Advocacy Service

“I like coming to Marah to meet people and have a chat.  The food is really nice.   The food parcels really help when I need them.”   Tim

The demand for advocacy remains constant, with clients in need of one-off guidance and assistance when attending the Drop-in and also longer-term casework support. The past year has seen a gradual change in how we provide this to our clients, with most of this work now being taken on by our partner agency P3, who receive funding to provide community-based advocacy. P3 workers attend each weekday drop-in, giving advice and assistance as needed and taking on longer-term work with those who need further support. This arrangement has developed over the past year due to the effective and positive relationship between P3 workers and Marah’s volunteers and staff at the Drop-in. The benefit for our clients is that P3 workers can quickly pick up referrals and are available to assist clients over the working week, including home visits.

Marah’s volunteer Advocacy Manager and our Drop-in Manager continue to provide advice and guidance when necessary.

Partnership working is an important aspect of advocacy work, with clients being referred to other partner agencies when needed such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and drug/alcohol services. We continue to work closely with Streetlink – who assist rough sleepers. When referrals are made by Marah to a partner agency, support is still provided to the client if required to ensure that the referral is effective and successful for them.

Marah’s advocacy work, led by volunteer advocacy manager Mark Polgrean-Smith, recorded 345 hours given delivering advice over the past year. An advocacy space was piloted at the Stanton Rooms at St. Alban’s Methodist Church every Monday and Wednesday morning this year but it was decided not to continue due to the higher levels of advocacy access at the weekday drop-ins.

The assistance received by clients from Marah and P3 advocacy ranged from benefits advice and appeals, homelessness prevention, assistance with job searches, help completing forms, referrals to supported accommodation, debt advice and arranging GP/hospital appointments and transport to these. The trust that has been built up with many of our clients over time encourages them to ask for help when needed and helps prevent many from reaching a crisis point in their lives.

“I like the welcome and respect of the volunteers who treat me as a normal citizen, the company of fellow visitors.  An oasis of love.”  Suzannah

The following case examples show how access to advice and support at Marah, helps improve the wellbeing of those who to come to us for a food and assistance. We now provide advocacy in partnership with the P3 Housing Support service who attend our weekday Drop-ins. This advice and support often prevents people from falling into crisis.

Client A: A homeless man in his 20s. He lost his home following a relationship breakdown. He did find work with accommodation attached but the employment period ended. He had been sleeping rough on arrival in Stroud. He met Marah’s advocate at the Drop-in and after initially being reluctant to engage with any services, he agreed for Marah to refer him to Streetlink who work with homeless people. Streetlink worked with him for a period and he was referred to hostel accommodation where further support given.

Client B: A man in his 40s, a long-term client at Marah, arrived at Drop-in in distress. He was having problems with his benefit claim following relationship breakdown and his partner leaving. He had had no income for 2 weeks. P3 worker gave advice and arranged further support. Marah provided one-off £5 top-up of electricity and a food parcel was provided. He stayed for a meal and left in a much calmer mood.

Client C: A man in his 30s has been attending for a while. He is reserved and likes to keep to himself. He told Marah’s advocate and the Drop-in Manager that he has mental health issues but does not like to talk about this. He has had periods when he needed food parcels due to no income. He works on a casual basis which affects benefits (when he claims). He is now homeless: sofa-surfing and sleeping rough. Initially he was not interested in any advice or support but after talking to Marah team agreed to see P3 who are now working with him on housing referral and support options.

Client D: Man in his 50s with serious long-term health issues, a regular visitor to drop-in, asked to use phone as he had benefits question. Marah advocate directed him to P3 who discovered his ESA benefit claim had stopped and he was unsure what to do. His rent payments had stopped. A new benefit claim was made over phone and further support given by P3 to ensure rent payments were reinstated. Food parcel issued as he had no income at all.

Client E: Woman in her 30s. Has her own accommodation with local authority. Having long-term repair issues which are being dealt with but she was unhappy with progress. The works were affecting her utility bills and a promised compensation payment from local authority not received. Marah advocate referred her to P3 for support and advice and they chased payment and progress of repairs.

Client F: Male in his 50s. Living in B&B accommodation and wanted to move on. P3 gave advice on registering with the Council and he did this. He received advice and support from Marah advocate also regarding accessing the bidding allocation system. He has now moved on to accommodation that is more secure and a much better standard.

Client G: Woman in her 30s, multiple needs, long-term Marah client. Marah advocate assisted with court papers regarding access to her children.

Client H: Male in 20s. Sofa-surfing for a long period after returning to Stroud following relationship breakdown. Has fallen into drug use and had not told anyone about this before. Marah advocate made referral to drug outreach worker, who met with him and is now assisting him with plan to tackle issue. P3 assisting with housing advice.

“There seems no doubt that Marah plays a crucial preventative role in the lives of the people who use the services in terms of both their physical and mental health and preventing spiralling into crisis when they have setbacks”.