NEWS: Castle Vale residents “devastated” and face “being homeless” after 60% rise in service charge

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by residents

Castle Vale residents in the Redrow development are facing a rise of around 60% in their yearly service charge, adding potentially hundreds of pounds onto their monthly bill.

Managed by HLM Property Management, the drastic increase has been attributed to utilities costs, but some residents are now facing monthly fees even bigger than their mortgages – to be paid directly to HLM.

In a letter issued to residents around Yatesbury Avenue and Merlin Way/Walk, HLM told: ‘We understand this is going to be a difficult time for leaseholders, however in order to ensure that services at the property continue we would ask that prompt payment is made.’

The letter also included a note explaining the national property management company had budgeted ‘a contribution from the reserves to reduce the impact of the utilities cost increase’ totalling £75000.’

Over 100 residents received the letter, issued at the end of last month, leaving many feeling “devastated” and worried about “being homeless” if they can’t make ends meet.

Paul White, Merlin Walk, told Erdington Local: “I have just bought my first property and within a month it (service charge) has gone from £300 to £460 a month, way above mortgage and inflation level with wages not being increased.

“I am worried that even though I own my property I could be faced with being homeless.”

Another resident, Amber Batt, said: “I’m a 23-year-old, first time buyer. Initially I was advised the service charge would be around £300 and of recent I have been told it is going to be upwards of £450.

“I am not able to go out and live the normal life of a 23 year old as I have the impending responsibility of paying over £400 a month to be able have a functioning house in addition to my mortgage and council tax.

“It feels there is no choice in the matter and no consideration is being given to people’s individual circumstances.”

Christine Pascoe said: “I moved in to my flat in February of this year and got my first service charge bill, whilst buying the property.

“I was told the service charge would be £250 approximately per month, but it’s come out at £412 per month. I live alone and a pensioner.”

Sarah Garfield, who has lived on Castle Vale since the houses were built in 2006, added: “My service charge has risen by £160 a month which I find absolutely criminal. I live alone so therefore only have my wage to live on and this rise will have a massive impact on my day-to-day living.

“It’s time HLM were confronted and provide us with a decent management service instead of the abysmal one we’ve had to put up with for the past 16 years.”

One resident, Matthew Bowler, saw his monthly service charge jump from £195 to £318.5 due to increased energy costs, despite living alone in a studio apartment.

He explained: “I’m paying more for my energy than many families in three bedroom houses. It’s just shocking.

“These flats are well insulated; I don’t have the heating on that much – even in winter. There’s no way that the energy I’m using correlates with the price I’m paying for it.”

After individually trying to challenge the home wrecking increase with HLM, a group of residents have now banded together to fight the hiked-up service charge – which is scheduled to begin being paid to the company on 1 July.

At the time of writing, over 40 people had joined a special WhatsApp group to challenge the utility costs and get a “fair deal” from the property management company.

Matthew Bowler continued: “(We want) a fair deal in proportion to inflation because this is way above inflation.

“It’s reached a tension point now where things have got to be addressed and we’ve got to sit down with them (HLM) and say ‘look we’re really unhappy and this price that you’re trying to put on us is going to be devastating. You need to work with us to get a solution.’

“If they don’t act, people could lose livelihoods; there’s families that live here, there’s pensioners, and we won’t be able to cope. There’s going to be people made homeless by it – they’re not going to be able to pay the mortgage and the service charge.

“If HLM aren’t prepared to do anything then we’ve got to bring into question their reputation as a company – it’s completely not acceptable.”

After being contacted by residents looking for help, newly elected Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin (Lab) began organising a public meeting to hear concerns directly and seeking legal advice from colleagues at Birmingham City Council.

Cllr Goodwin told Erdington Local: “Having been approached by residents living in the Redrow development on Merlin Way/Walk and the surrounding roads, I’m deeply concerned by the disproportionate increase in relation to utility costs. In some incidents this appears as high as a 300% increase.

“I will be supporting the concerned residents – who are angry, worried, and very stressed by this – to find a way forward which ensures they pay fair utilities costs.

“It simply unacceptable to estimate such figures, especially during the ongoing cost of living crisis.”

HLM Property Management were approached for comment which they replied would be issued “in due course.”

If you have been affected by a rise in service charges, imposed utility bills, or landlord/lettings agent fees, we want to hear from you – email in confidence: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: Vandals damage Queen’s Jubilee decorations from Spitfire Play Park on Castle Vale

Words by Ed King / Pics and video supplied by Yvonne Hughes

CCTV has caught two lads stealing decorative flags and ripping down banners from a children’s play park on Castle Vale, hours before the country woke up to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Paid for by local resident Yvonne Hughes, who lives on Castle Vale, the flags had been put up around the Children’s Play Park by Spitfire Way a week before – in preparation for the following weekend of jubilee celebrations.

But at around 1am on Thursday 2 June, two young men entered the children’s play area and began ripping down the decorations – captured on CCTV walking up to the park and plucking the flags from the railings.

Later one of the young men was seen pulling off one of jubilee the banners, also attached to the park’s railings.

Local residents were quick to challenge act of vandalism, with Gillian Graham asking: “Why do people always spoil other people’s pleasure,” and hoping the young men responsible “have a conscience and take them back.”

Other residents had seen the decorated park “yesterday and thought how nice it looks” whilst several gave reports of how they’d been worried about their own decorations getting vandalised or stolen.

Yvonne Hughes herself was angry at the attack, wanting to see Castle Vale “pull together” to tackle crime on the estate. But in the true blue stiff upper lip spirit of community, she added: “It’s not the flags, I can replace them.

“It’s just why, all they had to do is come and ask if I’ve got anymore – not come at 1 am in the morning (and steal the flags) … but never mind it won’t spoil tomorrow.”

Other residents were quick to offer support, rallying round to find new decorations for the Spitfire Way Children’s Play Area.

Recently elected Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin asked for any evidence or CCTV footage of the crime so he could help “forward it to the right people”, whilst also joining others to help locate extra jubilee decorations to replace what had been stolen.

Cllr Goodwin told Erdington Local: “I am very saddened and disappointed to see the hard work and the pride residents have taken to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee ruined by mindless individuals.

“I will be supporting residents to report the vandalism to CVCH (Castle Vale Community Housing) and the police.”

From Friday 3 to Sunday 5 June, the UK will be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – marking the 70 years Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has ruled over the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries, making her the longest ruling monarch in British history.

Born 21 April 1926, the young Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1951 after the death of her father King George VI – retaining the name Windsor for the royal household, as it has been since 1917.

Vandals damage jubilee flags and banner – Spitfire Way Children’s Play Park

 

NEWS: Castle Vale to host first Neighbourhood Festival Site for Commonwealth Games 2022

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan

Castle Vale will host the first in a series of Commonwealth Games Neighbourhood Festival Sites, as organisers set up suburban satellite events across the city to allow those who can’t attend the main events to enjoy the Games.

On 28-29 July, Farnborough Fields will host the very first Neighbourhood Festival Site event, coinciding with the official opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games 2022.

Further Festival Sites will be set up in Victoria Square and Smithfield – the current site of Birmingham’s Wholesale Market.

The Neighbourhood Festival Sites will celebrate the sport and culture of the Games, whilst providing food, drink, and entertainment – allowing a citywide audience to access and enjoy some of the key sporting moments on a big screen, alongside a programme of live performances from artists and community groups.

Organised by Birmingham based ‘female-led, multidisciplinary arts and events producing house’ OPUS (Outdoor Places Unusual Spaces) each Neighbourhood Festival Site is being produced by professionals who either live or have strong links to the location.

Festival producer for the Castle Vale Neighbourhood Festival Site, Lateesha Johnson, told Erdington Local: “We really want to see the Festival Sites reflect the spirit and culture of the neighbourhood they are located in.

“We’re encouraging all local residents to come and participate with workshops, celebrate a variety of art and culture and enjoy some fantastic cultural cuisine. All sites will act as a welcoming space to enjoy the Games and give local people an opportunity to embrace and celebrate this historic event.”

As Farnborough Fields is the first location in a series of seven Neighbourhood Festival Sites, and running alongside the official opening ceremony for the Games, the theme for the Castle Vale event is ‘The Warm Up’.

The Farnborough Fields festivities will be a local starting point for people to ‘discover a new interest, skill or local artist and spend two days immersed in the excitement of the Games’.

Recently elected Caste Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin, and CEO of Spitfire Services, said: “the Commonwealth Games mean a lot for the people of Birmingham, not just because it is bringing in a lot of new career opportunities and revenue streams but because sport is extremely important for our people.

“I am looking forward to Castle Vale becoming the first Festival Site wherein people will be able to play, enjoy music, meet each other, all in the friendly name of international sports”.

Castle Vale resident Tracey Barrington added: “I love seeing exciting things on the Vale, and a big thing like a Festival Site is just what we need after the difficult time of Covid. Praying for good weather to see Castle Vale come alive.”

The Commonwealth Games, or the ‘friendly games’, were first held in 1930, and take place every four years.

Birmingham will host the main 2022 event at Alexander Stadium, Perry Barr, which like much of the city has undergone extensive renovation, predicted to have cost around £72 million.

As well as other large outdoor spaces and indoor sports venues in Birmingham, the Commonwealth Games will also use venues in Solihull, Coventry, Cannock, Leamington Spa, Warwick, and Wolverhampton, with the furthest venue being at Lee Valley VeloPark in London.

Louise Martin CBE, Commonwealth Games Federation President, adds: “Birmingham is truly the Commonwealth’s city, and we look forward to showcasing its humanity and pride over the coming months and years.”

More details about the Castle Vale Neighbourhood Festival Site are to be announced, for updates direct from the Commonwealth Games visit www.birmingham2022.com

NEWS: The Festival of Flying launches at Greenwood Academy today – with free to attend outdoor aerial theatre show, CastAway

Words by Ed King / Production pics by Andy Moore – Highly Sprung

On Friday, 20 May, Greenwood Academy will host the launch of The Festival of Flying – an ongoing project with local residents, Active Arts, and Highly Sprung Physical Theatre.

Free to attend, members of the public should get to Greenwood Academy on Farnborough Road for 4pm – to see a special performance of CastAway, Highly Sprung’s renowned outdoor aerial theatre show.

Suitable for people of all ages, the event will finish by 5pm.

A spectacular outdoor production, using a specially designed ‘gyroscopic flying machine’, CastAway explores the impact of today’s throwaway society on our waterway – in an innovative and fresh approach to aerial theatre with parts of the performance happening 26ft above the audience.

CastAway’s all female cast takes you through an underwater world where performers dive, twist, and float, in a narrative inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a floating island of everlasting plastic that has now grown to 6½ times the size of the UK.

The free performance of CastAway, to be held at Greenwood Academy at 4pm on Friday, 20 May, will mark the official launch The Festival of Flying, 

Organisers hope to ‘inspire the next generation of innovative engineers’ through special workshops and the outdoor ariel theatre show.

For more on CastAway check out the trailer from Highly Sprung Physical Theatre below.

Exploring the industrial, regeneration and green future of Castle Vale, The Festival of Flying will work with Castel Vale residents and the local community to produce a week long fusion of music, aerial, and mass performance this September.

Led by Active Arts, The Festival of Flying will champion ‘the creativity, energy, and passion of communities in Castle Vale,’ with organisers of the programme working with local communities over the coming months to ‘produce a unique event, celebrating local history, heritage, and innovation’.

Presented as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, The Festival of Flying is a Creative City Project generously supported by Birmingham City Council.

Artistic Director, Sarah Worth, said: “The Festival of Flying will be working with young people to inspire them to find new ways to express untold stories. We are proud to realise it in Castle Vale and to be part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival.”

CastAway – Highly Spring Performance

For more on Active Arts Castle Vale visit www.activearts.wordpress.com

NEWS: Over a hundred new homes set for old Greenwood Academy site on Castle Vale

Words by Ed King

Castle Vale could see over a hundred new homes being built on the old Greenwood Academy site, after a deal has been struck between Lovell Partnerships, The Pioneer Group, and Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) – Birmingham City Council’s housebuilding arm.

The new housing development, to be called The Point, will see 123 new homes on the Vale, with over 50% being earmarked for social housing and subsidised rentals.

Lovell Partnership will be looking to build 59 two, three, and four bed homes for sale on the open market.

40 homes will be rental properties for Birmingham City Council, whilst the remaining 24 will be rental properties for Vale based The Pioneer Group, managed under its Castle Vale Community Housing (CVCH) social housing brand.

Tenants in The Pioneer Group properties will benefit from affordable rents, with rates set at 20% below current market rent levels.

The Pioneer Group’s homes will include ten 1-bedroom apartments, eight 2-bedroom houses and six 3-bedroom houses. These properties will be allocated to CVCH applicants from its waiting list.

For more information on CVCH allocation scheme and a link to the application form click here.

Greenwood Academy (previously Castle Vale School) opened the doors of its new school building on Farnborough Road on 13 March 2018, with an official ceremony attended by the late MP for Erdington Jack Dromey.

The previous building was sanctioned for demolition, with a tender put out by Birmingham City Council stating the ‘estimated value of the works is in the region of £400,000 to £600,000’.

The work tendered included ‘safe demolition and site clearance’, but the site itself has stayed undeveloped for over four years – with previous concerns over infrastructure and access.

With a deal now agreed between Lovell Partnerships, BMHT, and The Pioneer Group, Castle Vale could soon be welcoming over a hundred new families on to the North Birmingham estate.

Simon Wilson, CEO The Pioneer Group said:

“This exciting new development at Farnborough Road supports our strategic aim to close the gap in the shortage of high quality and affordable housing in a high-demand area.

“The homes will be on the old Greenwood School site and the whole development will provide a range of rented and home ownership opportunities for local residents. This is a great example of working together with the City Council and Lovells to deliver opportunities in the Vale.”

With a population of over 20,000, Castle Vale has been a hotbed of housing and regeneration since becoming one of the UK’s first Housing Action Trusts in April 1993.

Lovell Partnerships have previously delivered over 230 new build homes on a site adjacent to Farnborough Road.

Stuart Penn, regional managing director at Lovell Partnerships, added:

“We have a strong history of work in Castle Vale and the wider Birmingham area which spans more than a decade and look forward to developing this former school site into much-needed, homes, both for the open market and affordable tenures.

“This development is yet another example of our expertise in bringing brownfield sites back into use.

“This particular location has a really interesting history, and the development will pay homage to the past while also looking to the future.”

LOCAL PROFILE: Judy Tullett

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics by Ed King

Working in housing for 50 years, Judy Tullett is currently the Community Support Officer for Spitfire Services, Castle Vale.

Known for her work with the social enterprise Upcycle Birmingham and the profitable asset management transfer of Castle Pool, Judy has managed a portfolio of successful endeavours.

Erdington Local caught up with the prominent project manager to find out what inspired her community focus.

Judy was born in the historic town of Bodmin, Cornwall, and graduated from Swansea University with a degree in economics and social sciences.

In 1973, she moved to Birmingham for a course with Birmingham City Council in Housing Management Training.

“It wasn’t as common in those days for a woman to go to University,” remarked Judy. “I worked in environmental health, at a depo, all various different divisions of the housing department. It was a really good grounding.”

After working for Birmingham City Council, Judy did a stint at Tamworth Borough Council’s housing department but soon became “quite frustrated with the local authority set up” – moving to a job with the housing association Trident Group. There she worked on many projects, establishing the first ‘youth foyer’ in Birmingham, a type of housing for people aged 16-25.

“I always think if I didn’t work for Trident I wouldn’t get to work on so many exciting projects,” told Judy. “In your working life – and I’ve been working 50 years – you come across inspirational people.

“I had a role model in an inspiration chief exec at Trident called Nick Morton. I learned so much from him about risk and project management, how to develop something from nothing. He used to say to me ‘if you talk about something long enough, often enough, it will happen’”.

Judy’s role in housing led her to work alongside the Home Office on a special project to support Birmingham’s older Chinese community: “The home office had established there were loads of older Chinese people who could no longer live with their families, that now needed to have supportive elderly accommodation.

“I met amazing people, had to do all sorts of research, getting involved with Chinese networks in Birmingham.”

Working across cultures was something Judy developed a knack for, finding herself in a pivotal role supporting Japanese Toyota engineers who moved to the UK in the mid-90s.

“Japanese people have a completely different culture to the Chinese,” remembered Judy. “We had to learn things that would make the development successful and create an environment of trust. They would call me ‘Judy-san’.”

Judy’s other passion in life is swimming. Erdington Local featured her work with Castle Pool in an article last August, exploring the local authority asset transfer that turned the failing council run swimming baths into a ‘national success story’ run by local residents.

Judy herself is a swimming instructor and she has travelled to competitions in Cyprus, Dubai, France, Tenerife, Spain, and Malta. Judy became a grandmother in March and is looking forward to “teaching our Sienna to swim when she is old enough.”

About to reach the age of 70, Judy explains she has no intention of stopping: “I did try retirement when I was about 65. It wasn’t for me. I found it a difficult challenge. I empathise with people who retire and then think ‘oh, what happens next?’”

In her work for Spitfire Services a lot of Judy’s tasks revolve around Upcycle Birmingham – a charitable initiative set up “to solve the conundrum of people who wanted to get rid of household goods and furniture, and to help poorer families who had just moved to the Vale who didn’t have those things.”

Having been based at Castle Vale Business Park from inception, Upcycle has since moved to St Gerard’s old social club building.

One of the downsides of working at an Upcycle is supressing the inner hoarder. “It is a danger at working in these sort of projects that you take things home you don’t need,” Judy admits.

“We received a Georgian-style side table, painted by one of our volunteers. I thought I’ve got to have that; it would fit nicely in the hall with a few family photos. Although I am under strict instructions from my husband who says: ‘don’t start bringing any more stuff home.’”

Lockdown was difficult for Upcycle as they couldn’t take a lot of donations, having to sanitise and quarantine those that they did.

But as restrictions ease and places start to open again Judy has two words to get the business back up and running: ‘sales’ and ‘donations.’ And never one to rest for too long, Judy’s next mission is to set up a community café from Upcycle which is looking to open in July this year.

“We get regular customers that come in every day,” told Judy. “I can’t wait until they can have a mooch, and then have a brew.”

For more on Upcycle visit www.upcyclebirmingham.org.uk

NEWS: Biker gang blocks up Kingsbury Road – performing dangerous stunts in the traffic

Words, pics & video by Ed King

Hundreds of motorists were stopped from returning home on Friday after scores of bikers blocked up Kingsbury Road, near Tyburn House Island.

At around 6:30pm, a large gathering of motorbikes and quad bikes swarmed across the two lanes of traffic and onto the central reservation – many trying to buy petrol from the Shell garage.

As the gang of bikers grew in number, some began driving up and down the dual carriage way and grass embankment – performing ‘wheelies’ and ‘donuts’, leaving deep tyre marks across the central reservation. One daredevil was seen ‘careering’ into the early evening traffic with one wheel off the ground and both hands in the air.

With around 50 bikers blocking the throughfare, tired motorists could do nothing but sit it out and wait for the chaos to subside.

Jules Cox, 43, told Erdington Local: “I was sitting in the Burger King car park – I had just finished work in Erdington and was on my way to Castle Vale, pulling in to get a drive through and make a phone call.

“Suddenly I heard what sounded like cars on a racetrack, then about 10-15 motorbikes – high cc expensive looking ones – came careering down the Kingsbury Road and pulled up onto the central reservation.

“Within about five minutes there were maybe 40-50 motorbikes and quad bikes, but some were in the Shell garage next door and I couldn’t see the exact number.

“Pretty quickly they had blocked that whole side of the Kingsbury Road and traffic started to back up. The bikers were riding up and down both the road itself and the grass in the middle, doing wheelies and donuts.

“It was more annoying than threatening, but I wouldn’t have suggested challenging them. With that many people being reckless on high performance bikes, with the kind of adrenalin that brings, you never know what will kick off.”

A deliver driver collecting orders from Burger King, who didn’t want to be named, added: “I think they had come from town; there had been a lot of bikes in the city centre earlier waving flags and making noise.

“They didn’t bother me making my deliveries, but it is dangerous. Although I used to live in Italy and you would get hundreds of bikers together there, this is nothing compared to that.”

The Shell garage quickly put a ‘Closed’ sign in the window and waited for the bikers to move on.

Staff from the garage told Erdington Local gangs of bikers come to the garage about once a month, but never in such large numbers – they were worried about people driving off without paying.

Motorbikes are responsible for around 19% of all road traffic fatalities, according to a report by the Department of Transport. Over extended driving, calculating deaths per billion passenger miles, motorcyclists are over 100 times more likely to die in an accident than those in a car.

West Midlands Police had to be extra vigilant during lockdown, with dangerous drivers taking advantage of the empty roads and using them as their own personal racetrack.

Following an arrest earlier this year, where the offender was jailed for 14 months, Traffic Sergeant Mitch Darby, said:

“Anti-social off-road biking is a real concern for our communities. We’ve responded by running operations to catch offenders and they will continue throughout the summer.

“Anyone who rides dangerously – or rides an off-road bike illegally on public roads or in parks – runs the risk of being arrested and having their bike seized and crushed.”

Biker gang ride off from Kingsbury road – finally allowing rush hour traffic to move

NEWS: Erdington MP backs Covid-19 public inquiry and calls for Matt Hancock to “honour that commitment” and meet with grieving families

Words by Adam Smith

Jack Dromey MP is backing a Castle Vale woman’s demand for a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic – after she lost her father and sister to the virus within a week.

Jane Roche is part of the Bereaved Families for Justice campaign and despite Matt Hancock promising to meet her and other Erdington families last December they have yet to see the Health Secretary.

Government this week ruled out holding a public inquiry in the foreseeable future, despite health experts estimating thousands of lives would have been saved if ministers had heeded warnings last year and implemented the first lockdown earlier.

Mr Dromey raised the complaints of the Bereaved Families for Justice campaign in Parliament and has accused Matt Hancock of avoiding meeting Covid-19 victims’ relatives.

Mr Dromey told Erdington Local: “I know many Erdington families have lost loved ones to Covid-19 and they are desperate for answers as to whether their loved one’s death was preventable.

“When you hear a story like Jane’s, or any of the other members of the campaign, and you hear the pain they have suffered, you want to help them find at least some degree of closure – and that can’t be done until the questions they have are answered.”

He added: “I asked Matt Hancock to meet with families from the West Midlands who have lost loved ones, which he agreed to in Parliament. He must honour that commitment and set a date.

“A public inquiry is so important for another reason, one that I know is so important to the families, to make sure mistakes are never repeated.”

Pressure mounts on the Boris Johnson this week, as leaks about his vocabulary and conduct around the coronavirus crisis continue to make national headlines. Various reports from Whitehall officials have cited the PM as saying he would rather see “bodies pile high” than put England into another lockdown.

Office for National Statistics figures reveal 348 people in Kingstanding, Erdington, and Castle Vale died due to Covid-19 between March 2020 and March 2021.

Jane Roche said: “We are absolutely determined to make sure this public inquiry goes ahead, and it needs to happen as soon as possible. Thousands of grieving families need answers to why we lost our loved ones the way we did.

“Boris Johnson is dragging his heels, but he needs to set a date for the inquiry, it’s the least he can do. He can’t ignore us forever.”

Responding to calls for a public inquiry a Government spokesman said: “An inquiry now is not appropriate.

“The very people who would need to give evidence to an inquiry are working round the clock. It is not anticipated that the government’s workload will ease in the coming months.”

For more on Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice visit: www.covidfamiliesforjustice.org

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines direct from the NHS visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination

BACK TO WORK: Free online employment training courses for Falcon Lodge and Castle Vale residents

Words and pics from Compass Support

Compass Support has launched a free seven-week course starting in February to improve job prospects for Falcon Lodge and Castle Vale residents who are currently unemployed or looking for work.

With two places left on the next course at Falcon Lodge, if you are interested, apply quickly, though registering now will also place you on a waiting list for courses and opportunities in both Falcon Lodge and Castle Vale.

The organisers are inviting any unemployed person, especially those in Falcon Lodge, who is looking for work and would like help to apply by calling Rob Harris, Employability Advisor at Compass Support on 07841 067662.

The course follows on from the successful training that has already taken place both in person and since the lockdown online. Now due to Lockdown 3.0, the training is taking place fully online, and is open to more people with mobility issues.

The Compass Support Employability & Wellbeing team will be delivering the training, which includes CV and job application support and life coaching.

The timetable (see below) is packed with a combination of preparing for employment training and wellbeing sessions from Compass Support team members and guest speakers. There are also one to one sessions for participants and a weekly action plan so that each trainee gets the most out of the course.

Former trainees have used the skills gained during the course to secure voluntary work with the likes of Upcycle and the Environmental Trust, often going on to secure paid employment.

Interested participants can also work towards qualifications in food hygiene, first aid and computer training to improve their job prospects or route to voluntary work. A young lady who attended the last course, for example, gained her first aid and hygiene qualifications to help her to secure work in childcare.

People taking part in the course get to know each other and offer mutual support by connecting through the Get Healthy Get Working WhatsApp group, with many going on to form lasting friendships.

As well as training, the Compass Support team is providing tablet loan scheme to access course work online, apply for jobs and learn new digital skills.

As part of the course, trainees also have access to Zoom and Facebook Live fitness and wellbeing sessions, from yoga to circuit training.

An especially popular session is learning to cook with Rob Harris, with delicious dishes such as vegetable curry, leek and potato soup, bean and pasta stew on the menu. After the sessions, the ingredients are delivered to the participants to cook themselves.

Rob Harris, Employability Advisor at Compass Support, said:

“We used to run a job club at Falcon Lodge so we recognise that there is a need to help residents to improve their chances to find employment.

“Sadly, the coronavirus has left many more unemployed in our area and we are working tirelessly to ensure that we can help as many people into employment as possible. If this new course helps just a handful of residents to get a job, we have done our job.”

Project funding was secured through The Henry Smith Charity, founded in 1628, as part of its Improving Lives funding stream.

For more information, call the Education & Employment team on 07841 067662

For more from Compass Support, visit www.compass-support.org.uk

NEWS: Dying Castle Vale schoolgirl’s EuroDisney wish sparks massive community fundraising effort

Words by Adam Smith / Pics supplied by Keena Cespedes

A dying Castle Vale schoolgirl’s wish to see EuroDisney is a step closer after £4,600 was raised in a month by big-hearted friends, family, and the community.

Six-year-old Kionne Holding, who has an incurable rare form of epilepsy, wants to go meet the Little Mermaid with the rest of her family – but due the specialist disability travel arrangements the holiday could cost £10,000.

However, when her mother Keena Cespedes, who has been at her daughter’s side for the last 93 days at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, launched a GoFundMe page (Kionne’s Fund) in August there was an overwhelming response.

Click here or on the hyperlink above to visit the GoFundMe page – Kionne’s Fund

Kionne’s Fund has inspired online music festival fundraisers, reggae brunches, and raffles. Family friend Lee Crofts is also undertaking a sponsored ‘Castle Vale to Paris Triathlon’ which has so far raised £1,600.

Keena, aged 37, told Erdington Local: “I can’t even begin to say how amazing people have been since I told people about Kionne, friends, family, and strangers have sent me messages of support and my daughter presents.

I put up the GoFundMe page without thinking anything would happen, I would have been happy with £50 but it feels like the whole of Castle Vale has got involved, as well as people across Birmingham.

We have now raised more than £4,600. I know times are hard for people, so it really means a lot people are donating.”

Keena remembers Kionne as a bubbly, funny, lovable child before last November when she suddenly began having seizures and headaches. Two months later she was diagnosed with small tumor on her brain and a rare form of epilepsy called Lennox Gasture Syndrome.

Her condition deteriorated and she in the last nine months she’s lost the ability to walk, talk and eat. Doctors have given her various drugs, treatments, and alternative remedies but all to no avail.

Keena said: “Due to all the drugs she is on she does not understand what is being done for her and all the love people have for her, but we still are hoping to take her to EuroDisney with her sisters.”

Tragically Keena has already had to have a conversation with specialists about Kionne’s end of life care.

She said: “This syndrome has taken everything away from her and is slowly killing my baby. She is unable to walk, eat for herself, and now her speech is going. She now speaks like a three-year-old not a six-year-old. She cannot be treated and there is no cure. I’m coming to terms with my baby dying and the little time we have left with her.

All I want to do now is make her life as amazing as possible and one way is to get her on holiday with her sisters who she loves so much.”

And due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kionne has been unable to get visits and cuddles from her three sisters.

Keena added: “Only I can go and visit her because of COVID-19, Kionne misses her sisters and they miss her but there is nothing that can be done about that – that is why it would be wonderful if we could all go away together. We would need specialist care when we are there and have to stay in adapted hotels, but it can be done and we are hoping to go early next year now.”

Castle Vale fundraiser Lee Crofts has now cycled the distance from “The Ressies to Dover” and also organised a reggae brunch at Minworth Social Club.

He said: “We’ve had amazing gestures of support with events, raffles set up, prize donations, and raised £500 in a day.

The little superhero is fighting the hardest fight of all, so let’s make the dark days a little brighter and give her. Her wish of a holiday with her sisters to make some priceless memories.”

To sponsor Lee as he continues his bid to cycle, run and walk the distance to Paris, click here to visit the Kionne’s Wish PayPal page.

The Chivenor Primary School pupil has touched the hearts of the nurses at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where she has been for the last three months.

Nurse Victoria Mulligan posted on the GoFundMe page: ‘I have had the pleasure of looking after Kionne and every shift she brightened my day with a massive smile and huge hug.

‘She holds on to you so that you can’t leave her side, she sings to you, she makes you laugh, she is super brave and absolutely deserves to go on holiday which will never make up for all she has gone through but will give her and her family an experience of happiness to remember forever.’

For more information or to donate to Kionne’s Fund visit: www.gofundme.com/f/kionnes-fund

To sponsor Lee Crofts – as he cycles, runs and walks the distance to Paris – visit the Kionne’s Wish PayPal page here: www.tiny.cc/qpaysz