Financial resilience as vital tool in the cost of living crisis

Romoke, Thames Reach’s financial resilience worker, discusses her work preventing street homelessness through support maintaining finances

Financial resilience as vital tool in the cost of living crisis

Now that a cost-of-living crisis is firmly upon us, we are all thinking about managing our money better. Romoke is Thames Reach’s financial resilience worker, and she provides advice for people in a range of circumstances, ultimately with the goal of preventing street homelessness.

‘Financial resilience’ is a phrase that could potentially mean a few different things. How does it work in practice?

My role as Thames Reach’s financial resilience worker involves supporting people with resolving issues around their financial situation, which are often around benefits, reducing risks of eviction and maximising income through claiming different types of benefits. Some people I work with are facing situations that are new to them, perhaps they are coming out of hospital, so are having to claim for the first time, and need advice.

People are often referred to me through our work with the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance, who provide mental health support, so when people are on their recovery journey and going back into work, they may need help managing their income. During the lockdowns when many people were made redundant, some turned to low-paid work, so within the Employment and Skills team we help people find more suitable and sustainable employment.

Financial resilience could also look like more structured advice, as we deliver workshops on some of the things I’ve discussed, so we can reach more people. This enables people to be more knowledgeable about managing money. We’ve had really positive feedback from these sessions, showing that they are beneficial to helping people become more independent. At Thames Reach, we work with a range of people in different circumstances, for example people in supported housing may need help with working out how to pay rent and various charges, and having this knowledge is an up-skill for when they move into more independent accommodation, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

What are some of the common challenges facing that people you work with?

My role is based within the Employment and Skills team, so we work with people across supported housing and the [Lambeth Living Well Network] Alliance, which means people are facing issues with various things alongside their finances, such as housing or mental health.

It is the barriers that are preventing people from entering work that we need to look at, such as debt issues. It’s important to be able to provide support for the things that are causing the financial instability, so I’m able to refer to colleagues, as there is expertise to address these needs. With the cost-of-living crisis, I am receiving more referrals of people in full-time work who need advice on saving money, information on which grants might be available for utility costs, and people with families.

How are you able to support people when financial instability is causing mental health and wellbeing issues?

 Money issues and wellbeing issues are becoming more linked. When I meet with people, they are talking about their mental health in the context of having financial trouble. Sometimes people are already receiving support for their mental health, but sometimes I can refer them to services, as although they are linked, financial resilience practices aren’t a replacement for mental health support. It’s interesting that people seem to be more open to talking about emotional responses to financial situations. Being open when talking about money allows me to give the right advice; I have had feedback that people feel more empowered and in a better position to move forward once they have received some guidance.

How do you think your work will evolve in the coming months?

It’s important that I can still provide advice and reassure people through these difficult times. With the merging of benefits into the Universal Credit package, we will continue to work with other teams in Thames Reach to ensure this information is circulated. I am expecting to see changes to things such as benefits and debt management, but we are watching the situation closely so we can still give the best advice.

Area manager Isobel discusses her experience with the Traineeship

The Traineeship provides experience and training for a career working with people experiencing homelessness, and great opportunities for development. Area manager for hostels, Isobel McKenna, discusses her experience with the Traineeship.

Area manager Isobel discusses her experience with the Traineeship

“I joined Thames Reach through the Traineeship in 2011. Having worked in organisations before which were more focused on policy and lobbying government, I was keen to get some experience of front-line support work. I was attracted to Thames Reach as a very practical organisation and hoped the Traineeship would give me a way in to the sector. I started in Stamford Street, as it was then known, and then moved to another hostel, Graham House, for my second placement. I found the Traineeship to be a really positive experience, a good mix of being thrown in at the deep end and getting support and guidance from the people I worked with. I learnt from my mistakes and saw the creative and consistent work done by our organisation first hand, often shadowing more experienced colleagues. I was able to stay on after my Traineeship ended, getting a job in the Graham House team, and have worked in a few of our different projects over the years, leading to my current job as the area manager for hostels. I think the Traineeship is a great opportunity for anyone looking to start their career in the sector, and I look forward to seeing who applies for this year’s scheme as a member of the interview panel.”

The deadline for this year’s Traineeship programme has been extended to 20 February. Click here for more details and how to apply.

The essential role of Employment and Skills in preventing street homelessness

Michael Buckley, lead manager of the Employment and Skills team, discusses the work they do, and why it is important

The essential role of Employment and Skills in preventing street homelessness

Can you tell us about how the Employment and Skills team are helping people Thames Reach are already working with?
We are always looking to increase the numbers of people we work with, and offer a range of support such as basic skills training, which includes digital literacy, traditional literacy and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). We have a job broker in our teams who can set people up with employment; we have strong relationships with many employers, especially in construction, hospitality, retail, and security sectors. We acknowledge that not everyone will be ready to go straight into a new job, and many people will have gaps in their CVs where life experiences have taken place, so we can also help people become job-ready, with CV support and interview preparation.

Once people are at that stage and in employment, we are also committed to helping people get better paid work, particularly meeting the London Living Wage. We often organise employer engagement events, where we invite employers in to meet potential candidates, so we can demystify the interview and recruitment process as much as possible. They are always popular and have been very successful. For those who may not be ready for work yet, we provide volunteering opportunities to help people gain confidence, experience and get into a good routine.

Why is it so important to work collaboratively with other Thames Reach teams?
Internal teams have good relationships with the people they work with, and know them really well; some of the work we do will be a brief intervention so that the individual can take that next step. It’s so important that the relationships of trust are maintained between the individual, their support worker and the Employment and Skills team. If we can understand the challenges and the barriers that are preventing people from moving forward, we can use the resources we have to help them in the most suitable way. We work with the TST (Tenancy Sustainment Team) a great deal, all outreach teams, and sometimes hostels. We also have a strong relationship with the EUSS (European Union Settlement Scheme) team, and a good track record of signposting people to the right service to complete successful immigration status applications. This is a vital part of the process of helping people avoid street homelessness.

Do you offer support to people with a range of needs?
When we have referrals from all different teams at Thames Reach, as well as the wider community, we work with a wide range of people; some may be currently sleeping rough and receiving support through outreach teams, while some people will be in secure housing. To maintain contact, we need to find out if they have access to a mobile phone. We work with an organisation called Community Calling to get people phones so that they can keep in contact with not only us and their support worker, but of course their wider support networks. We then need to know if they are available for work, when they last worked, and what kind of upskilling they might need. Even if people are staying temporarily in hostels, night shelters or hotels, without long-term fixed addresses, we can still help them into work. For some people without fixed addresses, they may have limited entitlement to benefits, so finding work quickly is important.

Our work lies in both preventing street homelessness and helping people recover from it. Getting people into work is not always straightforward and involves a lot of personalised support around improving confidence and self-esteem as well as skills. It is important that we facilitate up-skilling; sustainable work is one of the most important things in supporting people away from homelessness.

 

New project helps Lambeth residents into work

New project will help Lambeth residents aged 18-30 into employment

New project helps Lambeth residents into work

Thames Reach’s Employment and Skills team have just launched their new project Bounce Back, a service led by our in-house job broker.

This two-year project will see Lambeth residents aged between 18-30 who are not currently in employment or training get advice and offers for employment. The team are accepting applications on a rolling basis, as the project will be running until 2023.

Applicants will also receive a grant of up to £500 to support costs including food and travel.

Bounce Back is kindly supported by the Walcott Foundation.

Please contact Thames Reach’s job broker, Telixia, at telixia.inico@thamesreach.org.uk with any questions, or to apply.

 

Volunteers Week: Thank you!

To mark Volunteers Week, we chat with three inspiring volunteers: Desiree, Zuhoor and Elin, who give up their time to help our mission of ending street homelessness in London

Volunteers Week: Thank you!

To mark Volunteers Week, we caught up with some of our incredible volunteers, who work across our projects in a range of roles, and provide an invaluable service to staff and those using our services. Their commitment to our vision of ending street homelessness helps us make a real difference to people’s lives on a daily basis.

Desiree volunteers at The Greenhouse in Hackney

“My name is Desiree and I’ve been volunteering at the Greenhouse since April this year.

“I always had a passion to do more for vulnerable people, but I didn’t really know where to turn to. My boyfriend works for Thames Reach, and he spoke so highly of the work they do to support for vulnerable people. I checked the Thames Reach website and liked what I saw and read, and decided I would like to be a part of that.

“I love Thames Reach’s strong ethos and commitment. I live my life with the same kind of values: never give up on people; always be positive, respectful and compassionate about others. After my first day at the Greenhouse I was absolutely sure to have found people who really believe and work with those values.

“I’m really touched by the hard work we do at Thames Reach. I have not spent a long time volunteering yet, but I can say the benefits of volunteering are twofold: it gives help and support to people in need, and is also really rewarding in return.

“I’m learning new skills, I’m meeting a lot of nice people, I’m being part of a community and I’m challenging myself to try something different, achieve new goals and discover hidden talents. Last but not least, I’m coming back home knowing I’ve done a little something to help people change their life, and this feeling has no equal.”

Zuhoor volunteers in the Employment and Skills team

“My name is Zuhoor, I volunteer in two teams at Thames Reach: the IAG (Information, Advice and Guidance within Employment and Skills) and the volunteers team. I have been volunteering since June 2020.

“I started volunteering after meeting staff at Thames Reach who said I would be a good volunteer, and offered me experience. I love the environment here, staff have helped me a lot when I needed help and now I want to give back.

“I believe it builds and rebuilds confidence, helps with professional relationships and gives people a chance to give back to those in need, which is important when you yourself have been there.

“I have learnt so much, and can see that I can give back and that there is a lot of joy in volunteering, yes I am not paid for it but I get more joy out of this!  You can see the impact you’re making and that gives me great satisfaction!”

Elin volunteers at Southwark Works

“My name is Elin and I’ve been volunteering at the Employment Academy for Southwark Works for about nine months.

“I started volunteering after I received a notification from Do It, an online volunteering platform that helps you find the sort of volunteering you are interested in, letting me know that Thames Reach were looking for new volunteers.

“I wanted to volunteer with Thames Reach primarily because it’s a homeless charity, and I was feeling frustrated by the way I was seeing homeless people being de-humanised on the street in London. I hadn’t actually heard of Thames Reach before I started volunteering but quickly learned about the incredible work they have been doing for a long time.

“When you volunteer, you witness a side of life that might be very different to the one you live, which is important, and work along side some of the most inspiring, dedicated and compassionate people you will ever meet.

“Something I’ve learnt from volunteering is that the system is not working for everyone; poverty and homelessness are everywhere, the number of people that need help are huge, the class divides are just getting bigger and too many people are happy to turn a blind eye.”

From the entire Thames Reach community, we would like to thank all our incredible volunteers for their work, as well as their enthusiasm and dedication for ending street homelessness. Our work would not be possible without your input. You are all fantastic!

If you or your team are looking to take part in volunteering, and are passionate about ending street homelessness, please get in touch with volunteer programmes manager Kelly McLoughlin: volunteers@thamesreach.org.uk

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Tackling digital poverty

Digital poverty is especially concerning at a time where we have all been reliant on technology to stay connected. The Employment and Skills team at Thames Reach run the iReach project to help people access the internet and learn digital skills; we spoke with digital skills support officer Annabelle to see how the project works remotely.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Tackling digital poverty

20 May is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which looks to increase awareness around issues of digital access and inclusion. At a time where we are particularly reliant on technology to keep us connected, it is a concern that ‘digital poverty’ is affecting people who do not have access to either a device, a computer or data. The support required must come from a place of understanding and patience, and Annabelle Ferary, who runs Thames Reach’s iReach project, helping people develop digital skills, is an expert at providing this.

“I’m Annabelle, a digital support worker within the Employment and Skills team.  I first started at Thames Reach in 2016 as volunteer; I was impressed with the wrap-around service that the Employment and Skills team were delivering, and this inspired me to take on a paid role to help people develop and utilise their IT and digital skills in Southwark.

“This also led me to take on a further role delivering IT skills within the iReach digital project, which has been funded by the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists for several years. I delivered this within community and housing settings, supporting clients across Thames Reach.

“iReach consists of on-going weekly classes for those who would like to improve their confidence with accessing the internet and other online services independently. For example, many of the people I work with face challenges of setting up and accessing email accounts, accessing their Universal Credit independently or completing job searches.  The importance of IT skills has grown significantly since I started running iReach; it is becoming increasingly important to gain digital skills within a supportive environment.

“Since the pandemic I had to adapt how I delivered iReach. For example, many did not have access to a device, laptop, tablet or smart phone and broadband due to limited income.  This meant delivering the sessions remotely, leading to clients feeling isolated and frustrated. Several attendees shared that they wanted to have classes face-to-face due to anxiety levels and lack of confidence using devices. Digital poverty is a serious issue in society today, even more now than five years ago when I started, especially for the cohort of people we work with.

“Many of the clients I have supported have gained the confidence to complete a range of accredited courses; a great deal have been successful in obtaining employment. It is an exciting time for digital skills; the need for them will only keep growing, now that so many programmes have moved online.”

Thames Reach recently featured on Hubbub’s podcast ‘Down to Earth’, which discusses digital isolation through lack of tech access. Alessy Beaver in the Employment and Skills team discusses the ‘Community Calling’ project with her client, Paul. It’s a lovely podcast with a powerful message, available on Spotify here.

Meet the Employer events at Thames Reach this Spring

The Employment and Skills team are hosting guest employers for their ‘Meet the Employer’ series this Spring, open to all people looking to enter employment.

Meet the Employer events at Thames Reach this Spring

Meet the Employer events are being hosted at Thames Reach HQ, the Employment Academy in Camberwell, this Spring. In a safe face-to-face environment, they are a great way for anyone looking to (re)enter the workforce. In a range of sessions, employers who are currently hiring from a range of industries will be present, with a different organisation each time coming to meet attendees. Please see below for full details if you are interested in coming along, and contact Tanja, whose details are at the bottom of the page.

Event schedule

Hosted at the Employment Academy under social distancing guidelines.

5 May, 11am-1pm – British Transport Police, People and Development – police/security 

Presented by Michelle Pidgen, Positive Action Recruitment Team
– industry overview
– available opportunities
– apprenticeships
– recruitment process
– key dates to apply

19 May, 10am-12pm – Blue Bird Care – soft services

Presented by Alice Cerilli, hiring manager
– overview of the care service industry
– available vacancies
– how to apply and stand out
– best practice interviews
– career progression in the industry
– 1-2-1 interviews

20 May, 10am-1pm – Mitie Group – soft services

Presented by Diana Castro, soft services manager
– overview of the soft service industry, cleaning and facilities
– available vacancies
– how to apply and stand out
– best practice interviews
– career progression in the industry
– 1-2-1 interviews

28 May, 10am-12pm – Pret a Manger and Pret Foundation – hospitality

Presented by Juanita Cracchiolo, Pret Foundation employment and housing manager
– Pret Foundation overview and social impact
– Pret a Manger opportunities
– training and development
– hiring process
– opportunities

28 May, 2pm-4pm – Vistry Partners – construction

Presented by the community engagement officer
– find out about latest construction roles and vacancies
– application support
– recruitment process

For more details and booking, please contact Thames Reach’s job broker, Tanja Mrnjaus: Tanja.mrnjaus@thamesreach.org.uk or call 07971 952 437

 

 

Interview with Tanja, Thames Reach’s job broker helping people get back into work

Tanja Mrnjaus is Thames Reach’s job broker, based in the Employment and Skills team. We chat to her about the challenges of the job market, how she is supporting people to get back into work and her predictions for a post-lockdown London

Interview with Tanja, Thames Reach’s job broker helping people get back into work

Can you tell us a bit about your role, and your career before coming to Thames Reach?

My role as a job broker is to support clients through search, application and placement into employment. I am also building new and managing existing relationships with employers and training providers. Previous to working here I was a brand and general manager for an international fashion brand and a lecturer for Marketing and Communications in Business of Fashion. I started my career as a personal stylist and have worked with shopping giants such as Westfield and John Lewis developing and recruiting styling talent and delivering retail training programmes.

What are the biggest challenges in your role at the moment?

The biggest challenges in my role at the moment are very much influenced by the global pandemic and the effects on the economic market. Many businesses have shut their doors and certain industries have struggled to keep afloat. As a result there is an increase of people who are looking for work in an environment where there are not as many roles offered. However there is always an opportunity and I am very much motivated to ensure that people I work with are placed in sustainable employment.

What are the biggest challenges faced by those supported by the Employment and Skills (E&S) team, and how are you able to help?

The challenges faced by E&S clients are very complex and varied.  Main barriers include communication skills, lack of training, lack of experience, confidence, technology access and funds. By working with clients personally, I can tailor a plan to meet their needs in terms of receiving additional support in areas they are lacking and taking steps towards their employment goals. I support clients by coaching them through their job search and helping them navigate through resources that are available to them so they reach their full potential.

Do you have any predictions for the employment market once London comes out of a full lockdown? What advice are you giving to clients based on this?

I am very hopeful for the rise in the employment market once London comes out of full lockdown. My predictions in terms of job vacancies would be that the hospitality and hotel industries will making a big comeback, the beauty industry will boom, IT and digital technology will continue to dominate, and digital skills will be much in demand; warehouse, delivery service and construction will continue to thrive. I am also seeing a rise in local social enterprise businesses; giving back to the community will be more important than ever. Due to the mental health effects of the pandemic, mindfulness and wellbeing services will become more sought after than ever.

What are you hopeful about this year?

There will definitely be exciting opportunities this year to start fresh and with a new perspective. There are many grants to support and help rebuild the economy and the best thing we can all do is to continue to be positive and work together to make a difference to those that need it the most. This year is all about cross-referring, cross partnerships and establishing strong networks to provide an improved service and create opportunities from within.

Gabriel’s story

Gabriel became homeless just before the pandemic, but was able to return to work and have a new start with the help of the Lambeth Non-UK Employment Project at Thames Reach

Gabriel’s story

Gabriel* is a Portuguese man living in London, who found himself homeless for the first time in the spring of 2020. He had a history of substance use and when he became homeless, his drug use had increased, due to the additional stress and trauma of his situation.

He had support in place around his drug use, but was struggling to fully engage with this process; overcoming this first barrier was essential in order to begin his journey away from homelessness. A lot of the early support he received was around stabilising his use, which he actively engaged with, and was successful in doing.

Gabriel also had a strong skillset and a long history of employment. The key to supporting him was helping him feel empowered to make steps towards employment and increasing his confidence, which had suffered during his periods of drug use and homelessness.

On a practical level the Lambeth Non-UK Employment Project (LNEP) team created a CV for him, provided transport costs so he could look for work and sent him job opportunities. Gabriel was encouraged to actively participate in the process, and by providing him with the tools he needed, he began taking steps to find employment.

Moving out of London was something Gabriel felt would be beneficial to his recovery. He found a job in Hastings as a cleaner in a supermarket, and needed to start within a few days. This is when support had to be as flexible as possible; the team needed to move quickly to ensure he was able to relocate in time to secure the position.

As soon as he was offered the position the team referred him to the Private Rented Sector (PRS) service within Thames Reach’s Tenancy Sustainment Team (TST), during which time he was secured hotel accommodation in Hastings and relocated immediately, to begin work within a few days. This gave the PRS team enough time to work on securing affordable accommodation locally and begin the resettlement process.

Gabriel is happy in his new job, it is a role that is not too mentally challenging for him; he says it gives him time to work on his recovery and rebuild his confidence. On his time off he is enjoying long sea walks and feels it is the first step towards a new future.