If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that question about CHAI over the years … well, I’d have several more pounds than I do at the moment. It’s commonly asked by a wide range of people who may have had a specific reason for initial contact with us, but who then quickly grasp that there’s more going on than they may have at first thought.
The basics: CHAI – the Community Help & Advice Initiative – is a ‘third sector’ organisation with charitable status, operating as a Limited Company. In very broad terms we are a social welfare agency, delivering a range of services which are intended to improve the conditions of life of vulnerable people living in our communities.
So, what do we do?
We’ve just started a new operating year (2011/12) so, in a summarised answer to that question, here’s a quick tour round what CHAI will be doing in the months ahead. These are in no particular order: they’re all equally important.
One of the cornerstones of our service delivery is ensuring that the people we work with have access to quality advice, information and representation about income, debt, housing and the myriad of other issues which affect daily life. Our National Standards Accredited Advice Service operates from full-time offices in Wester Hailes and Liberton/Gilmerton – as well as providing home visits and outreach surgeries as required. We also provide specific support to NHS Lothian’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service – ‘Working Health Services Lothian’, and CHAI is the lead contractor for the City wide homelessness prevention advice service – the Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP). During 2011/12 our Advice Service will continue to deliver Advice Services in line with City strategies on Advice and Health Inequalities. Changes to Housing Benefit, and to the assessment conditions around Incapacity Benefits are likely to feature significantly in workloads this year.
CHAI is commissioned by the Edinburgh Alcohol & Drug Partnership (EADP) to provide drug and alcohol support services across the South-West of the City, operating from office bases in Wester Hailes and Oxgangs. The focus of these services is on individuals and families where substance misuse is an issue, with specialist staff working towards harm reduction, child protection and recovery outcomes through a mix of practical, social and clinical interventions. Close links are maintained with the NHS Lothian Community Drug Problem Service and with a range of other referring medical professionals. Joint working on delivery is carried out locally with the Wester Hailes Health Agency. This will be an important year for the Service, with the recently launched EADP Strategy: ‘A Framework for Partnership Action 2011 – 2014’ providing a template for service delivery.
Maintaining vulnerable people in their homes, and assisting them to live as independently as possible is a key component of CHAI’s service mix. Our Housing Support Service works across the City, supporting individuals who require help with independent living skills such as budgeting, dealing with official correspondence, managing appointments and relationships with third parties and generally managing their tenancy or home. Although Service Users can be anything from 16 years to over 100 years old, most of the people supported by CHAI’s Housing Support Services are over 50, with over a quarter in the 65+ age range. Our Housing Support Service is regulated and inspected by the new body, Social Care & Social Work Improvement Scotland (formerly the Care Commission).
CHAI contributes to the City’s ‘Joined up for Jobs Strategy’ through our South West Neighbourhood focused Employability & Support project. This service is specifically aimed at people who are most marginalised from the job market; those currently at Stages 1 & 2 on the ‘Employability Pipeline’ – and categorised as ‘Not Job Ready’. The focus of our engagement is on removing those obstacles and barriers that prevent our target client group from moving on through the ‘Employability Pipeline’ and on into work, training or education opportunities; barriers such as debt, addictions, housing crisis, income, health and low confidence. The key to this work is engaging with service users in their neighbourhoods, and at the point in their lives where they are ready to receive that support. It’s about planting seeds and helping people move forward at the pace that is most appropriate to their needs.
Early Intervention Family Support
This service, focused on the Pentlands area of the City, is aimed at working with families where there are early indications of support needs, and providing interventions designed to address these at an early enough stage that they don’t go on to become more problematic later. The activity supports the strategic objectives in the City Integrated Children’s and Young Peoples’ Plan.
Furniture Recycling Service
Our Furniture project collects donations of re-useable furniture and household items and recycles these back out to the community. Last year we diverted over 100 tonnes of furniture that may otherwise have ended up in landfill, carrying out 0ver 200 deliveries of basic start up and replacement furniture items to new and established tenants on low incomes. If you have furniture items you no longer need, and are in good condition … give us a call!
DCHA Tenancy Support Service
Commissioned and funded by Dunedin Canmore Housing Association (DCHA), this project works exclusively with new DCHA tenants housed in the Association’s ‘South Housing Area’, with the aim of assisting in tenancy sustainment outcomes. Over 50% of new DCHA tenancies are let to people who have come through the homelessness route, and may have experienced issues with sustaining tenancies in the past. This project works with the tenant and DCHA staff right from the very start of the new tenancy, addressing any issues which may impact on the sustainability of the tenancy.
Youth & Community Development Work
CHAI’s work with the Rank Foundation promotes a range of group and individual support activities aimed at developing young people and the communities in which they live. Realising potential and developing leadership is at the heart of this work: building the social capital of the community.
As well as this mix of advice, support and development services we also offer ‘Crisis Intervention Drop In’, where people experiencing short-term crises around, for example, income loss, can access emergency food parcels.
Joining these services together in one organisation maximises their impact, enabling cross-fertilization of the skills, knowledge and experience of staff throughout the Project – for the enhanced benefit of those using the services.
So, if you were wondering what we do … now you know.
For more information, details about how to contact CHAI – and how to access our services – have a look at our website: www.chaiedinburgh.org.uk
It’s all going on …