COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Building community scaffolding with Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
The first weeks of 2024 seem to have passed in a blur. Although still early in the New Year, there have already been some notable highlights.

First, we are thrilled to welcome a number of new volunteers who have joined our existing colleagues and are already making incredible contributions. We were also delighted to support 31 local groups and organisations with grant funding to deliver a wide range of services, which we are confident will make a huge difference across Erdington. We will shortly be publishing details of these projects, so do look out for them.

Off the back of this success, we are seeking to work with trusted local groups to establish Digital Hubs across Erdington, where residents can access computers and online services, as well as support to gain new skills.

As many of you will know, Witton Lodge Community Association was setup in response to a housing crisis, and over the past 30 years worked hard to transform Perry Common. But we know there is more to do, and in recent years we have been purchasing empty properties, refurbishing, and making them available to local families.

Many of our residents are still struggling with cost-of-living pressures, which is why our Advice Services, Health and Wellbeing projects, and Job search are so vital, and in demand. We believe this ‘community scaffolding’ will hold us in better stead for the inevitable tough times ahead.

Our approach, at its heart, remains as it did all those years ago… working with and alongside our communities, listening, and harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop services that deliver results.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: “It’s the economy stupid”

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – Castle Vale Community Housing


 
The above is a quote coined by James Carville in 1992; he was a strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful Presidential election campaign that year.

It’s looking likely we’ll have our own General Election this year and whatever your politics or level of interest in it, as a housing provider working in a Government regulated sector where politicians have a big impact on policy and legislation, we can’t escape.

It’s right that we focus more on keeping our tenants safe in their homes following the tragic events at Grenfell and the death of Awaab Ishak as a result of prolonged exposure to damp and mould in his social housing home.

The pace and volume of stronger legislation and regulation coming our way is intense at the moment. But as a responsible community focussed landlord, we welcome this and feel we are getting ahead of the tide.


 
What is slightly frustrating is the lack of discussion about the state of the economy and the day-to-day impact this is having on tenants’ lives. Inflation is coming down and that’s to be welcomed but the simple reality is while the rate of price increases is slowing – nothing is getting cheaper when you fill your shopping trolley or fuel tank or pay your utility bill.

As some politicians seem distracted by Rwanda and ‘culture wars,’ as a landlord we remain focussed on helping those most exposed by the current state of the UK economy. We will be strengthening the support our tenants receive around debt and benefit advice as well as crisis fund and household support again in the year ahead.

We will also continue to work in partnership across our communities with partners who share this focus on our cost of living taskforce; let’s hope as the Election gets closer, the focus of politicians will do the same.

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New faces for the year ahead at The Pioneer Group

Words & pics supplied by The Pioneer Group


 
There have been a series of changes to the Board at The Pioneer Group and the organisation’s charitable arm Compass Support.

The Birmingham based social housing landlord, with a portfolio of more than 2,700 properties, has announced new Members and Chairs as it continues to work with service providers and stakeholders, to deliver community-led housing solutions alongside essential support services around youth, family support, health and employment.

Hiten Patel, Jason Clarke and James Emblow have been appointed to the Pioneer Board.

Hiten, a Governance and Risk Director at an international technology organisation, brings extensive skills in strategic, commercial, and financial direction. Jason, the Head of Development for the Midlands Region of Orbit Homes, has more than 25 years of experience within the social housing sector while James, the Head of Property Analytics at Paradigm Housing Group, boasts 18 years of experience in social housing and specialises in operational property management processes, systems and data.


 
In addition, Kate Algate, Company Director at VISAV Limited, has been appointed chair of the Compass Support Board. With more 20 years of community engagement and participation experience as well as charity leadership, she also has a strong background in policing, crime prevention and community safety.

Phil Done, a Grants and Relationship Manager for Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC), has been appointed as the Vice-Chair on the Compass Support Board.  Phil has worked in the Voluntary Sector since 2015. Phil will be taking over from Barbara Hedley, who will be standing down from the Board in September.

Two new trustees have also been recruited to the Compass Board with Castle Vale resident Natalie Downey joining Rebecca Young, who has held senior leadership roles in Local Government and currently works in the infrastructure sector.


 
For more information regarding Board Members and Chairs, please visit: www.pioneergroup.org.uk/about-us/our-team

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Free app from Castle Vale Community Housing gives tenants savings and discounts

Words & pics supplied by Castle Vale Comunity Housing

Castle Vale Community Housing has partnered with Housing Perks to launch a free discount app for all our tenants. This discount app is called Housing Perks and it gives you discounts with 100s of brands and stores to help you save money with everyday spending. 

The free app will help you to save money on essentials such as groceries, car fuel, clothing, school uniforms and school equipment, home furnishings & DIY and family days out.

‍Discounts are also available with some of your favourite brands and stores including Sainsburys, Asda, B&M, Argos, Primark, TK Maxx, B&Q, Sports Direct and much more.

How to sign up:

Just download the free app in the App Store or Google Play  (or scan the QR code on the flyer at the top of this post). Then, select the name of the housing association Castle Vale Community Housing, press continue and then enter the first five digits of your tenancy reference number. You can find this number on letters and other communications from us.

Click on the following link to view and download these sign up instructions: How To Sign Up To Housing Perks


 
To help you with the process please click on the FAQ link below for more information on downloading and using the Housing Perks app: www.yourhousingperks.com/faqs

If we can be of assistance please contact us via email on contactus@cvch.org.uk or call us on 0121 748 8100.

The app is free, quick and easy to use and available to all tenants. So sign up today and get saving – click here, open the link and scan the QR code.

For more from Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk/

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: A 2024 wish list for Castle Vale Community Housing

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – Castle Vale Community Housing


 
I didn’t write to Santa as I am sure he had enough on his plate but if he had any influence on the state of social housing my wish list would probably look something like this:

First and foremost, whatever the outcome of this year’s General Election (and I think it will be this year) whoever is elected the need for a ‘long term plan for social housing’ as advocated by the National Housing Federation would be top of my list.

We don’t need more arbitrary targets (that never get hit) on building of more homes but actual delivery. We need to see social housing as a bedrock of lifting people out of poverty and improving life chances, reducing the strain on health and social services. I’d like to see this as a national mission and one we can play our part in.


 
For those who live in social housing times are not set to get any easier in 2024. While inflation looks to be reducing, let’s remember that simply means the rate of price increases is slowing not coming down.

For those in low paid work and on fixed incomes the price of their ‘basket of goods’ will continue to be challenging and The Pioneer Group is committed to playing our part through our cost-of-living taskforce in 2024. Some economic relief would be on my list!

Last but by no means least I want us to deliver on our own list of actions in the year ahead – we don’t need a man with a white beard to deliver on our promises – we will build more homes, we will invest in our existing homes and we will continue to provide a top class repairs service and charitable services through Compass Support.


 
I know people will be worried about the plight of the City Council – I am too – but we will do our bit in making sure we fight for and work in partnership to protest and deliver housing and estate services into our core communities that our tenants, residents and service users need.

I wish all you a very happy and prosperous 2024 and look forward to sharing more about our work in these columns in the year ahead.

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Looking forward into 2024 with Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
I suspect many of us will be looking ahead to 2024 with mixed emotions. Community workers, volunteers and organisers tend to be optimistic by nature, who combine deep purpose with fairness and justice to affect change in their neighbourhoods.

We know that there are many positive things to look forward to, however, we also know that it remains a very difficult time for many local residents. For organisations like Witton Lodge Community Association, this means providing a safety net to support some of our most vulnerable, as well as acting as a springboard to nurture local talent and support people to fulfil their potential.

We are also redoubling our efforts to demonstrate that when public agencies like the Council, NHS or the West Midlands Combined Authority work with the grain of communities – when they reach into neighbourhoods, and listen… genuinely listen and engage, then not only do they achieve better results, but they also get better value for money, reduce frustration and improve trust and satisfaction.

It’s in this spirit of collaboration that we will be further strengthening our own relationships with local groups and public bodies to help improve lives and livelihoods in Erdington.

Now given the time of year, many of you will have made or in my case ‘recycled’ previous New Year’s resolutions. Do pop into one of our hubs, take a look at our website, or call us to see how we can support you.

And remember, if you’re looking to develop new skills, make friends or give back to your community then volunteering may be perfect for you.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Key housing milestone for pioneering partnership

Words & pics supplied by Hema Chumber, The Pioneer Group


 
The Pioneer Group is a key partner of the Matrix Housing Partnership (MHP) which is celebrating a key milestone with the start of the GreenSquareAccord development at Swan Lane, West Bromwich – it’s 2,000th home.

In 2018 MHP was awarded an initial £84.5 million from Homes England to support delivery of 2,124 social and affordable homes across the West Midlands. A further £185 million has since been secured from the Government’s Affordable Homes Programme to support development of an additional 2,167 affordable homes.

MHP also comprises GSA, Black Country Housing Group, Citizen Housing Group, Rooftop Housing Association and Trident Housing Association.


 
Dave Livesey, Director of Development and Asset Management at Pioneer said: “Pioneer is proud to work with Matrix Partners on the delivery of affordable housing in the region.

“There is a chronic shortage in of good quality affordable housing across the country and marking the delivery of the 2,000th home with Matrix is important in recognising the role we have played in this.

“Pioneer is committed to providing Great Safe Homes and using our grant allocation from Homes England with our own resources ensures that we are doing what we can to address housing across the city.”

The Swan Lane development will provide 147 affordable homes for affordable and social rent.

Ruth Cooke, Chair of Matrix Housing Partnership and Chief Executive of GSA, said: “It is an honour for the Matrix Housing Partnership to be recognised as a key strategic partner of Homes England. We have been collaborating for nearly 20 years and the construction start at Swan Lane demonstrates our continued success in delivering affordable homes.”

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

The Pioneer Group and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: …and finally from 2023

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
As we approach the festive season, many of us will celebrate, spend time with our loved ones and take a well-earned rest. In recent times, community spirit has been tested and emerged even stronger.

It is evident at this time of year, as so many people look out for each other, whether that is their neighbour or someone they know who may be on their own. Others volunteer and support so many good causes to make life better and a little more special. 

It is this sense of community that guides the work of the Association, gives us hope, and motivates us to do better. Reflecting on the past year, so many things stand out. First, it is important to acknowledge that cost-of-living pressures have and are still affecting many families.

Against this tough backdrop, the Erdington Wellbeing Hub continues to provide much-needed advice and support from the former walk-in-centre on the High Steet. I’m also pleased that we have been able to purchase and refurbish empty properties for local families in housing need.

The Witton Lakes Eco Hub celebrated its first anniversary and has exceeded all expectations – it is a great meeting place where you can also get advice on small changes that will save money on your energy costs and help to protect the planet; you can get healthier through numerous activities that cater for all abilities, or you can simply come along to enjoy the outdoors.


 
Perry Common Community Hall remains our ‘anchor’ where anybody can turn up – whether that be for support or to volunteer for a cause that they’re passionate about. On that note, I am delighted to welcome our new volunteers who will complement the existing team and make a huge difference to community life.

From the entire Witton Lodge team, we wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

(This column was written for initial publication in the Erdington Local newspaper – published on 8 December.)

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: A look back on the year from Castle Vale Community Housing

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – Castle Vale Community Housing


 
The last 12 months have certainly been challenging, both for us as an organisation, but more importantly for our tenants and for the residents of Castle Vale.

The Cost-of-Living crisis has continued to put pressure on people as food and energy costs remain stubbornly high. During the first part of the year, we continued to distribute our well-received Cost-of-Living information packs. In the Spring we convened a Summit to discuss the issues further and raise awareness of the sources of support available.

The Summit brought together a range of agencies across Castle Vale, including schools and faith groups as well as our partners at Spitfire Support and Compass Support. Colleagues from the City Council provided very helpful updates about the work they have been doing and we used the opportunity to link organisations and lay the foundation for future work during the year. Our new Community Governance team started work in October and they are now taking forward this ongoing collaboration.


 
I continue to be incredibly proud of the huge range of services our charity, Compass Support have provided through the crisis, including providing a Warm Welcome space at The Sanctuary and distributing household support funds from the City Council to those most in need.

During the year, our Board approved a significant investment to fund a project that will see windows and doors replaced on the majority of our properties across Castle Vale. We know that this is a major issue for our tenants and we understand the frustration about the length of time it has taken. That is why I’m very pleased to say that work on this will begin next year and will now progress over a 2-year period.

Underpinning all these successes is the relationship we enjoy with our tenants. Understanding and responding to their needs is vital to help us fulfil our obligations as a landlord.


 
We now have a new Communications Team in place, and they will help us to respond more effectively and provide more regular feedback on the issues that matter to our tenants and the residents of Castle Vale. We know that tenants want us to communicate better with them so that they feel more in touch with how we are working and have a voice in how we improve services to them.

On behalf of everyone at Castle Vale Community Housing, I wish you all a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

(This column was written for initial publication in the Erdington Local newspaper – published on 8 December.)

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHOR: WLCA Gift Appeal – helping families in need this Christmas

Words and promotional imagery by WLCA


 
Witton Lodge Community Association is proud to launch our 2023 Christmas Gift Appeal.

Created to support local families who will struggle to afford gifts this Christmas, we are appealing to our amazing community to donate new gifts or toys for children aged 0-16yrs. We also welcome unwanted gifts you have but please ensure they are unused/unopened so we can give them to a family in need.

This heartwarming initiative was launched for the first time in 2022 and we received a huge number of gifts and toys that were wrapped & delivered to families in our local area. We’d love to exceed last year’s donations and help even more of our community this festive season.

Please help support this appeal by donating as well as sharing it with your family and friends. Let’s make this Christmas wonderful for ALL of our community 

Our elves have been busy setting up the donation stations at our four hubs, so pop along to drop off your gifts at your nearest location noted below.

Witton Lodge Donation Stations:

  • Perry Common Community Hall, 87 Witton Lodge Rd, B23 5JD (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)
  • Witton Lakes Eco Hub, off Faulkners Farm Drive, Erdington, B23 7XX (Mon-Fri 9.30am – 3.30pm)
  • Health & Wellbeing Hub, First Floor, 196 High Street Erdington, B23 6SJ (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)
  • Sycamore Court, 46 Buxton Road, Perry Common, Birmingham, B23 5GA (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.