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Welfare Benefits - Stepping Stones to Stability - Collaboration across SW London  

Stepping Stones is a new advice project delivered by South West London Law Centres and Z2K as part of the Big Lottery’s Help Through Crisis Fund. The aim of the project is to identify families and individuals who are in crisis – whether through a benefit sanction, a housing problem, the benefit cap or as a result of any other aspect of the benefits system – and help them to take steps to avoid falling back into crisis in future.

 

To do this, Stepping Stones clients will receive immediate advice and support to try to resolve their imminent crises with the help of the project caseworker and volunteer caseworkers from BPP Law School. We will work with clients to identify areas where support could be helpful, and we will try to identify any potential skills gaps that may lead to another crisis in future. These skills could be things like language barriers, IT literacy, financial capability or an overall familiarity with the benefits system. Crucially, we want this process to be client led, and so we want to hear from clients exactly what they feel their needs are.

Working alongside other partners such as Ace of Clubs and Love to Learn we aim to deliver skills workshops on the topics that our clients identify.

Alongside this, we plan to track clients’ progress over the five year life of the project, so that we can see what support if most effective. The idea is to gain a sense of what advice works, and hopefully gain some insight on how best to organise frontline advice services in future. We plan to check up with former clients at regular intervals to see how their lives have changed.

Many frontline advice services will tell you that due to the sheer demand for their services it is all too often impossible to follow up once a client’s case is resolved. Another pattern that many advisors will attest to is that some clients will lurch from one crisis to another, and will keep needing advice and support. This is no fault of the clients’ or the advisors’. A person on low income will often not have access to the wraparound support that they might need, and the demands of making ends meet, raising children or dealing with health problems make it tough to seek out skills workshops or language classes. Stepping Stones seeks to alleviate both of these problems, firstly by focussing on tracking clients’ progress, and secondly by linking up with local organisations to provide joined up support on a range of issues.

Stepping Stones is an exciting opportunity to build lasting links with other organisations, to consider how legal advice can best be delivered and to show the true value of free, expert legal advice and support.