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Working in partnership: connecting with the community in Edinburgh

4 April 2023

VoiceAbility are working with The Salvation Army in Edinburgh to help local people access benefits advocacy at the same time as other support.

The Salvation Army’s centre in Granton, Edinburgh reopened in August 2021 to provide place-based support to local people. 

Read more about the centre

We talked to Lorraine Duncan, Community Programme Manager, about their partnership work with VoiceAbility.

Tell us about your work.

We’re first and foremost a church, and everything we do comes from love and compassion and respect, but it’s important that we remain reactive so we can react to the current climate. The centre has a constantly evolving approach. 

We try to make it a one-stop shop for all requests – employability, training, addiction, homelessness. At the moment, the cost of living is a big area, and Adult Disability Payment.

We deal with whatever comes through the door – people in crisis, looking for advice, a friendly and relaxed environment so people know the doors are open.

If we can’t provide the support, we can signpost to an organisation that does.

The staff team at Granton Skills and Wellbeing Centre

How did you first get in contact with VoiceAbility?

We first met through Edinburgh Food Project, and Changeworks Edinburgh which helps people in fuel poverty. 

We were anticipating an influx of people coming in and asking about Social Security Scotland benefits, and wanting help to differentiate between these and the DWP benefits. We thought the service VoiceAbility was offering was really valuable. It’s great to have an organisation like yours that takes the social approach to disability, that looks at the individual.

Advocate Alex with local people at the hub

How does the partnership work?

We host VoiceAbility’s local advocate Alex at the centre, and the demand on Alex’s time and the amount of people she’s working with is steadily increasing. It’s a real testament to what we’ve done together.

People don’t always have the communication skills and literacy skills to get through these processes. People have been scarred by these, they have an anxiety about filling in forms, they’re worried people are going to trip them up. An advocate is an actual person with you, not an automated service. It’s someone human as well as independent.

It’s a great service, and if I could have five Alexes they’d be busy.

We’re also supporting Alex to network with other organisations, and Alex held an open platform in March to get feedback to share with Social Security Scotland. 

We’re really lucky, we have a very engaged community, and a lot of people who visit us will be willing to contribute.

Advocate Alex with staff and local people at the cafe

What’s next?

We’re now looking at hosting more advocates in different locations. It’s vital that the support is in the local community - people won’t travel for support. We’re looking at adding digital skills, mental health support, warm spaces – so you could see an advocate locally and access those services too.

From my point of view as a service manager, it’s essential we do have a joined up approach to services. We’re hosting you guys, but it’s part of the bigger picture.

Support to access Social Security Scotland benefits

VoiceAbility provides advocacy across Scotland to support disabled people and their families to access benefits. This support is available at every stage of the process.