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COMMUNITY ANCHORS: The impact of Council cuts on our communities: and what we can do

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

Like many of you, we have seen the degree and shape of the Council’s funding and service cuts, and they are devastating. At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are deeply concerned about the impact that they will have on our most vulnerable communities. Local charities, groups, foodbanks, and networks are doing their very best, but are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of demand.

As the Council grapples with its financial crisis, we know that budgets are not just numbers – they represent lives, hopes, and the very fabric of our community. Following a decade of austerity, we are particularly concerned about further cuts to Youth Services and Libraries – they are the frontline of providing support, education, a sense of belonging, and safe spaces for our young people.

We know local charities and support networks play a critical role, and these funding cuts mean that unfortunately, some will go under, whilst others will struggle to maintain the already ‘frayed safety net’ that many vulnerable people rely on.

But, as we did during the pandemic, we will be stepping up to the challenge. We have already distributed over £250,000 to local groups to provide essential support services and will redouble efforts to strengthen local networks to attract further resources.

We have urged the Council to work with us and local partners to protect local assets. At Witton Lodge we have a successful track record of doing this – Perry Common Community Hall, Witton Lakes Eco Hub, and Erdington Baths (our latest venture), are some examples of this. But it is not just about buildings, it is about local voices and services – designing and delivering services differently to meet the needs of our communities, and ensuring the Council gets value-for-money.

Our community and city’s recovery relies on us pulling together, taking action, and advocating for change that works with the grain of communities.

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.

NEWS: St Thomas’ Association raise £400 to support brain injury rehabilitation centre

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by St Thomas’ Association and Google Maps)

Earlier this year, members of the St Thomas’ Association handed over a cheque of £400 to West Heath House – a Birmingham based rehabilitation centre that provides care and support for people recovering from brain injury.

The money was raised after kind hearted people at the Erdington social club, situated on Station Road, held fundraising raffles over six weeks and generated a total of £1000 for charity.

Donations were also made to Birmingham Hospice Partnership – who operate John Taylor Hospice on Grange Road, the Alzheimer’s Society – and Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

West Heath House, based in West Heath, is run by the national charity Brainkind and is and is one of the only places in the city that can offer ‘innovative rehabilitation and ongoing support to enable people to thrive after a brain injury.’

The South Birmingham facility was chosen by people from St Thomas’ Association after one of their longstanding members – Colin Anderson, who has played dominoes at the club for over 30 years – became a resident at West Heath House.

Staff from the centre took time from their own personal life to escort Colin to a special dominoes league presentation night at St Thomas’ Association in October last year, traveling across Birmingham and back again, and won the hearts of the people who use the club and know Colin.

After receiving the generous donation from St Thomas’ Association, West Heath House Service Manager, Paul Higgins, responded in writing by saying: ‘I would like to thank all members of the St Thomas Association for their amazingly kind donation. The money will be used for the people we support in a way of their choosing.’

St Thomas’ Association has been part of the Erdington community for nearly 130 years, having first opened its doors in 1895. The club recently had an upgrade worth £200k and offers a vibrant social and events calendar – alongside top of the range facilities for private parties, functions, and corporate bookings.

For more on St Thomas’ Association visit www.saint-toms.co.uk or call (0121) 373 4144

For more on West Heath House visit www.brainkind.org/services/west-heath-house

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: A 2024 wish list for Castle Vale Community Housing

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMUNITY 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.

NEWS: Erdington Walking Group raises hundreds for Diabetes UK at Birmingham Wellness Walk

Words by Liam Smith / Pics by Erdington Walking Group

A local walking group has raised over £350 for Diabetes UK, after taking part in the 10k Birmingham Wellness Walk last month.

Erdington Walking Group (EWG), formed in 2019, gathered in vibrant Diabetes UK t-shirts and painted faces, after taking inspiration from their Diabetes community program run from the Erdington Seventh Day Adventist Church on Wood End Lane. Led by Selina Gooden, the EWG surpassed their fundraising goal and helped support vital research and care services provided by Diabetes UK.

According to the charity, over 4.3 million people in the UK live with diabetes, with almost 14 thousand diabetes related deaths reported in 2019 alone.

Diabetes UK research further states the number of people registering with diabetes from 2020-21 rose by 148,951 from the previous year, with ‘more than 2.4 million people are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the UK’ –  with the condition leading to ‘184 amputations, more than 770 strokes, 590 heart attacks and 2,300 cases of heart failure’ every week.

EWG Leader Selina Gooden told Erdington Local: “I’m thankful to all who helped me to achieve my personal fundraising goal of £100, and due to the funds raised by the other EWG team members we were able to surpass our £100 goal by collectively raising £355 for Diabetes UK.”

Among the cheering crowd, Diabetes UK marshals offered support and encouragement along the route – with live music also adding to the festive yet fundraising atmosphere.

EWG member Hermy Skew said: “I walk daily and have been doing so for years. It helps me process my thoughts and enables my emotions to settle safely. It has kept me physically fit and psychologically resilient.

“My father passed away recently. He had diabetes and all the complications that come with chronic illnesses. A lot of my family and extended family suffer with the condition and its complications.

“Participating in the Birmingham Wellness Walk was an ideal opportunity to support research, indulge in my favourite hobby, and remember my father.

“It was an enjoyable experience, and I was touched by the support of my sponsors and well-wishers who helped me raise £115.” 

Diabetes UK Fundraising Events Manager, Rachel Coombs, added: “My heartfelt thanks to each and every person who walked, supported and fundraised. So far, the event has raised £92,000 for vital funds for the charity.”

For more on EWG visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonwalking or call Selina on 07990 109 117

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: The power of community

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


 
I am sometimes asked what difference community-led organisations really make? Especially given the scale of today’s challenges, such as, the cost-of-living crisis. Events recently held across Erdington start to shed some light on this.

In Wyrley Birch we celebrated the first birthday of Witton Lakes Eco Hub.  It is a shining example of how over many years, local residents and volunteers overcame huge obstacles, and with grit and determination helped to create this wonderful community facility.

Once the site of a derelict building and a rubbish dump, it is now a thriving community hub where residents can enjoy a drink or join in a wide range of activities. Local school children are learning about the environment and a network of community partners will provide advice and practical tips to reduce energy use and fuel bills.

In contrast, a community meeting held at Six Ways Baptist Church regarding HMO’s & exempt accommodation raised serious concerns from residents on issues including crime, antisocial behaviour, and safety. There was palpable anger amongst residents.


 
I’m not certain a strong, local community anchor will have prevented the problems from arising, however, I am confident that these issues will have been raised earlier, with options and possible solutions explored with stakeholders. Maybe this will provide the impetus to create a strong local voice.

At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are huge advocates of communities playing a leading role in shaping their neighbourhoods, and believe more decisions should be taken locally. We continue to make the case for this, and take our message to national and local politicians.

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.

NEWS: Bagot Arms Golf Society hope to raise over £5000 for men’s mental health charity

Words & pics by Liam Smith

Preparations are being made by the Bagot Arms Golf Society ahead of their charity golf day on 21 July 2023, where organisers hope to raise over £5000 for a men’s mental health charity.

The event, which is taking place at Bromsgrove Golf Centre in Worcestershire, is in support of ‘It Takes Balls to Talk’ – a nationwide campaign ‘which uses sporting themes to encourage people, particularly men, to talk about how they feel.’

According to the charity’s website, 5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders, for example anxiety or depression. The website further states suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst males aged 15 to 29, and that three out of four of all suicides are men.

The Bagot Arms Golf Society, now operating out of Hollyfields Conference & Sports Centre in Pype Hayes, formed in 2009 out of the old Bagot Arms pub less than a mile away from Pype Hayes Golf Club.

The society have a history of organising and being a part of fundraising events and charity days, including a ’72 holes in one day’ challenge in aid of MacMillan which saw four members raise over £5,000 for the cancer charity.

They have also raised money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.

Tony Roche, founding member of the Bagot Arms Golf Society told Erdington Local: “Mental health issues can affect anyone and can be caused by several factors. Suicide continues to be three times more common in men than in women.”

Steven Smith, also a founding member and Pype Hayes resident, told: “Since our inception in 2009, we have always felt it important that we try to raise money for charities. It is an important part of our society.

“We have a day upcoming in July, which is fully booked, with 60 golfers in attendance and all 18 holes of the course generously sponsored by local businesses.”

The society are still actively raising as much as they can as the event nears.

Steven added: “We have recently set up a JustGiving page. We set an initial target of £1,000 and we have already hit £735 and it would be great if any of your readers could help.”

The Pype Hayes golf group hope to raise over £5,000 with all the money raised from the event along with online donations. A JustGiving page can be found here: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bagotarms-golfsociety

For more on the Bagot Arms Golf Society visit: www.bagotarmsgs.com

For more on the ‘It Takes Balls to Talk’ campaign visit: www.ittakesballstotalk.com

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Local residents send out over 300 presents through WLCA Christmas Gifts Appeal

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Witton Lodge Community Association

Over the festive season, local residents sent out over 300 presents to families and children in Perry Common – donated and distributed through the Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) Christmas Gifts Appeal.

To help fight the hardship many have been facing this year, and to help every child in Perry Common wake up to a gift on Christmas morning, in November last year WLCA began asking friends and neighbours to clear out their cupboards and donate unwanted or forgotten toys.

Donation boxes were established at the Witton Lakes Eco Hub, Perry Common Community Hall, Sycamore Court, and the Health and Wellbeing Hub on Erdington High Street – with kind hearted people from all across Erdington leaving good-as-new toys and gifts.

Local groups also joined in on the seasonal charity drive, with members of the Slimming World club that meet twice a week at Highcroft Community Centre also donating ‘anything they could spare’ to the Christmas Gifts Appeal.

Staff from WLCA and a team of local elves (volunteers) then set about wrapping everything in time for Christmas Day and delivering the presents across the Perry Common community.

In total, over 300 gifts were sent out to families – including boxed games for children, cuddly toys, and clothes to keep you warm over the winter months.

One local woman and grandmother, Jane Gaskin, donated over 20 gifts to the Christmas Gifts Appeal, with people responding by recognising her goodwill as “a Christmas miracle” and how she “always have had a heart of gold”.

Her daughter, Naomi Smith, added: “Well done mom, I’m glad you have been able to help some families who may need it this Christmas, and that the cupboard under the stairs is no longer a death trap of toys waiting to bury me and the cats!”

Jane Gaskin responded: “I don’t know about Christmas miracle I just don’t think kids should go without and if I can help I will.”

Over the festive season, the team at WLCA also put together 100 ‘Winter Warmer packs’ to help older residents fight the fuel crisis and stay safe and warm this winter – as well as organising a special ‘free festive lunch’ for local volunteers, in partnership with the Aston Vila Foundation.

WLCA further supported Wilson Stuart School as their pupils made a special visit to the Witton Lakes Eco Hub to get into the festive spirit by decorating the community centre’s Christmas tree.

A spokesperson from WLCA said: “We would like to send a massive heartfelt thankyou to EVERYONE who donated toys and gifts to our Christmas Gift Appeal.

“We have been overwhelmed with the kindness of local residents whose generosity will allow us to bring festive cheer to families and children in need.”

Steve Sharma, WLCA Communications and Marketing Coordinator, added: “The generosity of local residents supporting our Christmas Gifts Appeal has been overwhelming. Thanks to them, families who are struggling will wake up with gifts for their children on Christmas Day. It really does showcase community spirit at its best.

“Our volunteers have also been magnificent, putting the Winter Warmer packs together and distributing them to the elderly and vulnerable.

“A special mention must also go to pupils from Wilson Stuart School who visited the Witton Lakes Eco Hub to decorate our Christmas Tree and did such a brilliant job.”

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