’s point of view this means they can access multiple services easily and, according to Lesley Burdett, they ‘don’t feel that they’re being handed off.’ For the members of the consortium, it means holding strategic partnership meetings to discuss barriers and issues affecting all the members, such as anything that arises from the roll out of Universal Credit.
One of the main partnerships Shelter Norwich is involved in is the Norfolk Community Advice Network (NCAN) which is a partnership between Citizen’s Advice, Norfolk Community Law Service (NCLS), Age UK Norwich and Norfolk, Equal Lives and Mancroft Advice Project, all of whom form the NCAN steering group.
The secure NCAN referral system is set up so that if a client comes to any of these organisations with a problem that might affect another aspect of their lives, they can get help from any partner with expertise in this area. Shelter provides the housing support to clients. ‘We’re able to securely transfer information to each other so that clients don’t have to keep telling their story,’ Lesley Burdett said.
Shelter was instrumental in getting NCAN set up, and the steering group supports other smaller charities in order to develop their skills. ‘We hold strategic partnership meetings that get everyone around the table to discuss the barriers and issues that we are particularly facing,’ Lesley Burdett said. She said it was also important ‘to be able to work in a collective way around people’s issues’, which means that ‘clients don’t feel that they’re being passed off or just referred or sign posted.’ She added: ‘It’s more than a bit of a collaboration, it’s about working closely to get the results that our clients need.’
Shelter Norwich is also a part of Pathways, a partnership between Shelter, St Martins, YMCA Norfolk, the Salvation Army, The Feed, NHS City Reach Health Service and Future Projects. Pathways helps rough sleepers and people with multiple and complex needs. Pathways members’ step out of their individual organisations to provide one service to people who need help. The service’s particular focus is around rough sleeping.
Another partnership that Shelter Norwich is involved in is the Norwich and Broadland Living Well or Social Prescribing project. Lesley Burdett said this service works when a potential client goes to their GP with ‘low levels of anxiety and depression that are linked to issues around housing or debt or welfare benefits,’ so that the client ‘can be linked into or referred by their GPs to our services.’ We can then help tackle the housing or debt element of their problems.
Social Prescribing also involves Citizen’s Advice, Age UK, Equal Lives and Mancroft Advice Project. Many of the people referred through Social Prescribing have complex needs, and we work with other support agencies to help them. Loneliness and isolation are particular problems that Social Prescribing can tackle.
Shelter Norwich has also launched a new partnership with the Trussell Trust to deliver advice in food banks. They are starting with delivering advice at Alive Church’s food bank, on Nelson Street, Norwich, as many people who need the help of a food bank also have housing problems.
This working together with other organisations through partnerships is essential for making Shelter Norwich a success. ‘Working in partnership gives the sector a voice across the city’ Lesley Burdett said. When talking to commissioners, health officials, the DWP and landlords the sector can speak with one voice. Lesley Burdett said it also ‘gives an opportunity for dialogue from both sides.’
Partnerships with other organisation who can help clients, especially those with complex needs, are essential to the work that Shelter Norwich does. It allows us to provide a holistic service to someone who has a housing or related problem. We are very pleased that a key partnership, the Norwich Financial Inclusion Consortium, was chosen as the Lord Mayor and Sherriff’s Civic Charity of the Year, and had such a prestigious place in the parade.
If you need housing advice or support from us, then come visit Shelter Norwich at Whitefriars House, 50 Fishergate, Norwich NR3 1SE.
You can find out more about Shelter Norwich by visiting our website.