COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Exams and young people’s wellbeing

Words & pics supplied by Urban Devotion Birmingham

Exam season has begun, and it can be a stressful time to be a young person. Whether as a year 6 pupil, feeling nervous about the big move to secondary, or preparing for GCSE’s or A-Levels, it can be a pressure filled time of year.

The problem is that this pressure can become a negative and crippling force in many young people’s lives, impacting their mental wellbeing in small or significant ways.

For some this can look like overworking and getting stuck in revision. For others it may be complete avoidance or an inability to sit and revise.

As adults we can all play a significant role in helping make this time less stressful and mentally taxing for young people by encouraging and role modelling what it looks like to find a healthy balance between focus, rest and play is essential.

The reality is succeeding during exams does require times of focus, and revision cannot be ignored.

But it also needn’t be all consuming. We all need time to rest our minds and our bodies, and making sure young people know ways to rest and relax is important.

Play can be a great way to do this. This will look different for different ages and for different people, but includes elements of exploration, creativity, and fun.

Perhaps it’s playing a sport, or painting, or jumping on a trampoline – the possibilities are endless! This is as essential for our mental wellbeing, and performance, as getting a good night’s sleep.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New Mayor, new approach to housing supply

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group & Castle Vale Community Housing / Pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

With a new Mayor elected in the West Midlands I very much look forward to seeing a reinvigorated approach to the need for more social housing across the region.

The new Mayor, Richard Parker, speaking in Inside Housing made clear his commitment to “having the biggest social housing development programme we’ve seen for 40 years in the West Midlands”.

Whoever had been elected the combined authority is set to get new devolved powers to deliver central governments affordable homes programme from 2026 and a £400m investment to transition to that implementation date.

This hopefully will help Mr Parker deliver on his commitment to build 2,000 social rented homes by 2028. Social rent is usually set at about 60% of market rent and is therefore the most affordable tenure on the market.

Here at Pioneer we will support not just the combined authorities priorities in this area but also continue to work with Birmingham City Councils ambitions to work in partnership to deliver more homes in the City.

As I Have discussed previously the city has a chronic shortage of such homes leading to huge waiting lists.

I wish Mr Parker and all the newly elected officials across the region all the best in their new roles and look forward to their ambitions for the region being delivered.

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

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

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Reflections and renewed focus

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

Whilst we know there is always more to do, usually at this time of the year we take a moment to reflect on the impact that we have made. This is important on many fronts, and not least to recognise the contributions of our many volunteers, local groups and partners who make our work possible.

Over the past year our five hubs had over 18,000 visits, providing vital community spaces for our residents to seek support, advice or simply connect with others.

We also awarded more than £450,000 to local groups, showcasing our dedication to empowering community organisations. These funds will make a significant difference in addressing the needs of our community and help to create local infrastructure that will serve us well in the future.

Additionally, we secured £4 million to kickstart the much-needed redevelopment of the former Erdington Baths into a dynamic enterprise hub for budding entrepreneurs and a new community centre to be proud of.

We also supported over 3,000 households through our B:Can Energy Advice partnership, saving each household an estimated £380 annually, easing financial burdens for our residents whilst also contributing to environmental sustainability.

As we pause for reflection, we are immensely proud and grateful for the dedication of our 18 volunteers, whose commitment to volunteering embodies the DNA of our Association.

Their efforts have positively impacted hundreds of fellow residents across all our sites, showcasing the power of community support and collaboration.

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: Pressures on social housing investment

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group & Castle Vale Community Housing / Pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

At Pioneer, a bricks and mortar business, our foundations are built around sustaining the large-scale regeneration of the 1990s in Castle Vale.

We take long-term decisions based on a 40-year financial business plan. We can borrow money against some of our homes and develop long-term investment plans to make homes the best they can be for tenants.

Our homes sit within a community with a range of other assets, including schools, GP surgeries, shops, parks, swimming pool, library, football stadium and more. Most importantly, the people living in our homes and communities are who we must pay attention to.

For many the cost-of-living crisis continues to be tough. It’s also tough running a business, with rising costs and resource demand stretched like never before.

In the Aril/May edition of Erdington Local, you can read about Pioneer’s £11 million investment in a windows and doors replacement programme across Castle Vale. Tenants explained the importance of this, to keep homes warmer and energy bills down.

I am pleased to begin this work and have it completed as quickly as possible. This is part of a wider £47 million investment in our homes over 10 years, alongside replacing core components. This will see us tackling climate change by making homes even more energy efficient.

It’s important to take every opportunity to listen and shape investment decisions around what matters to tenants – even meaning difficult choices on occasions. If we continue to listen and act on what matters to our tenants this will stand us in good stead.

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

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

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: The importance of play, free drop-in sessions for young people with Urban Devotion Birmingham

Words & pic supplied by Emma Winmill, Co-Director at UDB / Artwork by Ash Porter

For the last 20 years Urban Devotion Birmingham have hosted spaces for young people, children, and families to connect, have fun, and play.

Since the Pandemic we have intentionally sought to provide new play experiences for young people to develop new skills and hobbies to help address the significant challenges young people experienced during Covid-19. This includes everything from water sports to sewing, singing to board games, rock climbing to graffiti art, football to photography.

We have had a lot of fun trying new things, getting wet and getting creative! There are some very talented young people who have tried their hand at such things as songwriting, painting and paddleboarding and found joy in doing so. 

There is a bedrock of evidence linking play with an array of positive benefits, including improved learning, enhanced wellbeing and social skills. Play at all ages brings joy and excitement, reduces stress, improves problem solving skills and increases our ability to overcome low self-esteem and feel comfortable in our own skin.

Click on the QR code to see more information about the open access drop-ins we run for young people, children and families across Erdington where you will find some of these play opportunities, as well as free snacks and time to connect with others in a safe space.

The QR code will also give you links to our Instagram and Facebook accounts, which we update frequently with updates and any last-minute changes.   

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New life for Erdington Baths

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

After almost six years of perseverance and the tireless support of our community and stakeholders, we were delighted to finally secure the £4million needed for the first phase of works that will breathe fresh life into the former Erdington Baths.

The Baths are almost a century old, and have stood empty since they were closed in 2014. Many residents have already shared their treasured memories of growing up and visiting the Baths with family and friends, and I’m certain we will hear many more as the project develops.

With work expected to start later in the year, the first phase will see funds invested into the overall fabric of the building to restore the roof, undertake essential repairs, create a main reception area, and convert the pool hall into a co-working space, studio pods, events and community space.

Situated between Erdington Library and the Erdington Skills Centre, it is a great opportunity to create a Learning, Skills and Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Erdington.

Complex projects such as these are only possible with the support of many stakeholders – our community, local businesses and partners. We want to thank Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority for investing in the project.

We are particularly appreciative of the Council’s leadership for taking this brave decision, especially as it deals with its financial challenges. Mayor Andy Street continued to back the project even against the backdrop of three failed funding bids to government.

The late Jack Dromey and more recently Paulette Hamilton MP have been huge advocates, and Cllr Robert Alden has been on this journey with us right from the outset. Thank 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: Pioneer joins National Housing Federations’ call to solve housing crisis

Words & pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

The Pioneer Group is joining the National Housing Federations’ call for political parties to commit to a long-term national plan to solve the housing crisis to support the thousands of households in the West Midlands in desperate need of a safe, suitable and affordable home.

As the mayoral election in the West Midlands approaches, access to affordable housing has become increasingly important among voters, with over half of Brits saying that the government should prioritise building social housing.

Households in the West Midlands could have to wait just under five years before they’ll be able to live in an affordable social home, even if no new households joined the waiting list, according to new analysis of the latest affordable housing figures.

Many have found themselves at the sharp end of the housing crisis, analysis by the National Housing Federation (NHF) found that while 64,382 households were on the waiting list for social housing, only 13,579 new social housing lettings were available last year.

At the current rate of lettings, and if no new households joined the list, this means that it could take just under another five years before every household currently on the waiting list can move into a suitable home that they can afford.

Chief Executive Officer of The Pioneer Group, Simon Wilson, said: “We recognise the desperate need for more social homes in our communities as far too many Birmingham people spend years languishing on housing waiting lists in often wholly unsuitable homes.

“We have been playing our part and are on track to deliver on the commitment we made to deliver 250 new homes by 2025.

“We truly believe in and support this national campaign by the National Housing Federations and Chartered Institute of Housing to have a long term plan for housing.

“For far too long peoples housing needs have been a political football and I really hope politicians of all persuasion can get behind this campaign as we go into Mayoral and national elections this year.”

Social housing lettings refer to homes let at either social rent, typically 50% of market rents, or Affordable Rent, at least 20% below market rents – making them the only affordable option for many. Across the country, chronic shortage of affordable social homes has left many families stuck in unaffordable, unsuitable accommodation, far from local support networks, schools, job opportunities and even facing homelessness.

Consequences of this have been felt across the West Midlands as the housing crisis in England worsens. Shortage of affordable homes means that more people have had to turn to living in expensive, insecure private rented homes, leaving many facing impossible choices as they struggle to balance rent with other essential bills, or risk facing homelessness. NHF research from 2019 revealed that nearly half of children in private rented homes are living in poverty.

Director of Housing and Community at The Pioneer Group, Jo Fieldhouse, said: “I see the dreadful impact of years of underinvestment in truly affordable homes can have on people’s lives.

“As we support our tenants and residents through the cost-of living-crisis I really hope that this campaign forges a real national consensus that access to decent housing is a bedrock from which people can thrive and a change starts to deliver hope for people who need our support.”

Last year, for every new social home built in England, six households were accepted as homeless by their local council, while more children than before are living in temporary accommodation. This trend is also putting local councils under increasing financial pressure with councils spending £1.74bn to support households in temporary accommodation in 2022/23 – set to worsen, with recent research revealing that the number of children living in temporary accommodation is estimated to reach 150,000 by 2030.

The widening gap between the demand for social housing and the availability of is not an anomaly in the West Midlands. It is the result of decades of underfunding and underinvestment in affordable homes by successive governments, which in turn has led to a chronic shortage of social housing and contributed to the current housing crisis.

But this is a crisis that can be solved. Housing associations are ambitious to do more to tackle this crisis, but it will take a long-term commitment from local and national governments to address.

With a long-term plan in place, by 2035 the National Housing Federation believe it is possible to: fix child homelessness, halve overcrowding, provide the security of a social home for one million more people, ensure a warm and decent home for seven million more families, improve affordability, and boost productivity by ensuring every region has the homes it needs to grow.

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

For more on the National Housing Federation visit www.housing.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: Doors and windows showcase as The Pioneer Group upgrade over 2000 homes – 11 April

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: Come and say hello – a message from Urban Devotion Birmingham

Words by Amy Heyes, Co-director at UDB / Artwork by Ash Porter

For the last 20 years we have been engaging with young people, children, and families in Erdington.

You may see our team out walking the streets in our blue coats and hoodies, or with our Mobile Youth Venue (MYV) – come and say hi if you do! In addition to this we work with local primary and secondary schools and run weekly free, open access drop-ins for children, families, and young people in partnership with the churches that host us. Snacks are included and if you’re a child or young person we’d love to see you there.

Between Monday and Tuesday, we run a children’s and two youth drop-ins from the basement of St Martins Church on Witton Lodge Road.

On a Tuesday we also host a youth cafe from St Barnabas’ Café on Erdington High Street.

We have a Wyrley Birch family drop-in on a Wednesday. In the summer this is on Witton Lakes, through the winter Lakeside have hosted us.

On Thursdays we take our MYV to Erdington Oaks Play Park on Topcroft, and we also run both a family and youth drop in at Lighthouse Church in Pype Hayes.

Every Friday we finish the week with a children’s and a youth drop-in from St Chads Church on Stoneyhurst Road, Erdington Hall.

Please scan our QR code to see more information including sign up forms and a link to our Instagram and Facebook accounts where we share updates and last minute changes – please check before attending, especially in school holidays.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: A long term plan for social housing

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

If you’re a social housing tenant, whatever you feel about the quality of your home and services your landlord supplies (and I hope you’re happy if your landlord is Pioneer), the reality is you have an increasingly precious resource.

In Birmingham alone, there are currently around 23,000 social housing applicants waiting for a home. There are more than 4,500 households in priority need – people in temporary accommodation – and tonight over 400 families will be in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation waiting to be housed.

But this is not just a Birmingham issue, it’s a national housing crisis with 8.5 million people unable to access the housing they need. The total cost of poor housing, on society, is estimated at £18.5bn per year. Compare this to the cost to the NHS which is £1.4bn a year.

Ahead of the next general election, our trade body the National Housing Federation is making a case to all political parties for a ‘long term plan for housing’. By 2035 this plan could fix child homelessness, halve overcrowding, provide a million more social homes for people, deliver warm decent homes for seven million more families and improve affordability and ensure all regions have the homes they need to grow.

Research shows that the economic impact of building social housing would be significant; building 90,000 social rented homes a year could add £51.2bn to the UK economy and create almost 350,000 jobs. Within 11 years the investment in the new homes by the Government would be fully paid back.

It’s not for me to influence how you vote in the next general election, though I would encourage everyone to use their democratic right to vote (remember your ID!), but what I do ask is that you look at what is in the parties manifestos to tackle the housing crisis and perhaps consider the one that comes closest to meeting the huge housing challenges and has a long term plan for social housing.

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.