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.

Interview: How Deptford Reach is supporting the Lewisham community

Lead manager of Deptford Reach, Jordan, discusses the service’s impact towards ending street homelessness in Lewisham

Interview: How Deptford Reach is supporting the Lewisham community

Deptford Reach has been at the heart of the community in Lewisham for many years. During the early stages of the pandemic, the building had to close, but instead of ceasing services, this became an opportunity to expand beyond the building the team are ordinarily based in, to reach more people in need around the borough. Its lead manager, Jordan, discusses the essential work they do in the community.

In Deptford Reach’s current working model, how are you working with people who have been using your service for a while, and members of the wider community?  

At present we have three main areas we focus on: a rough sleepers support hub; advice and case work, and health and wellbeing. The Deptford Reach building provides space and respite for people experiencing homelessness, and there they can access advice and facilities such as showers and laundry. The health part is really important, and once a week we have visits from a dentist, nurse, GP and drug and alcohol support workers. We also help people get access to their own GP practice to help people resettle into their community.

Can you tell us about the prevention aspect of Deptford Reach and how this works?

Prevention is important, and we are always looking for new ways to get to people before homelessness occurs. As part of the advice service, we offer advice and casework in, benefits, debt, arrears, housing advice, tenancy sustainment, homelessness and other general advice. Monday to Friday we are in the building, and members of our team attend food banks across Lewisham as well. From the new year, the centre will be shut on Fridays, with staff based in the women’s sanctuary at the local 999 Club and food banks. We attend a different food bank every day of the week to provide a drop-in advice service. Expanding this service means we can engage with people who would otherwise not come to a building-based service; it definitely makes it more accessible.

Does the service change at all in winter and cold weather?

Our rough sleepers support hub is usually extended for a few more hours to make sure people have the support they need and don’t go into freezing temperatures early in the morning. There is always a bigger demand in winter with added urgency to be accommodated and higher engagement levels. As for this year, the new variant has meant that more people who had been sofa-surfing are coming to us needing advice and emergency accommodation.

As you work with people at different stages of exposure to homelessness (prevention, intervention, recovery), do you find that you are using the Hard to Reach Fund to support people’s move-on journey?

We often have a need for it, widely for people resettling and allowing people to engage, with both us and other networks in their lives. So housing items and furniture, or everyday items such as Oyster cards, phones and credit.

Looking towards 2022, what does the future hold for your work?

We are working with Thames Reach’s Employment and Skills team to offer help accessing education and employment; financial resilience; digital skills, and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) to people who use our services, whether in the building or in our outreach work. When we work outside of the Deptford Reach base, the community does not lose out on services, and we are expanding our reach of people needing our help. We have a women’s group and an art group at the moment but we’re minimising activities in the building, so we have more scope to reach people elsewhere in the community in different locations. As we’re focused on prevention and sustainment, everything will be based around advice, so we can support people towards independency as much as possible in the long-term. At the moment we are collecting data to see where the needs are in the local community.

Deptford Reach hosts health and wellbeing day

On 12 August, Deptford Reach hosted a supportive health and wellbeing day for users of Thames Reach services

Deptford Reach hosts health and wellbeing day

On 12 August, in partnership with Lewisham council, Deptford Reach hosted a health and wellbeing day for members of the community and users of Thames Reach services. The invite was extended throughout the organisation as part of our ongoing commitment to bridging the inequality gap created by street homelessness.

While Deptford Reach is known to be a day centre hosting various activities for its visitors, since the pandemic the team have been extending their reach to ensure those in the wider community know about their resources and means of support. This has included outreach at Lewisham food banks.

The day involved drop-in services including COVID vaccinations, nurse appointments for general health checks, CGL (drug and alcohol support); Hep C, Hep B, HIV and syphilis testing with results given on the day; STI testing; advice and demonstrations for lateral flow testing, including handing out test kits on outreach; and information and advice on infection control.

It was a successful and positive event, ensuring people felt welcome and safe in Deptford Reach’s building, at the heart of the community. There will be more similar events in the future as part of the service’s focus on more outreach work. In the meantime the team facilitate regular GP and nurse appointments in the building, as well as supporting people to register with GPs in the community.

Sive O’Regan, inclusion health clinicial nurse specialist, said: “Really happy with today’s turn out for our point-of-care blood borne virus testing at Deptford Reach. A really well organised health promotion event that we thoroughly enjoyed being a part of and look forward to the next.”

Jordan McTigue, lead manager at Deptford Reach, said: “It can be difficult for people with experience of street homelessness, as well as those at risk of street homelessness, to access health services, so this is such an important day to get people engaged and get them vaccinated and protected against COVID-19, as well as providing resources and information to prevent ill health where possible.”