We currently work with two churches, St Mary’s in Greenhithe and St Mary’s in Stone, who are running a project called Mary’s child. We cover the geographic area of Dartford and in to parts of Gravesend.
The Mary’s child project provides practical support to families and individuals who for whatever reason need support. They take referrals from the local schools, Children’s centres and other community organisations and agencies. They support these people by providing food through the ‘Parish Pantry’ as well as on going pastoral care and support.
Community Unites Us then engages with the families or individuals to see if they need any welfare support. We check if they are on the correct benefits, if there are any social justice issues etc. Our main clients have been people that have been affected by the benefit changes, homeless people and woman and children who are in a refuge after fleeing from violence.
Our work with the churches is a two-stage plan, the churches respond to immediate need through the Mary’s Child project then refer the people to us. We assess their needs and draw up an intervention plan with the clients. This identifies issues that we will deal with on their behalf and includes a list of things they may need to do or provide, this ensures we are all clear on our obligations. Our aim is to support these people so they do not need to rely on the Mary’s child project to survive. However pastoral care is always available from both churches, we just ensure that the mechanisms are in place for people to be more independent. We refer any debt cases to SAFE who are a local provider of debt support and advice and any employability issues to 'The Learning Shop' in Bluewater.
We support people in different ways, we help then access the welfare system, we appeal on their behalf if they have been refused benefits that they should be entitled too. We ensure that they are registered with a GP, and that their accommodation is to a reasonable standard. When they are rehomed from the refuge, we help them to set up all their utilities, in partnership with the Mary’s child project we see what furniture etc that they need, then the project tries to provide them with everything they need.
We had a lady and her son who was being housed in a refuge, but unfortunately, they were not offering her any support. The Mary’s Child project helped her with food from the ‘Parish Pantry’ provided her son with some Christmas presents, and provided them both with a full Christmas dinner on Christmas day in the community café. Community Unites Us then stepped in and assisted the lady with her Employment Support Allowance claim, which was successful, we helped her claim Disability Living Allowance claim for her disabled son. We ensured that she had transport to the hospital for her son’s appointments. We helped her with her housing, by supporting her to provide Dartford Borough Council with supporting documents that confirmed her housing needs. Within a month this lady and her Son was moved to permanent housing by DBC, unfortunately it was unfurnished, so the Mary’s child project stepped in and provided beds, a fridge freezer, TV, kitchen essentials like cutlery, plates, cups, kettle and a toaster, curtains. It was amazing to see in 24 hours the transition from a completely empty flat to a partly furnished property, albeit most of the stuff is second-hand but the church do ensure that it is of a certain quality.