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: Lisieux Trust closes Marsh Lane Disability Information and Resource Centre

Words & pics by Ed King

As businesses and community centres begin to reopen, Lisieux Trust has decided to keep its Marsh Lane based Disability Information and Resource Centre (DIRC) permanently closed.

Launching the Erdington based facility in 2006, the DIRC has “welcomed over 5,000 people through our doors,” – offering advice and guidance to people disabilities, as well as their families and carers.

Opening in 2006, the Marsh Lane Disability Information and Resource Centre was financed by £166,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.

But due to a lack of funding or financial support, the DIRC is shutting the doors for good – as the learning disability charity continue caring for the 21 residents and 28 tenants that live in their residential care homes and supported living accommodations across Erdington and Sutton Coldfield.

If we continue to use up our reserves, we risk threatening the quality of the other services we provide for people with learning disabilities,” explains Jess Alsop-Greenacre, CEO at Lisieux Trust, “which is not something we’re willing to gamble on. It’s in our absolute best interest to redirect these resources to maintain the high-quality residential care and supported living services that we provide.

The DIRC opened over 13 years ago, providing support services to people with disabilities and their families and carers.

Clients of the centre relied on staff and volunteers to provide information and advice about disability-related benefits, and support with form-filling, finances, and IT skills, amongst other services. This support helped to equip people with disabilities with the knowledge and confidence to live more independently.

But the closure of the Marsh Lane centre could leave a troubling gap in the social care network for disabled people across Erdington and Sutton Coldfield.

We know the closure of the centre might concern some of the clients who visit it regularly,” continues Jess Alsop-Greenacre. “We’re already living through worrying times, and we don’t wish to add any further stress to those already experiencing vulnerabilities. As such, we’ve put provisions in place to help signpost service users to other local organisations that can help.  

We would urge anyone who’s worried about this decision to get in touch with us, so we can help point them in the right direction.” 

To find out more about the Lisieux Trust, visit www.lisieuxtrust.org.uk

For more direct information on the Marsh Lane based Disability Information and Resource Centre, click here to visit the site’s Facebook page.

NEWS: Erdington residents ‘not as positive’ about police support following burglaries – compared to neighbours in Sutton Coldfield

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington residents are ‘not as positive’ about the support they received from their local police Neighbourhood Team (NHT) following up burglaries, as compared to those in neighbouring Sutton Coldfield.

After a survey of over 200 victims of residential burglaries was conducted by officers from Erdington and Sutton Coldfield Neighbourhood Teams, responses show a chasm of concern between victims of break ins across the two districts.

In Sutton Coldfield, the survey found ‘the majority of residents received a visit from a NHT representative… (finding) these visits helpful and reassuring, with most feeling safer in their home following the visit.’

Whist for residents in Erdington, which suffers from around 1-3% more residential burglaries per month, the police’s survey found ‘their experiences were not as positive, particularly about the visits or contact they received from the NHTs.’

Despite rates of residential burglaries falling across both districts, with home break ins dropping by 76% in Sutton Coldfield and 16% in Erdington – as compared to the same time in 2019, investigation into police support following the crime has shown alarmingly mixed results.

Local resident, Sue Bicknell, has experienced two burglaries in the past few years. “The first time, I came home and there was a man standing in my hallway,” explains Sue. “I immediately slammed the door shut and called the police, who arrived in a couple of mins. Their response was excellent – they sent about five officers to my home and had cars scouring the streets.

“Then last year I was burgled again – I came home to find every draw and every cupboard had been turned over. The forensic team arrived a few hours later, with the Neighbourhood Team coming the next day – offering advice and links to Victim Support. No suggestions were made about improving my home security, but again I felt their response was good.”

Another Erdington resident, who wants to remain anonymous, called the police after she disturbed a violent gang trying to break into her home.

The nine masked men were messing with the key hole in the door,” explains the local mum, “I thought it was my brother in law, but it wasn’t.

As I opened the door they kicked it into my belly, I was seven months pregnant at the time, then went to hit me with a bat. I ran off into the bathroom shouting to my partner, as he came down they ran off.

I phoned the police and it took them 45 minutes to get to my home. They knocked on my neighbour’s doors, checked if the men had dropped anything, asked me questions and then left.

I didn’t hear anything from the police for about a month, so I went to Jack Dromey MP who wrote and asked the police why they hadn’t come back and checked up. Or even just rung us. The police replied that they were dealing with better investigations.”

But according to the recent survey, the police are taking steps to improve their response to burglaries in Erdington and to address the imbalance between the districts – examining how the Neighbourhood Teams can ‘be as effective in Erdington as it is in Sutton Coldfield.’

After contacting the police directly, Inspector Haroon Chughtai – who oversees the police teams in both Erdington and Sutton Coldfield – told Erdington Local:

I am convinced that while we play a part in investigating, patrolling , managing persistent offenders around burglaries the biggest contribution to reducing burglaries will come from focused work around prevention – whether that is target hardening individual homes through security measures such as alarms, CCTV, to simple things like making sure windows are not left open, being part of an active Neighbourhood Watch Team.

This survey was done to try and see what changes victims of burglary made post the offence and whether our visits helped them make positive changes.

We are trying to understand if the officers in Sutton and doing anything different to those in Erdington and if they are, how we can replicate it.”

To find out more about the police teams in your area, click here and enter the name of your location. Or for direct updates from West Midlands Police, visit www.wmnow.co.uk

To find out more about the police team in Erdington, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/node/2710

For more on the Neighbourhood Watch schemes in your area, visit www.ourwatch.org.uk

For help and advice as a victim of crime, to contact Victim Support visit www.victimsupport.org.uk

NEWS: Joshua’s Convenience Store offers free deliveries to ‘elderly and vulnerable’ local residents

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics by Ed King

Joshua’s Convenience Store, on Boldmere Road, are offering free deliveries for ‘the elderly and the vulnerable’ – helping people access food and provisions during the coronavirus crisis.

A sign in the front window states: ‘At Joshua’s, we are willing to deliver to the elderly and the vulnerable. Please contact us on any of the numbers below. We have enough supplies to cater for those most in need. We won’t charge for delivery. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.’

People can contact Joshua’s through both the shop’s landline number and a mobile: (0121) 373 0113 or 07513 712 083

Simple acts of kindness can go a long way, and across Erdington and Sutton Coldfield local businesses have been adapting to best serve their community and customers in the face of COVID-19.

We help deliver to about 10 vulnerable and elderly people per day,” explains Tariq Mahmood, whose family have owned and run Joshua’s Convenience Store since 2007, “it’s heart-warming. It’s good to do a service for the community.”

Tariq explains that whilst most of his customers are local to the Erdington/Sutton Coldfield area, the sign has been posted by some of the shop’s regulars across their own social media – leading to calls for deliveries to people self-isolating outside of the immediate area.

But Joshua’s is still widely used by the people of Boldmere – alongside the stacked shelves of food, drinks, and household essentials, the shop can also take bill payments, has a cash machine, and runs paper deliveries to local residents.

And whilst smaller convenience stores have historically struggled to compete with large supermarkets, especially in terms of price and popularity, being a family owned business allows Joshua’s to be more flexible to their customer’s needs.

All we want now is a post office,” tells Tariq heartily, “I now have to work an extra three hours a day; I visit multiple warehouses to find the goods my customers need. Flour, pasta, and toilet roll are all in short supply still, but you just have to get on with it and do your best.”

Joshua’s Convenience Store is located at 392 Boldmere Rd, B73 5EZ. To contact Joshua’s, you can call (0121) 373 0113 or 07513 712 083