Hear Us is a Croydon based project that has roots going back to 1992, since 2009 the project has been established as a Charity. In 2020 Maudsley Charity provided funding to help provide patient welfare surgeries to support people living in Croydon. The Maudsley Charity previously supported Hear Us to deliver service user-led forums.
“The project is ultimately about empowering people to take more control of their own benefits, navigating services and giving them the confidence and support to understand how best to do this.” explains David Ashton, Welfare Surgery Project Manager.
“It’s a big area and there are complexities,” David continues, “people will always need help, but there are many aspects they are more than capable of doing. People often think that just because they have a mental health problem they can’t do something. We’re a service user led organisation and we can manage these challenges on a personal level, so for me this is about giving people confidence, education and understanding and helping them to understand things are in reach.”
Supporting people across Croydon
The project works with people mainly based in the London Borough of Croydon, supporting people who experience mental illness.
Accessing the service
People find the project in different ways, through word of mouth as well as through third sector, local authority and NHS services. The project accepts self-referrals as well as referrals from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, local mental health organisations, supported accommodation and job centres. We work with a very broad range of people, of all ages and backgrounds including probation, ex-offenders and people living in hostels.
Life through COVID and beyond
Reflecting on the immediate needs of the service through COVID David explains “When lockdown first started we recognised that there was a group of people who needed us to reach out to them. There were a lot of sudden changes to the benefit system made by the Department of Work and Pensions, which led to some people receiving more money, we heard from people who were worried or didn’t understand why they had more money in their bank account.
“Getting the confidence of participants, particularly new people can be challenging, we’re unable to give the intensive face to face support we want to, everything is by phone and over email. We’re adapting our
services to work with people in different ways but we’re hopeful to offer some face to face appointments soon.
“We rely on, and work closely with, a lot of organisations to support the people using our service. We work with food banks and helped them deliver food to people during the lockdown.
“If people are socially isolated we refer to Active Minds charity. We also talk to them about MIND services in Croydon and NHS services like IAPT. There’s a lot available in Croydon but people don’t necessarily know about – it’s not all about benefit issues, we’re playing a role in helping to connect people to other services which ultimately helps to improve their life experiences and outcomes.”
“The funding provided by the Maudsley Charity will enable us to reach more people and empower them to take more control of their lives. It’s an exciting opportunity.”
Find out more about Hear Us: www.hear-us.org/surgeries