Universal Credit and Advocacy

Officially the quietest evening for at least a year with only 27 people through the door. 

Jan made a lovely soup which she’d thought was possibly too spicy, but It was especially good. For main a we had wonderful beef stew from beef donated by Waitrose Newbury, Meryl made Summer pudding which again was very popular – the strawberries had also come from Waitrose Newbury also. We had two puddings so took the untouched one to Mencap to have. The volunteers from Newbury Soup Kitchen are very popular with the Mencap service users. They wait very excited each week to see what we bring them.  

This week Sue our new podiatrist came in. She saw two clients who have been having ongoing issues with their feet. She is going to come in regularly which will hopefully help keep their feet in check and stop any symptoms getting worse.  One client informed us that they were relieved to see Sue as they had been told that there is an 88 day wait on the NHS for foot care. We have put an appeal out for athletes powder but as yet none have come in. We want to be in a position that we have stocks to able give out to clients to take away with them if necessary. They can be purchased through our Amazon wish list or donated to the Soup Kitchen at the Salvation Army hall in Northcroft Lane on a Thursday. We also have a collection point at The Co-op convenience shop on Brummell road by the Starting Gate pub. They are open until 11pm every day. 

The nurses from the HOLT team are in next week from 4-5pm, Kate (hairdresser) 6-8pm. Rough sleepers and vulnerable adults will benefit hugely from these services. Dental care commences 27th June 2019. We are working hard to provide more outreach services during and outside the Soup Kitchen sessions. As a result we are looking for more Advocacy volunteer support to enable us to provide help with our clients and issues they face with benefit problems, debt issues, council tax arrears, support with housing and meetings at the job centre for example. 

Universal Credit

Many clients struggle working with Universal Credit. One client has been sanctioned for not contacting the relevant department when he went into prison. He did not know and no one had told him he had to organise this. As a result he has come out of prison and is unable to access any benefits at all. As a result he is finding it impossible to find housing. Now clean from long-term drug usage he wants to turn his life around, find work and start a new life in a positive way. As a result of all this he is homeless. He said “If it wasn’t due to the kindness of a friend I would be in a shop doorway”. This is affecting his mental health hugely. 

With Universal Credit every client has an online journal that they access to communicate with their specific caseworker. Our client has been barraged with contradictory messages on his journal sanctioning him for meetings that he has not been to that they have cancelled. One day he is told the sanction is lifted the next day he is told that is a mistake and he is still sanctioned.  He has tried to sort it out but is finding it very difficult to do so.  

Many of our clients suffer from mental health issues, anxiety and depression. Along with these problems they struggle to read and write. To add more insult to injury many clients have no access to a computer or mobile phone. With no benefits in place they cannot get access to money which can pay for credit on their phones. As a result many are sanctioned for not communicating and filling our their journal. They miss meetings that are put up onto their journal as they have no access to a computer or credit on their phone, the spiral continuances. Sometimes Meryl goes with clients to the job centre or council to help support people with issues they cannot manage themselves. Having a person alongside helps gain confidence and provides them with a feeling of hope. 

Applying for Universal Credit, which is paid in arrears, can have a delay so people can be left for five plus weeks without any form of finances. This can result in rent arrears. People that have been homeless in the past have a fear of being homeless again. People who are homeless have difficulty with managing a monthly budget. Previously benefits were paid bi-weekly, is now no longer the case. Newbury Soup Kitchen have many examples of individuals who have identified managing monthly budgets and rent payments as a key concern which could jeopardise their recovery from homelessness. People who are already in rented accommodation also find monthly benefit payments difficult to manage. 

This is higher particularly amongst those with substance abuse problems, mental health issues and learning difficulties. Although many people who are homeless will be able to manage their finances independently with the right support and guidance, budgeting on Universal Credit from the beginning of a claim will be a steep learning curve for many unless they are given time to develop money management skills. Addiction often makes money management impossible. We regularly see a pattern of intensive drinking or drug abuse when benefits have been paid. This is why it is important for our clients to get the help they need from statutory and charitable organisations.  


Two people from SEAP advocacy came in this week. Kevin is new to SEAP and is in place in West Berkshire to provide advocacy for veterans specifically. It is a new service and we hope and look forward to working with him in the future. Julia has worked with us many times over the last two years. 

Kevin will pop in from time to time. They are both DBS Enhanced due to the nature of their work and they have both signed a confidentiality agreement we are very pleased to welcome them both aboard as an outreach service. 

We sent out two driving licence applications this week that had been returned to us. We have had to make our paperwork more extensive as the Salvation Army hall address is not now recognised as proof of address. It is a constant battle with people of NO FIXED ABODE to gain photographic ID. We always get there in the end; it sometimes just takes a bit more patience. We now do a covering letter and have a contact at the DVLA so hopefully now we will fewer problems and hurdles to climb. Extra documentation is required as there is not a solid proof of address. NI numbers seems to be the important thing so we apply for that and a birth certificate that also helps. 

This week Meryl went to do a talk at the 4th Newbury Scout group at St Johns church. There was approximately 25 children of about 8-10yrs. Meryl took a tent and lots of items that a homeless person would need to keep themselves safe and comfortable as possible. There was a brilliant interactive question and answer session, which lasted an hour. Gerard the Scout leader was very impressed that Meryl kept the whole group occupied for a whole hour.  The children were very interested to learn lots about why homelessness occurs and how people cope and the difficulties they come across. This cubs and scout group collected items and wrapped them at Christmas last year, which we gave out at our Christmas party. They all went home with a leaflet and lots of new knowledge to tell their parents. 

We are so very pleased and thankful for the announcement below from Greenham Trust:

We are thrilled to announce the local charity projects each nominated to receive £1000 by our second #goldenticket winner (Neil Batts, from Reading, at last week’s #DDAY event). Congratulations to Brookfields School, @sueryderduchessofkenthospice, @wbchlof @newburysoupkitchen @t2twb.org @thegoodexchange @NewburyToday @Nbyreporting @MovedToNewbury

Greenham Trust and The Good Exchange are a continual support to Newbury Soup Kitchen and our intended expansion into a Community Support Centre. Our project is still live until March 2020 we are still receiving Match Funding £1 for £1. We are extremely grateful to them for their support. 

All the information about how to donate, our regularly updated Amazon Wishlist, volunteer, or read up about us and what we do you can always look at our website. We do a weekly blog that is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.