The Irish Network Stevenage was set up in 2007 to support the Irish Community in Stevenage and the surrounding areas. Since then we have become an integral part of the voluntary sector in Stevenage and the work we have done has been acknowledged by Irish in Britain through their Volunteers Group of the Year award, which we were honoured to receive last year, and this year we have also been nominated for a Queen’s Award.
One of the projects that we are particularly proud of is our Welfare Support project. This was funded for one year and part of the project was to assist our more vulnerable members to claim their entitlements, review their utility bills and challenge incorrect benefits.
Over the last ten years we have developed trusting relationships with our members and we know many of them needlessly struggle. They are reluctant to engage with statutory services and are often worried that they will be seen as unable to look after themselves and be forced into a care home, so we developed this project with these more vulnerable members in mind.
We decided to create a safe space for them to discuss their financial situation knowing that it was confidential, and nothing would happen without their permission. We were very mindful of their preconceived ideas and their concerns and we took time to reassure them that we were working with them to help them stay in their own homes.
This approach worked extremely well and over the last 12 months we helped 40 members claim over £175,000 in annual increased entitlements and reduction in bills. This is a huge amount and clearly shows that older people are still not getting the help they are entitled to, which has a severe impact on the quality of their life.
We have now secured another year’s funding as we have evidence that the approach that we have taken works. The success of this project supports our argument that older people need tailored support, it needs to be designed around their needs and one size does not fit all. We believe that many Irish groups would be able to replicate this project with a small grant.
Here at INS we are always happy to share our successes and help other organisations, so if any group would like more information please do contact us on 01438 725400 for an informal chat.