Thames Reach partner with Vodafone to provide free connectivity to those experiencing digital exclusion

Thames Reach have partnered with Vodafone to provide SIM cards with free data, calls and texts to people experiencing digital exclusion

Thames Reach partner with Vodafone to provide free connectivity to those experiencing digital exclusion

Thames Reach today announced it will be using free connectivity, via Vodafone’s charities.connected initiative, to tackle digital exclusion among people we work with in London. Distributed through the Employment and Skills team, connectivity packages will be given to people experiencing digital exclusion, allowing people to connect with vital resources including health services, support workers, employers and family and friends.

Vodafone’s charities.connected initiative is open to any registered charity that would benefit from free connectivity, either to improve its digital capability, extend its services or help the individuals and families it supports get online. Registered charities across London can apply for the free connectivity, in the form of SIM cards with 20GB data a month, plus free calls and texts, for six months [here].

Denise, lead worker at Thames Reach, said: “We have always been aware that many of the people we support are experiencing digital poverty. However, the pandemic highlighted even further that many were also ‘data poor’. This meant being further socially excluded from accessing vital services such as doctors, dentists, mental health services and seeking employment opportunities. In addition, they were unable to reach out to family and friends in their time of need which led to their further isolation. We are really pleased to have received these vital resources to pass on to the people we work with who need it the most.”

Emma Reynolds, Head of Communications, Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs at Vodafone UK said: “We are committed to tackling digital exclusion.  We hope that by providing free connectivity to Thames Reach and the other amazing charities across the UK who have such an enormous impact on their local communities, we can help create a more inclusive digital society.  We urge any organisation who thinks they can benefit to apply online and look forward to hearing how this connectivity has helped.”

Vodafone’s charities.connected initiative is part of its commitment to tackle digital exclusion and connect one million people by the end of 2022.

 

-Ends-

Notes to editors

Thames Reach is a charity based in London, supporting people facing homelessness through prevention, intervention, and recovery. The charity specialises in helping people with complex and multiple needs, including mental health and drug and alcohol use. It manages a range of services, including street outreach, frontline hostels, day services, specialist supported housing and employment and skills schemes. Thames Reach’s mission is to assist homeless and vulnerable adults to find decent homes, build supportive relationships and lead fulfilling lives. thamesreach.org.uk

Vodafone’s charities connected initiative was launched in August 2021.  For more information, see [here].

For more information, please contact:

Thames Reach Communications team

media@thamesreach.org.uk

Vodafone UK Media Relations Team

Email: ukmediarelations@vodafone.com

Tel: 01635 693693

Thames Reach bring homelessness prevention expertise to Lewisham

Thames Reach’s latest prevention service is focused on preventing homelessness in the borough of Lewisham

Thames Reach bring homelessness prevention expertise to Lewisham

At the start of April, Thames Reach took over the service Lewisham IHASS (Intensive Housing Advice and floating Support Service) with a new contract. The team’s work will prevent homelessness in the borough with their person-centred approach, addressing the specific needs of the individual, whether this is mental health, tenancy sustainment or drug and alcohol support. We spoke with the service’s new lead manager, Michael, who introduced their work.

Can you give us an introduction to your new service?

We are a homelessness prevention service being commissioned by Lewisham council, with referrals being made from Lewisham Housing Solutions and Lewisham Adult Social Care. The idea is to support people into accommodation and make sure it’s sustainable and suitable for them; we are floating support, so meet people where they are as opposed to a day centre functionality. The team have been TUPED [transferred] over from One Housing, who held the contract before us, so it’s a really experienced team. They all know the services available in Lewisham, so we have the contacts we need to signpost for substance support, mental health, the job centre etc. We want to make sure we are a brief intervention service; when we receive referrals, we look to contact the individual within 24 hours and invite them into the service to meet and discuss their needs.

We are solutions-focused, and look to see how we can get people into employment or training, or education if that’s what they want to do. The ultimate goal is to get people as independent as possible in order to sustain their accommodation. Our work will also include mental health support and cessation of smoking if that’s something they need help with, promoting healthy living and wellbeing, widening their networks.

How does Lewisham IHASS work with other teams within Thames Reach?

We’ll be working closely with the Employment and Skills team to help people access training such as improving their English language skills. We also have close ties with the financial resilience worker, who is really important as she helps people with upskilling, getting back into work and managing their finances better. Our EUSS (European Union Settlement Scheme) worker will also work with people who are working on their Settled status, if they need assistance with their application. As I said, we are a brief intervention service, so want to work with people for a maximum of six months. If we can identify their needs quickly, we can work better as a homelessness prevention service.

If you are only working with people for a short period of time, does this imply that support needs are generally low?

Not necessarily, we have a wide range of people that we are working with. Some have come through the criminal justice system, one person we’re working with at the moment has just left supported accommodation, which wasn’t working for them, and they’ve also come off their [methadone] script. The people we are working with may have come from supported accommodation and they need that next step towards living independently, so we are here to listen to what people need for them to gain that independence. There will be people with low needs, but also those with medium needs, and complexities.

People being referred to our service might have presented to the council as being at risk of homelessness, perhaps they need advocacy to protect their tenancies, so they may not be sleeping rough but they are having issues with their tenancy, maybe they are in arrears.

Although the service was only taken over by Thames Reach at the start of April, what are the objectives for the coming months? How are you measuring your success?

As a brief intervention service, if we can support and signpost people effectively in a short amount of time, that is a success. Making sure we have systems in place to help people is enabling us to do this well; people come to us with a range of issues, and we need to know that we can help them quickly and effectively, to avoid it leading to homelessness. We work in a person-focused way, offering really good options to people and linking them in with services thanks to the partnerships we have in the community.

Thames Reach are committed to developing and running services that directly prevent homelessness. Please refer to our 2022-2025 Business Plan for more details on how we plan to implement this, based on ongoing successes. This includes “an assertive approach that aims to identify and work with people before problems lead to a housing breakdown” and developing “existing and new relationships with London local authorities” as projects such as Lewisham IHASS are usually commissioned this way. Lewisham IHASS is the latest service to follow this plan towards our vision of ending street homelessness, and we are pleased to be expanding our prevention service.

Marisa’s story: “I feel like I have a chance now to improve my situation”

After becoming homeless, Marisa is now receiving support with her mental health and hopes to get back into work soon

Marisa’s story: “I feel like I have a chance now to improve my situation”

Marisa spent many years working with children after studying childcare in college. She went on to spend time as a playworker manager and then as a nursery nurse until one day she found herself unable to go to work – the stress of her job, of parenthood, the struggle of getting by day after day, had taken a serious toll on her mental health and she just couldn’t function anymore.

Struggling with depression, things began to get worse for Marisa, she felt utterly unable to discuss her problems with her partner and she couldn’t handle bills or deal with her housing situation. Her son went to live with her mother and soon she lost her flat along with everything inside it. She had just had the place refurbished.

Marisa spent several months sofa surfing, feeling lost and isolated without a place of her own. She eventually began receiving support for her mental health from an organisation who referred her on to Thames Reach Greenwich, where she was offered a place in the Greenwich Hub –  a supported accommodation project with onsite psychologists providing specialist, tailored healthcare to residents. 

In a more secure living environment, and with onsite psychological support to hand, Marisa now feels more confident and more able to open up and share her difficulties. She has been at the Hub for four months and continues to receive support for her mental health.

She has also been making use of the Thames Reach Employment and Skills team, which helps people to access training and employment opportunities. She has had help with writing a new CV and is now feeling ready to try and get back into work.

“I’ve been using all the resources available. They offer you so many opportunities at Thames Reach. I really want to make the most of them,” she said.

Thames Reach support worker Robin, who works at the Greenwich Hub, said of Marisa: “It’s been great to see her develop her talents. She is determined to move forward and return to work, and hopefully secure long term accommodation. She has used this time to plan for the future and make changes towards this. Marisa has made use of the support available from local services, and at the same time we’ve seen her confidence grow.”       

With her mental health in a better place than it’s been for a long time, and with the confidence to share and open up, Maria’s aim now is to get her own flat and then to do a health and social care apprenticeship so she can t finish her Level 3 Health and Social Care course and get further work in the care sector.

“I feel like I have a chance now to improve my situation and I really want to develop personally and professionally to move forward with my life,” she said.

Gary’s story

After 14 months of homelessness, Gary is enjoying living independently again

Gary’s story

Recently housed, Gary is now enjoying the sense of freedom that can come with living in your own home.

When he was younger, Gary had begun forging a career as a judicial clerk for a number of criminal solicitors and worked in chambers at the High Court. At the time, he was one of only a few black people working in the legal profession in London and encountered a considerable lack of respect and recognition in his work place. He began to see no future for himself as a solicitor and eventually left the profession after seven years.

Gary’s family had struggled to accept his sexuality and, when he learned that he was HIV positive, he felt forced to move out, and soon became estranged from them. He spent some time living with a friend, and when that friend sadly passed away, he decided to move to New York, where he lived for the next eight years.

During his time in the United States, Gary’s health seriously declined. He returned to the UK very unwell but had nowhere to go, and so began a damaging period of homelessness.

“I was homeless for 14 months,” said Gary. “I remember every month, every day.”

Gary spent this time moving in and out of hostels and temporary accommodation. He found hostel environments overwhelming, and homelessness began to have a serious detrimental effect on his mental and physical wellbeing. He self-harmed and considered taking his own life.

A very reserved and private man, all Gary wanted was to be able to live in his own space independently. Eventually, he was helped to begin the process of finding independent accommodation but soon he faced a gruelling series of bureaucratic hurdles. 

Time after time he was told he didn’t fit the criteria or that there was an issue with his referral. One door closed after another and he remained extremely unwell. Sometimes he was violently sick for days.

When he could, Gary would spend up to eight hours a day queuing at the local civic centre, attempting to untangle the issues surrounding his housing application.

Eventually, Gary was referred to Thames Reach via Look Ahead – a charitable housing association which is now part of Thames Reach services, where support workers were able to help him access his own flat.

Gary is now being supported by Thames Reach’s Brent Reach floating support service – where support workers visit people in their homes, helping tenants become more social and independent as well as supporting with daily tasks such as budgeting, computer skills and their physical and mental health.

 “The only reason I can talk about my past so willingly and calmly now is because of the tremendous support I received when I came into contact with Thames Reach,” he said.

“You know when people deal with you on a human basis, well that’s what I found here.

“They were comforting and supportive and got me into my own environment and gave me the foundation I needed. I never thought, after everything, that I would get this kind of support,” he added.

With support from Thames Reach’s Tenancy Sustainment Team, Gary’s health has improved. He is now adding his own personal touches to his new flat, turning it into a real home. He feels an immense sense of relief that he finally living independently again.

 “My flat is so bright and airy. I feel a lightness, I feel a weight off my shoulders. I’m elated. I don’t feel stifled, I can think and feel again.’