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: 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: …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 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.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Protecting our community spaces

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


 
Following the decision by Birmingham City Council to file a Section 114 notice in September, attention has quickly turned to the possibility of the council selling off assets to generate vital funds during this financial crisis.

With a review of BCC owned assets to be undertaken by government commissioners, the probability of an “assets disposal programme” will be high on the agenda, and whilst the usual suspects of Birmingham Airport, BMAG and Library of Birmingham make the headlines, what about the much-loved spaces and assets within our communities?

A new campaign ‘Save Birmingham’ has been set up by Co-operatives West Midlands, in response to the Section 114 to help protect community places. The campaign gives Birmingham residents the important opportunity to have their say in protecting places and spaces that matter to them.


 
Residents can show support on the website for the list of places identified or nominate a community space that they want to protect. This will highlight the importance of these assets to local communities, hopefully leading them to be preserved or transferred into community ownership.

The foundations of Witton Lodge Community Association are rooted in people and places with our busy hubs providing vital community support services across the Erdington constituency.

Our main office Perry Common Community Hall was the city’s first asset transfer, and we transformed Witton Lakes Eco Hub from a derelict building and rubbish dump into a much loved and needed community facility, proving the power of community-focused decision making.

We are also progressing the multi-million-pound regeneration of the former swimming baths on Mason Road, Erdington to help breath life back into Erdington High Street and providing a vital space for the local community.

If there is a local asset that you feel should be saved and preserved for now and future generations then do, make your voice heard.

You can of course raise this with your local councillors and MP, and also add details to the website – www.savebirmingham.org/community-places

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: Social Economy Cluster launches at Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Witton Lodge Community Association

On 24 October Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) were delighted to welcome the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to officially launch the Social Enterprise Cluster.

Part of a £2 million support package through the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) using unspent Commonwealth Games money, this initiative has been created to help level up some of the region’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The Cluster is being led by key social businesses in all the Combined Authority’s seven constituent council areas of Birmingham, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, Coventry, and Solihull.

Each organisation will receive seed funding to help them develop plans to identify specific projects that will improve the local area and act as a springboard to bring in further investment.

Witton Lodge CA was co-funded by Power to Change as the first local cluster and is now joined by a dynamic mix of social businesses including CWCDA, iSE, Colebridge Trust, SWEDA, Access to Business, and Provision House, all of whom have excellent experience in developing and supporting their respective communities.

This is a valuable opportunity to learn from each other and create a sustainable eco-system for social organisations and their communities to flourish.

Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer at Witton Lodge Community Association, said: “We were delighted to welcome everyone involved with the Social Enterprise Cluster to Witton Lodge for the launch of this fantastic initiative. This investment will give us the much-needed resources to do the job we are trying to do, to improve the local area and economy to generate wealth and retain it in our communities.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community to decide what’s right for us, and help create change that makes a real, tangible difference.”

The WMCA’s Social Economy Growth Programme is being funded by the WMCA’s Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund, which was established in response to the Games coming in under budget.

Following discussions with the Mayor and the WMCA, the UK Government agreed to invest the £70 million underspend back into the region to enhance the legacy of the Games and ensure the benefits continue their positive impact for years to come.

Watch Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street discuss the importance of social economy with Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer, and Linda Hines MBE, Resident Director/Chair of WLCA.

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: Birmingham City Council issues Section 114 notice. So, what’s next for Birmingham and its communities?

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

Birmingham City Council is experiencing severe financial difficulties, and this is a worrying time for all of us that have a stake in this city, and even more so for vulnerable residents and groups that rely on council services, funding, or support.

The Council leadership declared that it “will prioritise core services that our residents rely on, in line with our values of supporting the most vulnerable”. In all honesty it is difficult to imagine how this will be achieved, given the Councils’ parlous financial state and the inevitable cuts to services and further loss of staff.

Over recent years, we have lost many of the essential support services that communities rely on – youth work, neighbourhood advice services and Sure Start, to name but a few. The pandemic, followed by a cost-of-living crisis, is already putting unbearable pressure on many.

That said, I’m certain that even against this tough backdrop our local community, voluntary and faith groups will rally to do what they can. In Erdington, we have a good track record of doing this, and this will be needed now, more than ever.

Of course, Birmingham City Council is a vital institution, however, it is important to remember that there are also many other important stakeholders, and the collective leadership challenge, is to come together to protect and support our vulnerable and rebuild.

In the meantime, at Witton Lodge Community Association we have offered our support to the Council to help pull together a credible plan, making the case for protecting services in Erdington, and doing things differently.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us or pop along to one of our Advice Surgeries.

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: WLCA host Jobs Fair at Perry Common Hall on Friday 13 October

Words and promotional imagery by WLCA


 
Witton Lodge Community Association is hosting a Jobs Fair on Friday 13 October, inviting local jobseekers to meet with major employers from across the region.

The WLCA Jobs Fair will be held from 10am to 2pm at Perry Common Community Hall, 87 Witton Lodge Rd, Birmingham, B23 5JD. Click here for a Google Maps link to the address.

The Job Fair will be showcasing a range of training and employment opportunities from a variety of organisations including Amazon, who will be promoting their opportunities for local people from all backgrounds.

The Witton Lodge Community Association Employment and Skills Team will also be on hand to engage with those attending and provide advice to support their journey into work.

The upcoming Jobs Fair is an excellent opportunity for people to meet the team, employers, and training providers to find out more about the range of employment and training opportunities available across the city.

Marcia Lewis, Employer Engagement Officer at WLCA said “We are delighted to provide a welcoming space to help connect jobseekers from our local community to potential employers as well as a range of training providers to support attendees with any skills and training needs they may have.”

She added: “The Jobs Fair will be held in the heart of our community at Perry Common Community Hall and will be showcasing opportunities in warehousing, health & social care, hospitality/facilities, construction, office, customer service and more. We look forward to welcoming everyone on the 13 October.”

To find out more about the WLCA Jobs Fair, or to discuss your employment or training needs with the WLCA Employment and Skills Team, contact WLCA on (0121) 382 1930.

Or follow WLCA on social media and stay up-to-date with their our news, events, and activities.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association and links to their social media, 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: Enterprising Erdington

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


 
We are delighted that Birmingham City Council has taken the bold decision to invest £2m to help refurbish, and transform the former Erdington Baths into a state-of-the-art Enterprise facility. We’re already turning our attention to the other major funder, the West Midlands Combined Authority to match the Council’s investment, and the signs are encouraging.

So many residents have fond memories of the Baths and we have had huge support from the local community and local businesses to bring this much-loved facility back into use. We remain committed to doing all that we can to make it happen.

As many people know, it is not a straightforward project, given the size, age and state of the building. We have also had to overcome many setbacks, not least, with Erdington missing out on Government investment on three occasions.

Despite this, at Witton Lodge Community Association we remain resolute and optimistic. We have many of the foundations already in place including Planning Approval, expert technical teams, and political support especially from Paulette Hamilton MP and Councillor Robert Alden.

As more and more services move online, we know the physical hubs aren’t the complete answer, and of course we will continue to support our residents to develop their IT skills, none-the-less, we believe this is no substitute for high quality, locally accessible facilities where you can meet and speak to a person face-to-face.

We’re truly fortunate in Erdington, to have many such places including those listed on the Erdington Local ENNS page.

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.

(Ed’s note: This column was first submitted to the Erdington Local newspaper on 4 September, before the announcement of a Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Unleashing local talent!

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

We know there are many economic issues and challenges facing our local communities, not least through this current cost-of-living crisis. We also know there is huge talent and untapped potential in Erdington, coupled with major developments that will create hundreds of jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.

At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are passionate about building on the strengths of our local communities, unleashing talent and creating a strong local economy that benefits our residents and local businesses.

The North Birmingham Economic Recovery (NB:ER) Board is a really solid partnership, chaired by Paulette Hamilton MP, and through this Board we’re seeking to build a permanent bridge between jobs, investment and opportunities AND the needs, hopes and aspirations of our local residents.

By way of example, this means working hard to support our local residents into jobs with Amazon, at the Peddimore site. Beyond this, there are many more opportunities with HS2 and other employers in Erdington and North Birmingham.

We also know that some people are keen to setup their own businesses, and locally there just isn’t the space or support available for our budding entrepreneurs. We have been working hard over many years to transform the former Erdington Swimming Baths into a state-of-the-art Enterprise Hub… and we are expecting a positive announcement from Birmingham City Council that will bring this another step closer.

So, if you’re a resident looking for work, wanting to enhance your skills or would like any more information about the enterprise facility, then do get in touch with us.

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.