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: 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.

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

I hope everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale had a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful new year.

I’d like to congratulate Renata from SS Mary and John Catholic Primary School for winning my Christmas Card competition. And well done to the runners-up, Valentina and Burham, whose cards were fantastic.

2024 is both a year of opportunity and challenge. For more than 13 years, the Tory government has let down people in our communities, failing to address the key issues that affect us, such as the rising cost of living, the lack of GP and dental appointments, the surge in crime, the proliferation of HMOs and the decline of Erdington High Street. They ignored our repeated applications to the Levelling Up Fund, which would have revitalised our High Street.

Making matters worse, the Tories’ shameful Rwanda plan is in tatters, and they have no clear plan to fix the broken system they created. They have squandered billions of pounds on vanity projects and crony contracts, while cutting vital public services and support for the most vulnerable.

This year, our country will face a crucial choice: more neglect and chaos with the Tories, or credible leadership with Labour. Labour has a plan to rebuild Britain, invest in our NHS, create good jobs, make our communities safer and stronger, and get Britan’s future back.

As your local MP and a proud resident of this area, I will always stand up for you and our community.

Together, we can make 2024 a year of hope and change.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As 2023 comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my work as your Member of Parliament for Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale over the past year.

As your representative in Parliament, I have spoken 39 times to raise a variety of issues that matter to you. I have spoken six different times about the problems on Erdington High Street, which is the beating heart of our community.

I have raised concerns about the lack of GP appointments, along with mental health services, the mortgage crisis, knife crime, antisocial behaviour, HMOs, the cost of living crisis, levelling up, and much more. I have always done my best to be your voice in Westminster and to hold the government to account, and I will continue to do so.

As your local MP, I have also been working hard to help you with your individual problems and concerns. I have responded to 1,975 pieces of policy casework and sent out over 9,000 emails to assist you with various local issues.

I have also visited local schools, businesses, charities, and community groups to hear your views and support your ambitions.

As someone who lives locally, I am proud to represent our community in Parliament and in our constituency. I will continue to work hard for you and to fight for a better future for all.

Finally, I want to wish everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Castle Vale Stadium

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group

It is great to see the opening of a second new 3G football pitch at Castle Vale Stadium. This will increase capacity for more users, help us to meet the growing demand for women and girls’ football and increase opportunities to expand provision for disabled users and walking football.

It is somewhat unusual for a social housing provider to run a football facility but when we took on the long-term lease from Birmingham City Council we secured the future for an important community facility that was failing, starting to look unsightly and attracting vandalism.

The Stadium is located at the heart of Farnborough Fields, right next to Greenwood Academy. The school provides an enhanced sporting offer through a partnership with the Stadium.

In addition to the 3G pitches we have refurbished the venue’s bar and function room and created additional parking space. We continue to support grass roots football through the local Castle Vale Town club which has the vast majority of its young team members from the estate.

We also lead on the Farnborough Fields Masterplan group which brings together a range of local stakeholders. Alongside Greenwood Academy, we also work with organisations like the Community Environmental Trust who do so much hard work to sustain and create attractive green spaces in the area.

Partnership work with the city council is looking at creating an inline speed skating facility while work with the West Midlands Combined Authority aims to secure a passenger train station and service for Castle Vale.

We will shortly be looking to extend the lease on the site for another 25 years, so we can continue to protect, develop and invest in facilities for residents in the heart of our community.

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.

FEATURE: No laughing matter, now nitrous oxide is illegal what changes will criminalising happy gas make to our streets?

Words & pics by Ed King (except lead image – Adobe)

On Wednesday 8 November, the British Government made nitrous oxide an illegal substance as per the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1971, effectively banning the recreational use of the ‘happy’ or ‘laughing’ gas which has seen a significant rise over recent years. Now registered as a Class C controlled substance, ‘serious users’ of nitrous oxide could face up to two years in prison.

Erdington Local looks at the ambitions of the legislation and the effects of both the ban and the drug on the wider community.

We’ve all seen them, small silver bottles that look like they belong in a SodaStream or balloon pump, lying scattered around park benches or bus stops. Nitrous oxide. Or the more colloquially known ‘laughing gas’ or ‘happy’ gas.

What was originally used to numb the pain of root canal surgery has been taken by recreational drug users since the 70s. But in recent years, the increasingly overt use of nitrous oxide has become a flashpoint for community concerns over anti-social behaviour and aggressive youth culture.

Nitrous oxide had already been recognised by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which addressed non-legitimate supply of the substance and issues such as direct sales to consumers and cannister sizes. But the Government further criminalised it as part of their Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, making it a ‘criminal offence to be found in possession of (nitrous oxide) where its intended use is to be wrongfully inhaled’, or ‘to get high’.

As per the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, non-authorised possession of nitrous oxide is now as illegal the synthetic sedatives Diazepam and Temazepam.

The Home Office explains: “Associated antisocial behaviour causes wider harm felt by communities and to the environment. This includes group gatherings to abuse the drug in public spaces, such as children’s parks or high streets, and subsequent littering of the discarded canisters. There have also been deaths connected to drug driving incidents.”

Over on Castle Vale, many have welcomed the new law. One resident, Barabra, who lives neighbouring Centre Park, tells Erdington Local: “(Castle Vale) is going back to the eighties, to how it was with drugs, fighting all the while, kids out on the street.

“I’m a member of Families for Peace, I have been for 20 years, I don’t believe in guns, I don’t believe in knives, and I certainly don’t believe in drugs. I pay £10 a month for children to be kept off the street so that they’re kept safe.

“I’ll walk through here (Centre Park) at 5:30pm and they’ll all be high as a kite. You feel intimidated, you have to walk out of the park and walk all the way round. Why should we? I’ve got grandchildren.”

But many of the young people that live on Castle Vale don’t use nitrous oxide and feel they are being blamed for the actions of a few or are just “getting grief” from using local parks and public spaces when “there’s nowhere else to go”.

Likewise, in a review of nitrous oxide in 2021, requested by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel, the Independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) found the drug was already adequately covered by existing laws, officially stating: “the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 remains the appropriate drug legislation to tackle supply of nitrous oxide for non-legitimate use.”

The counterpoint to further criminalising nitrous oxide is that you would turn a legally available substance, one used predominately by young people, into a criminal offence overnight.

Over on Gravelly Hill North, Birmingham’s Youth Offending Team have traditionally operated from the Kingsmere Unit. Run by Birmingham Children’s Trust the future of the site is uncertain, but it has been a widely recognised starting point for many young people entering the criminal justice system

One ex-employee explains: “I think it’s a good idea the Government have now criminalised it along with other widely used recreational drugs, such as cannabis and amphetamine, as it is a dangerous substance and young people need to be educated about the potential harm. I think a lot of young people are just ignorant to the side effects of drugs and don’t really understand how damaging they can be.”

However, mirroring the findings recommendations from the ACMD report other professional bodies and individuals feel the move could cause more damage to young people than good.

One experienced services manager with over 25 years experience in the criminal justice system, supporting people suffering with significant drug and alcohol abuse issues, explains: “Legislation in itself will not make it safer for young people who use nitrous oxide, but it will push them into the criminal justice system and the long term effect of this could harm them more.”

Over their tenure they worked closely with the police, probation service, and a variety of partners and support agencies in the West Midlands and the Northeast.

They add: “As yet we do not know all the long term effects of this substance on individuals but it can cause both physical and mental health problems if abused. This is a Public Health problem and should be treated as such. The Criminal Justice approach will not make young people safer.”

Back on Castle Vale, local resident Barbara is concerned about the sizes of cannisters found in Centre Park. And as she works with the estate’s groundskeeper to clean up the mess left by a weekend of late summer sun, the immediate impact drug misuse has had on her family comes out in conversation.

“My son was a drug addict… I’ve just lost him. It would have been his fiftieth birthday tomorrow, and I’m in bits. He was off drugs at the finish, my grandson got him off them. He was off them for nearly two years, but he died from kidney failure.

“But this is all you see,” Barbara adds, picking an empty Sealy Bag up from the park grass.

“I told my son to get help, I took him to get help… but addicts don’t accept help. I spoke to the kids (in the park) last night, I asked where are your parents? They just told me it was none of my f’ing business. I’m worried they might hurt themselves… too damn right I am.”

But with extended or relaxed legislation, the answer to many social ills lies in the community itself. And when it comes to the little silver bottles, at least on Castle Vale, there is also a silver lining.

Cllr Ray Goodwin (Castle Vale Ward, Labour), explains what he and his team are doing to tackle the issues highlighted on the North Birmingham estate: “I have been working closely with worried residents, The Pioneer Group and Castle Vale Community Housing, our local police teams, and local youth organisations, to come with robust plan of action – we need to engage with young people and ensure they are engaged with other activities.

“Young people need good facilities and places for them to be actively involved in things. They need youth centres, creative outlets, and sports clubs to join, so they are not just hanging around parks and public spaces where their presence and actions can infringe on other members of the community – even if they did not intend to cause concern or trouble to others.

“This collaborative and proactive approach, and ongoing relationship building with young people and local services, is the best way to protect our young people, prevent them from accessing these clearly dangerous cannisters, and make our communities a safer and happier place for everyone to live in.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article and want to tell Erdington Local about it please email: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

For more on the recent Government legislation over Nitrous Oxide visit www.gov.uk/government/news/possession-of-nitrous-oxide-is-now-illegal

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your local MP representing Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale, I care about the issues that affect you and our community. Here are some of the things I have done in the past month:

I recently hosted a meeting with Simon Foster, the Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Superintendent Richard North, local traders, and officials from Birmingham City Council. 

We discussed the ongoing issues of crime and antisocial behaviour on Erdington High Street.

Importantly, they heard concerns from our traders, recognising the need for more robust measures to enhance security and enforcement, and the need to work more closely to combat crime in the area.

I was also approached by traders on Slade Road who raised concerns about issues they were experiencing, including theft, antisocial behaviour, and the presence of sex workers. I empathised with the challenges facing local traders and will be following up on their concerns and working towards a constructive solution. 

I recently participated in a National Day of Action for Safer Streets to prevent road accidents, injuries, and deaths. As part of this effort, I’m backing the campaign to reduce speeds to 30mph on local roads. I would urge everyone to have their say by taking part in the consultation – please do get in touch if you want to know more. 

Despite 13 years of Conservative cuts to policing, I will not give up on fighting crime and antisocial behaviour in our area. I will keep working to secure the resources we need to keep our community safe. 

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Halloween Spotlights Loan Sharks

Words by Hema Chumber


 
To mark Stop Loan Sharks Week 2023, Spitfire Support Services is delivering three Halloween themed events across Castle Vale to raise awareness of this hidden crime in communities.

The activities, funded by the England Illegal Money Lending Team and supported in partnership by Castle Vale Community Housing, Starbucks and Switch Radio aim to engage people while providing insight into the dangers of unauthorised money lenders.

A Halloween Fashion Show takes place at Starbucks on 31 October for families to strut the catwalk in their outfits and win prizes. On the same day at Castle Vale Library there will be arts and crafts sessions, a special screening of A Sharks Tale and a Halloween haunted maze while a Stakeholder Presentation and Workshop at The Sanctuary on 1 November will give residents the chance to speak to learn more about the inherent dangers of borrowing from loan sharks.


 
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), also known as Stop Loan Sharks, investigates and prosecutes illegal money lenders and also supports victims.

Figures show that 56 per cent of the people supported by the IMLT in the first half of 2023 said they borrowed from someone they thought was a friend. This year’s Stop Loan Sharks Week has the theme ‘Behind the Mask’ with the aim of raising awareness within communities like Castle Vale that illegal lenders can often be hard to spot.


 
Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “These illegal money lenders are experts at deception. They are friendly and approachable at first, but when the time comes to make the repayments they can show their true face – a ruthless criminal intent on exploiting the most vulnerable.

“We want people to be aware that not all illegal money lenders look like they do on TV. They can be another mum in the playground, a neighbour, a work colleague, even a longstanding family friend.

“But it is a mask and behind it they are not your friend; they are lining their own pockets at your expense and ruining lives. There are far safer ways of accessing affordable credit, like credit unions. If anyone thinks they have been targeted in this way, they should contact our specialist team of advisers in confidence for help and support.”

Ward Councillor, Raymond Goodwin, who is also the Director at Spitfire Support Services, said: “Many families over the last 12 months have struggled because of the cost of living crisis and have not been able to pay for basic essentials unfortunately we have seen an upturn in loan sharks being accessed.

“These events are all about the dangers of using loan sharks and also how there are alternative methods of safe finance that can be accessed.”

Anyone who thinks they have been targeted by an illegal money lender or has information about illegal lending is urged to contact the IMLT in confidence.

People can call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 222 or visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk where there is a live chat facility from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

For further details on the three Halloween events please visit the Castle Vale Community Housing Facebook page. 

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: Partnership and collaboration in the face of adversity

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group

There have been some scary headlines about the City Council’s need to serve what is known as a Section 114 notice and while I would not seek to downplay the seriousness of the financial challenges Birmingham now faces, there is a commitment to protect core services and work is underway to set out a recovery plan.

We will support this effort. We have looked at the areas of funding we receive from the local authority and have not identified an immediate impact to services our tenants and residents receive.

As an anchor organisation we have always sought and had a strong working relationship with the City Council and a range of partners in our core communities – working closely with tenant groups, charities like Spitfire Services, faith groups, community groups and schools.

We worked together to help people through the Covid-19 pandemic and are taking the same approach to helping those most vulnerable and in need of support through our Cost of Living Task Force.

Of course this latest news is a worry and the Council will face some tough decisions as it starts to balance its books but our services will continue through CVCH and Compass Support. We will continue to work in partnership supporting other organisations, working together and getting out of the way when others are best placed to deliver in our communities.

I know when things get tough our community responds, Spitfire Services rescued and now run Castle Vale Library and swimming pool and CVCH runs – and is investing in – the Castle Vale Stadium.

We will work with whoever we need to in order to protect the facilities and services our communities hold dear.

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.

 

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your local MP for Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale, I am committed to fighting for the future of Erdington High Street, which faces many challenges. One of the biggest concerns I hear from you is about the impact of gambling on our High Street.

That is why I recently objected to the plans of a betting shop to extend their opening hours as I’m concerned it would fuel crime and anti-social behaviour in our area. I have urged the planning committee to reject this application.

Another issue that I was contacted about was the future of the New Inns Pub, which is a historic landmark and a vital community hub for our area. In response to my letter, I’m glad the owners have confirmed the building will remain a local pub and continues to serve our community for years to come.

I have also invited the West Midlands Chief Constable, to join me for a walk along Erdington High Street. I want him to see and hear the challenges that our local businesses and residents are facing.

Our High Street continues to be let down by the Tory Government, who earlier this year rejected our Levelling Up Fund Bid.

This fund should have helped areas like ours that have been left behind. Instead, affluent areas like the Prime Minister’s own constituency received millions of pounds in funding.

Erdington is my home, and I will continue to fight each and every day for the investment our area deserves.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org