NEWS: Safer Streets host Community Litter Pick and Fun Day in Stockland Green

Words & pics by Ed King

The Safter Streets team are organising two events across March and April, hoping to bring local residents together whilst making Stockland Green and cleaner and safer place to be.

On Saturday, 26 March, people are invited to take part in a special Community Litter Pick – starting at the Highcroft Centre from 10am, with free cake and coffee for anyone taking part.

The community clean up is being held following an ‘all out day’ on Friday, 25 March  – where Birmingham City Council  workers will tackle the waste left by illegal fly tipping, with locals following up the next day.

Safer Streets hope the combined two day effort will make a real impact to an area of Stockland Green blighted by dangerous street waste and uncollected refuse.

Community Partnership Manager Ned Crosher-Markwell, who delivers the Safer Streets project in Stockland Green on behalf of The Pioneer Group, said: “It will be great to get the community together to do something positive, help our neighbours and our environment and take pride in our neighbourhood.

“Stockland Green is filled with lots of wonderful people who care passionately about their home, it seems fitting that we come together to try and make that home a little nicer for everyone.

“Hopefully with a combined effort between the Council and community can start to turn the tide and remind people why they should love their street.”

Safer Streets is a Government funded initiative that brought £423,000 to Stockland Green, to help tackle street level crime, anti social behaviour, and to provide residents with home security equipment.

Money was also made available from the Safer Street fund to support community projects and action groups in the area.

The nearly half a million pound pot of money was secured following after a joint application from Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster.

Earlier in March, the Safer Streets team have been distributing free home security and crime prevention kits to local Stockland Green residents, living on and around Slade Road, including personal alarms, home security support, and items to combat vehicle theft.

Then on 16 April, Safer Streets are also hosting a special Fun Day, delivered in partnership with The Pioneer Group and West Midlands Police.

Ned added: “It is a day where you can meet your local policing team, learn a little about safety but also have some fun and entertain the kids.

“We will have a bouncy castle, face painting, and a chance to win some sweeties. We also hope to have a visit from the Fire Service with their fire engine and an opportunity for local community groups to have a stall and promote their causes.”

For more information on the Safter Streets Community Litter Pick or Funday email saferstreets@pioneergroup.org.uk

NEWS: Erdington Task Force sets a new manifesto of constituency wide support as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted

Words & pics by Ed King

Established in response to coronavirus, the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force was set up to support people during the pandemic – reaching thousands of vulnerable and isolated residents with food, essential supplies, financial advice, health and wellbeing activities, and further support services.

Now as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and communities across the world are looking at life beyond the pandemic, so is the Taskforce – dropping the coronavirus moniker and exploring how it can continue to support people across Erdington.

Renamed the Erdington Task Force, the collective of local stakeholders has issued a new manifesto, with housing, education, employment, and regeneration at its core.

Continuing their duty of care for the vulnerable, isolated, and elderly, the Erdington Task Force want to carry on providing what many have found to be essential support services – finding whilst Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted, people across Erdington are still suffering from the impact of the virus.

To help deliver this programme of support, Erdington Task Force mobilises a squad of almost 250 volunteers to carry out tasks and activities across the constituency.

Chair of the Erdington Task Force is Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA). Mr Hussain told Erdington Local:

“The Erdington (Covid-19) Task Force provided a crucial and rapid response to the pandemic.

“Members repurposed existing and developed new services to support our communities by mobilising hundreds of volunteers and co-ordinating vital food distribution and support activities to thousands of vulnerable residents across the constituency.

“The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated deep-seated inequalities, especially poverty and economic hardship, health inequalities and digital exclusion.

“So now is the right time to refresh our partnerships and create a new settlement, which recognises and celebrates the central role of the refreshed Erdington Task Force in the life, prosperity and future of the constituency.”

Comprised of local charities, support organisations, community champions, and politicians, the Erdington Task Force is a collective of local stakeholders who have deep rooted relationships within the constituency.

Facilitated by WLCA, the Erdington Task Force also has organisations including Active Arts, Spitfire Service, The Pioneer Groups, Bethany Foodbank, Erdington Community Volunteers, Urban Devotion, West Midlands Police, and The Active Wellbeing Society as members – establishing a network of support from Castle Vale to Kingstanding.

The Erdington (Covid-19) Task Force was established in April 2020, to support the constituency during the coronavirus pandemic.

To read the new Erdington Task Force manifesto in full visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Erdington-Task-Force-Community-Manifesto-2022

ELECTION NEWS: Conservative MP candidate Robert Alden will “work closely” with Policing Minister to tackle crime in Erdington

By Erdington Local election news team

Cllr Robert Alden has stated he will “work closely with the (policing) minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel” to ensure people will be safer on the streets of Erdington, during a visit from Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP.

Out on the campaign trail, ahead of the by election on 3 March, local lad and Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden brought the Policing Minister to Erdington – to see first hand the problems he wants to tackle in the constituency.

Previous visits have seen Nadhim Zahawi MP (Secretary of State for Education) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency) also join Robert Alden in Erdington.

On the streets of Stockland Green with Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP, Cllr Alden was speaking after a walking meeting around Slade Road.

The Conservative MP candidate and Policing Minister were discussing how the Government’s Safer Streets funding is being spent in the area and Robert Alden’s plans to tackle crime.

Safer Streets is a government led initiative that has recently seen £432,000 invested into Stockland Green – addressing issues over street crime and public safety, alongside grant funding for projects by local community groups.

Currently the Ward Councillor for Erdington, if elected MP Robert Alden would be responsible for all areas across the constituency.

If elected, Alden has stated his intention to fight for more police officers on the ground, continued support for the Safe Streets programme, and to challenge planning laws and licensing around HMO and exempt accommodation providers.

Cllr Alden also wants to explore more Public Space Protection Orders like the one recently reinstated in Erdington Town Centre, giving the police extended powers to tackle street level anti social behaviour.

“I was delighted to welcome Kit Malthouse to Erdington constituency today to discuss crime and the impact it is having here,” Robert said.

“We had a constructive talk on how to tackle things like anti-social behaviour and drugs crime which can be a blight on lives around here.

“He was on board with my plans to make the area safer such as lobbying for more police officers here as part of the Government’s 20,000 officer recruitment programme.

“I also told him how I want to work with various organisations and the police here to tackle some of the crime issues in areas like Stockland Green and Kingstanding and expand on the positive impact from the Government-funded Safer Streets scheme around the Slade Road area.

“But ultimately, I can only work closely with the minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel to put my plans into action if I am elected MP next month.

“People in Castle Vale, Erdington and Kingstanding have talked to me about their worries surrounding crime during this campaign and the way my plan to keep streets safe can make a difference.

“I want to be our MP so I will be able to implement my plan, tackle these issues and make sure everyone who lives and works here feels safer on the streets and in their homes,” he added.

Erdington will elect its next Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.

The 12 candidates contesting the Birmingham Erdington seat are: Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), Lee Dargue (Liberal Democrats), Michael Lutwyche (Independent), Jack Brookes (Reform UK), Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green), Thomas O’Rouke (Independent), Mel Mbondiah (Christian People’s Alliance), Clifton Holmes (Independent), David Laurence Bishop (Militant Bus-Pass Elvis Party), The Good Knight Sir NosDa (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party).

For more on Cllr Robert Alden and the Erdington Conservatives visit www.erdingtonconservatives.org.uk

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.”

FEATURE: Remembering Jack – Erdington High Street memorial for “a giant of Birmingham politics”

Words by Ed King / Pics by Claire Taylor

Erdington High Street has been the centrepiece of many recent political battles – from clarion calls for more community policing and a Public Space Protection Order, to ambitious regeneration plans that could bring in millions, a buzz has been returning to the once vibrant throughfare.

But on Sunday 16 January the High Street stood still, as hundreds gathered to pay their respects to “a giant of Birmingham politics and a very, very good man.”

Just over a week beforehand, the Erdington MP Jack Dromey was discovered dead at his constituency residence. Following ten days of shock and sadness, this was the day people came to say their goodbyes.

“We’re all Jack’s friends,” exclaims Gerard Goshawk, the well known minister from Six Ways Baptist Church who is introducing speakers onto the stage – a temporary platform outside the Co-op on Erdington High Street – and reminding the bipartisan crowd they are indeed just that.

A fierce trade unionist before being elected MP in 2010, Jack Dromey was known as a dyed in the wool “Labour man”, but also a canny campaigner who would extend a hand “across the political divide” to get the job done.

Standing shoulder to shoulder at his memorial are the leaders of both the Birmingham Conservative and Labour parties, further reflecting the impact of a man who, as Cllr Ian Ward would later state on stage, “was never blinkered or tribal when it comes to working constructively”.

Today’s cold January concourse hosts hundreds more well wishers from all backgrounds and belief systems – local MPs and councillors, Erdington residents and families, business owners and house builders.

Also in attendence are local campaign groups such as Short Heath Fields Trust – who despite spending much of their time locked in heated debates with Jack Dromey, maintained a healthy respect for a politician who ultimately “kept his word.”

Organised by the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce, of which Jack Dromey was a “driving force” behind, the memorial is being delivered by two organisations who knew the late MP well – Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) and Active Arts – alongside Reverend Gerard Goshawk.

With more friends and figureheads waiting in the wings, a friendly reminder from Gerard to keep all speeches under two minutes launches proceedings gets a ripple of laughter from the crowd – mirroring the minister’s call for celebration and humour amongst the grief.

First to speak is Cllr Josh Jones (Lab, Stockland Green), who talks through his memories of meeting Jack during his first General Election campaign in 2010, to standing beside him as one of the city’s youngest campaign agents in the MP’s subsequent bids for the Erdington seat.

But it was the heartfelt memory of Jack and wife Harriet Harman cancelling their family holiday to be at Josh’s wedding that hammers home the closeness of their relationship, one evolving from professional to personal, and rubber stamps the sentiment of remembrance that would be reiterated throughout the afternoon.

“It feels incredibly strange and weird to be thinking of Erdington without Jack… a wonderful MP, a wonderful friend, a wonderful comrade. I will miss him very, very dearly.”

Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Holyhead) follows Josh Jones, regaling her own memories of a man who “came with so many titles…” and “encouraged people to be a better version of themselves”. Before the stage is set for Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington), arguably Jack Dromey’s most immediate political postcode rival.

Immediately paying tribute to the late Penny Holbrook, the Stockland Green councillor who was also found dead at home back in November last year, Cllr Alden goes on to honour Jack Dromey’s “formidable reputation” in trade unions and politics, a man “passionate for worker’s rights”.

Afzal Hussain and Linda Hines MBE, WLCA Chief Officer and Resident Director respectively, stand together next – representing one of the key constituency stakeholders, who worked closely with Jack Dromey for over a decade on projects ranging from social care to High Street regeneration.

“Jack was a principled politician,” begins Afzal, “he had huge convictions and sense of justice and fairness,” before reminding the crowd of Jack’s pivotal work through the “the dark days” of the coronavirus crisis and his role on the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce.

A quick joke about Jack’s love of a “a good photo”, and an anecdote from Linda about meeting Jack when she was a last minute stand in for Santa (there are pictures), round off a eulogy from two more people who will struggle to see Erdington in the same way again.

Stepping back into the political arena, Birmingham City Council Leader and Shard End representative, Cllr Ian Ward, is next to speak – mourning the loss of “a great friend, inspirational colleague, and a good man.”

A close personal and professional ally, Cllr Ward continues to reiterate Jack Dromey’s ability to bring warring fractions together for the greater good – celebrating the late MP’s commitment “to give a voice to the unheard” and his “tireless enthusiasm and dogged determination”. Traits many in today’s crowd will both recognise and be grateful for.

But simplicity is often the clearest full stop, as Cllr Ward sums up his earnest goodbye to “ultimately a decent and principled man” by extending condolences to the grieving family he has left behind – hoping they know just “how much Jack was loved here in Birmingham.”

Jess Phillips MP for Yardley is next to address the crowd, having known Jack since working in his constituency office before becoming elected and whose own Yardley office has now stepped in to assist with “urgent” casework in Erdington.

A defiantly human face in the political mirror, Jess begins telling the second city crowd, “your stories, your lives, were always his very first and most pressing concern.

“Jack fell in love (with Birmingham), he chose us, and he saw what many outside of Birmingham don’t see – it may not be the prettiest but the people are magnificent. You won his heart.”

Reminding us of Jack Dromey’s devotion to his family, be it round a dinner table or in the halls of power, a memory of “the regulation weekly slide show of the pictures of Jack’s grandchildren” makes way for a live performance of a special jig written in Jack Dromey’s honour by the head of the Erdington Arts Forum, Jobe Baker Sullivan.

And as the music plays, paying homage to Jack Dromey’s Irish roots, the sun literally begins to shine.

A sharp reminder of Jack Dromey’s important role in the lives of his Erdington constituents comes as Jane Roche celebrates the MP’s support for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign. Jane lost both her sister and father to coronavirus within a week of each other, with Jack picking up the charge and pushing for a public inquiry in the house.

Ray Goodwin joins Jane on stage, both from the Castle Vale based Spitfire Support Services, and reiterates the impact of “the most remarkable man we have met; fearless, passionate, and caring – he fought for justice and fairness all his life.”

The day continues and the temperature drops, but the crowd standfast, as further messages of love and memories of laughter come flooding off stage. Representatives of local community groups, religious institutions, law enforcement, and local schools all offer their reasons for celebrating the life and legacy of Jack Dromey.

The crowd are invited to write messages of condolences for Jack Dromey’s family, hand written notes to be delivered by Active Arts and the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce, before the last opportunity to speak goes to Liam Byrne – Member of Parliament for the neighbouring constituency of Hodge Hill.

Liam’s own father was at school with Jack Dromey, the MP remembers, and the actions and integrity of that generation have clearly left their mark on the man – as Hodge Hill’s voice in the house walks us down Jack’s “long march for justice”.

“Sometimes that road is steep,” continues Liam, “sometimes that road is hard, sometimes on that road we get weary.

“And it’s at those points that you need someone to put an arm around you, to give you warm words, to tell you it’s going to be OK, to tell you you’re a superstar.

“Jack put the fuel in the tank all of us in the fight for justice. He was the best booster that has ever been invented… Britain’s second city has lost its greatest citizen.”

R.I.P. Jack.

Watch Liam Byrne MP speaking at the memorial for Jack Dromey MP

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

FEATURE: Remembering Jack – tributes to the late Erdington MP, Jack Dromey

By Ed King

On Friday 7 January, only a week into the New Year, the longstanding Erdington MP Jack Dromey was found dead at his constituency residence – aged 73.

Erdington Local asked local organisations, stakeholders, colleagues, and community champions who knew Jack to contribute some words and pictures in remembrance.

A significant part of Erdington since being elected MP in 2010, Jack Dromey was involved in numerous projects and initiatives to support the constituency.

From his work with the Erdington Covid Taskforce and North Birmingham Economic Recovery Plan, to every food bank or school road safety campaign that needed his support – the impact of Jack Dromey’s death will be felt by countless across the Erdington constituency and beyond.

Erdington Local wishes to extend our condolences to Jack Dromey’s family, friends, and close colleagues. We hope the following is a welcomed epitaph to a man who will be sorely missed and mourned for. RIP Jack.

With thanks to the following for their contributions:

Witton Lodge Community Association, The Pioneer Group, Compass Support, Spitfire Advice and Support Services, Castle Vale Community Partnership, The Hospice Charity Partnership, Save Our Schools West Midlands, Active Arts Castle Vale, Erdington Local, Erdington Arts Forum, Kingstanding Food Community,  Urban Devotion, Andy Street – Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority, Cllr Robert Alden, Unite the Union, Erdington Labour Party, Josh Jones, Naziah Rasheed, Birmingham Leader Cllr Ian Ward, Liam Byrne MP (Hodge Hill), Jess Phillips MP (Yardley), Preet Kaur Gill MP (Edgbaston), Shabana Mahmood MP (Ladywood), Steve McCabe MP (Selly Oak), Short Heath Fields Trust, Short Heath Residents Action Group, Abbey Catholic Primary School, Paul Jennings, Haroon Chughtai, Simon Foster – West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.

With special thanks to the staff from Jack Dromey’s offices in Erdington and Westminster.

Remembering Jack – pictures and messages of rememberence

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“We are shocked and deeply saddened at Jack Dromey’s sudden passing. We have lost a principled public servant and a kind, generous and thoroughly decent man.

“At Witton Lodge Community Association, we had the privilege of working with Jack for over a decade and in recent years almost on a weekly basis. He was a friend of the Association.

“His determination to act for local people was second to none – whether helping to solve problems, creating opportunities to improve lives or celebrating the richness of local communities.

“He was an engaging and energetic man who collaborated with many, combining a mixture of good grace and steeliness to get things done. We saw this first hand through his leadership of the Erdington Taskforce and the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Board, through which we were able to support thousands of residents during the pandemic.

“Jack’s legacy will live on in his many accomplishments and the lives that he touched. Our heartfelt condolences to Jack’s family, friends, and colleagues. RIP Jack.”

Afzal Hussain / Chief Officer, Witton Lodge Community Association

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“Jack was so much more than a hardworking constituency MP; he had a real passion and sense of purpose in his work to fight for every constituency and make their lives better. He has been an unwavering supporter of our work and that of all social landlords and partners working across the communities. Jack advocated for his constituents across many issues, not least ensuring they had secure, well-paid work and decent housing and communities in which they can thrive.

“He had chaired the Castle Vale Neighbourhood Partnership Board for many years and done so in a way that paid no regard to tribal politics – it was always about getting the best possible outcome for the people he served. He was the best MP I have ever had the privilege to work alongside and he will leave a huge chasm in our communities that will be hard to fill. My thoughts are with his family, friends, his wife, children, grandchildren who he spoke of frequently and with such joy.”

Simon Wilson / CEO, The Pioneer Group

“Jack was an amazing MP who strongly supported the communities of Erdington. He was a strong arm in lobbying for improving people’s circumstances and was particularly engaged in some of our work with young people and families over the years. He will be dearly missed.”

Lisa Martinali / Community Regeneration Director, The Pioneer Group

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“Jack was simply the most remarkable man I have met, fearless, compassionate and caring, he saw something in me (personally) which I didn’t and through his kindness and support enabled me to see it also, I will be forever grateful.

“At Spitfire Services he became part of our collective Castle Vale family. A friend colleague and one of the greatest parliamentarians he will be missed terribly, there are not words to say how I feel about Jack’s passing. My thoughts are with his family.”

Ray Goodwin / Chief Executive, Spitfire Advice and Support Services

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“Jack has carried on with the tradition of providing senior leadership to the Castle Vale Community Partnership building on the likes of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and Lord Rooker. Over the last four years, he has helped the partnership in securing funding for a range of community projects and fought for the support of residents throughout our communities.

“Jack always had the people at the heart of everything he did, and his legacy shall live on through the lives he has touched. We will always be whole-heartedly grateful for his dedication, and he shall be deeply missed.”

Sue Spicer / Vice Chair, Castle Vale Community Partnership

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“Jack was a huge advocate, supporter and friend of John Taylor Hospice in Erdington. His work locally and with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Palliative and End of Life Care reflected his commitment to the hospice movement and his constituents.

“Jack was a regular visitor to the hospice and always looked to find a way to help and support in any way he could. Warm, friendly and engaging, he showed humility and kindnesses to the people he met, he will be dearly missed by us all. Our thoughts are now with Jack’s family and friends.”

Simon Fuller / Chief Executive Officer, The Hospice Charity Partnership

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“The whole SOS family has been devastated by the tragic and sudden death of MP Jack Dromey. A wonderful politician, with a Trade Union heart. Passionate about campaigning for children’s rights, he supported SOS in so many of our actions and was driven to ensure ALL children had access to a good education.

“We will miss him dearly and send our love and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Kate Taylor, on behalf Save Our Schools West Midlands

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“The grief has caught many of us by surprise. Jack Dromey was the local MP – the person we demanded to be whatever we needed in any day because he was our local elect and in a position of responsibility. Actually, he was our captain, our comrade, our friend.

“One of the best things about my work in Erdington was getting to know Jack. He gave his all for Erdington, much will never be fully appreciated but his legacy is already and will be enormous. I have some very fond memories of Jack – throwing himself into creative projects including holding a vegetable for a photo shoot, enjoying many Evenings of Creativity, and walking with pride as part of our diverse community with Little Amal.

“It’s hard to now imagine an event or meeting without him being there. We will still save a seat for you. Thank you Jack, for being you, we will miss you.”

Claire Marshall / Project Director, Active Arts Castle Vale

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“A fierce supporter of Erdington Local, Jack was always championing the voices of Erdington and pushing us to celebrate the constituency’s achievements, endeavours, and people. He was immensely proud of Erdington and made damn sure others knew why. Not everyone in office cares as he did.

“Always available, Jack never hid from a contentious issue or a tough question. He was a man who could be careful with his words, but never lied. It would have been incredible to report on him ‘in action’ during the upcoming elections, a real tour de force.

“I told him this many times, but we wouldn’t have made it without his help. Plain truth. This is a real, tragic loss. RIP Jack, rattling the pearly gates with a battle cry for justice no doubt.”

Ed King / Editor-in-Chief, Erdington Local

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“I, along with many other musicians and artists in the local area, will miss Jack deeply. He was a champion of the arts, really seeing the value in what creativity does for the soul.’

Jobe Baker Sullivan / Erdington Arts Forum

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“Jack possessed a rare combination of concrete convictions with a willingness to collaborate to get things done. When the Lakeside Children’s Centre was threatened with closure it was Jack’s ability to draw people together from across the political spectrum that ensured we won the case for it to remain open.

“His influence took a grassroots campaign right to the corridors of people; he gave people a platform to speak rather than presuming to speak for him. I have lost count of the number of local people Jack described as ‘remarkable’. He was undoubtedly a remarkable man himself who has left an indelible imprint on our community and will be sorely missed.”

Andy Winmill / Director, Urban Devotion

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“Today we lost a true democrat.  Jack was a principled politician who fervently believed that the democratic process could improve the lives of his residents. His natural respect for political leaders, officers and even his political adversaries revealed his own guiding principles.

“He was a man schooled in the Union, a man who excelled in the art of politics, but one who always understood its ultimate purpose. He was a great collaborator always able to put party differences aside for the greater good. He was inventive, thoughtful, and some might even say a touch mischievous, but always in the name of getting an outcome that he believed was right.

“In recent years it has been a privilege to work with him and experience his unshakable belief in the value of uniting to protect the interests of workers, and nowhere more so than in Erdington. His many battles, campaigns, and passions all bore this hallmark.

“Birmingham has lost a dedicated servant. Parliament has lost a true believer. And we have all lost a generous, inclusive friend who set a fine example.”

Andy Street / Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority

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“The shocking news that Jack Dromey MP had passed has rocked our local community and wider. From his days as a Trade Union organiser Jack Dromey built a reputation as a formidable organiser and public speaker, skills that went on to serve him well as in his later years he moved into frontline politics. The outpouring of tributes that have been seen since demonstrate the man that Jack was and the regard with which he was held.

“Nationally Jack had a reputation as a passionate defender of worker’s rights, who had dedicated his life to the Labour movement. Eventually going on to serve in the Shadow Cabinet nationally under Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn, and Kier Starmer.

“From Jack’s rise to national fame, for his work organising and supporting the Grunwick strikes, to his most recent work supporting workers at GKN, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Jack always put solidarity with workers first”.

“While over the years Jack and I would often find ourselves as political opponents at election time; during the Covid-19 pandemic, Jack worked cross-party with my colleagues and I on the Council and with community groups to support residents through the Erdington Covid -19 Taskforce and the North Birmingham Economic recovery group working jointly with local stakeholders.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jack’s family and friends at this awful time.”

Cllr Robert Alden / Erdington Ward Councillor & Leader of Birmingham Conservatives

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“Having worked with Jack over the years on a number of issues, not least the pending closure of our site, I can honestly say that it was an honour and a privilege to call him a colleague and a friend.

“Jack was a champion for working people as a trade unionist and as an MP for Erdington he has fought tirelessly over the years for manufacturing, especially automotive in the West Midlands. As Jack would always say once a trade unionist always a trade unionist.

“His passing will be a huge loss to not just his constituents in Erdington but to the larger Labour and Trade union movement. God bless Jack.”

Frank Duffy, GKN Unite convener

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“Erdington Labour Party is devastated by the tragic loss of our brilliant Member of Parliament, Jack Dromey. Jack was a wonderful man who cared deeply about delivering a better life for the people of Erdington, Birmingham and the UK.

“He fought hard every day to work towards a society based on egalitarianism, friendship, commonality, and kindness. He has done so much for the people Erdington and the members of our Party, that we will be forever grateful for the enormous contribution he made to our lives. He will be missed deeply.”

Message from the Erdington Labour Party

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“I can’t really put into words what an inspiration Jack has been to me since I first met him in February 2010.

“He continuously encouraged and supported me in any way he could and always had unconditional belief in me.

“He was an absolutely wonderful man and the world is a much worse place without him in it. He will be sorely missed by many for the brilliant MP, trade unionist and campaigner he was or for his numerous achievements, but I will just deeply miss my friend Jack.”

Cllr Josh Jones, Stockland Green

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“I was privileged to work with Jack for the past eight months. During this time I found him very supportive, motivational, and encouraging.

“He always said to believe in yourself.  ‘There is no mountain you cannot climb, there is nothing you cannot achieve,’ that was his gift to me which will remain with me forever. I will miss him hugely.”

Naziah Rasheed / Birmingham Labour Party BAME Officer

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“It’s a measure of the way Jack lived his life that the last meeting I had with him was to discuss a memorial for Erdington families who have lost loved ones to Covid. His first thought was always to give a voice to the unheard and he genuinely listened to and cared about the community he represented.

“Whether it was campaigning for people’s jobs, highlighting injustice or fighting cuts, Jack was a true Labour man, a man of strong values who was always on the side of the underdog.

“In the last couple of years, he worked closely with the Covid-19 bereaved families and worked tirelessly to give them a voice. He never stopped working for his constituents and the people of Erdington have lost a true champion.”

Cllr Ian Ward / Leader of Birmingham City Council

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“Jack Dromey was quite simply the greatest campaigner most of us have ever worked with. From his very first sit-ins to helping marshal the votes for Harriet’s bid to become Commons Speaker, Jack was not simply a founder member of the feminist husband’s caucus, his life was a crusade for decency pursued quite literally right into the final hours of his life.

“In Birmingham we are stunned. We thought because Jack was invincible, he was indestructible. We are struggling to comprehend our loss. Britain’s second city has lost our leading citizen, our first among equals.”

Liam Byrne MP for Hodge Hill

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“I worked with Jack in Erdington for a number of years, and he was so dedicated to the people in the area. Youth Homelessness is a real problem in Erdington and across the city and Jack organised an annual event with St Basils Youth Homelessness Charity for the young people to hold their own parliament in Westminster.

“He was always striving to ensure that the corridors of power were open for the ordinary people who would not normally get a chance to be heard. He will be so badly missed by all of us in Birmingham but mostly by those in Erdington.”

Jess Phillips MP for Yardley

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“After being elected in 2017, Jack was the person who took me under his wing providing support and regularly checking in on how I was doing. If ever I felt the imposter syndrome Jack had the ability to put me at ease and always pushing me to be my absolute best.

“Jack had a remarkable ability to bring people together. Following the tragic death of my constituent Dea-John Reid, Jack and I went to visit his mother where he was a tower of strength. At the vigil mourners approached Jack and the care he displayed was a symbol of his kindness.

“I was shocked to hear of his sudden death. I had seen him days before. He was a fantastic constituency MP, of the people for the people. Jack’s passing is a devastating loss to the labour movement, Birmingham as the city he endlessly served, and to all who knew him.”

Preet Kaur Gill MP for Edgbaston

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“Jack was always such a good friend and supportive colleague to me. He was truly inspiring. A force of nature that served the people of our Erdington and our city so well for more than a decade.

“His energy and enthusiasm for Erdington was limitless – every day working and campaigning to get the best for the people he represented. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

Shabana Mahmood MP for Ladywood

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“Jack was an inspirational colleague and a generous and decent man. He campaigned tirelessly for the people of Erdington and always had time for everyone, no matter how big or small their concerns. He was a champion for workers’ rights and the real living wage and a bold and fearless voice in Parliament where he constantly spoke up for the interests of Birmingham. We all feel his loss.

“I have lost a great colleague and a good friend, and my thoughts are with Harriet and his family and the loss they have suffered. We will continue to honour his memory by supporting the people of Erdington and backing the causes which Jack worked so hard to promote.”

Steve McCabe MP for Selly Oak

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“Jack made a promise to Short Heath Fields Trust to give us a seat at the table to get our community’s voices heard by BCC and he did. In our last conversation with Jack just before Christmas he made a further commitment to support, help and work with SHFT to give our team the chance to deliver our proposal at the playing fields.

“Jack and I didn’t agree on everything, but what I do know is he was a man of his word, a gentleman and believed our community deserved better, thank you Jack for everything.”

Steve Hughes / Chair, Short Heath Fields Trust

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“Jack gave a voice to our community when many others would or could not, by listening and not being afraid of a fight. We have ruffled each other’s feathers, laughed, smiled, and had verbal tug of wars until we reached a goal we could agree on over the last 12 months. Never once did he raise his voice or be anything other than a gentleman. He gave his word we would be heard, and we were.

“Jack taught me that when people come together to fight for the same cause there is power in that. I thank you for that Jack, and for standing alongside Short Heath Residents in our fight to save our playing fields.”

Estelle Murphy / Short Heath Residents Action Group

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“Jack was a huge advocate for education not only locally but through his work nationally. He always had time for his local schools; supporting leadership, praising teachers, and instilling in our pupils the power of an active and invested local MP. We keep him and his family in our prayers at this time.”

Mr Joseph McTernan / Principal, Abbey Catholic Primary School

“All the Abbey School community were deeply saddened to hear of Jack Dromey’s passing. He was such an enthusiastic supporter of our school and the whole of Erdington, always finding time to support and engage with our pupils. His involvement with our Pupil Parliament, Chaplaincy, and School Council Teams has inspired our children as they seek to be active participants in their communities, living out British values.

“Jack was especially dedicated to supporting our pupils in their campaign against the new Nationality and Borders bill, always replying to children’s letters and showing his deep compassion for the marginalised. We began our week in school with a memorial prayer service to Jack, who we shall miss but are very thankful to have known.”

Message from everyone at Abbey Catholic Primary School

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“Jack was passionate about health issues, working to ensure that his constituents had the best possible offer in health. He was very conscious of the disadvantages that many of his constituents suffered and worked tirelessly to redress the balance.

“He was a frequent visitor to the ExtraCare Village at New Oscott. He would spend time listening, talking, and getting to know what the residents felt about issues and seeing where he could help.  That sounds a bit like it was all serious, but it wasn’t. There would be plenty of smiles and humour to go with the serious chat.

“As a public servant it was a delight and a privilege to work with him. He had the very considerable skill of being able to support, advise and encourage me whilst holding me appropriately to account for excellent service delivery on his patch.

“His gratitude and respect for the NHS was a constant throughout the pandemic and he was a huge supporter of the vaccination programme. He was present, engaged, and supportive; a tireless champion of improving the lot of the disadvantaged and a great example of a politician absolutely driven by his values who lived them out through his love of people.”

Paul Jennings / Retired CEO of NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, Chair of the ExtraCare Charitable Trust

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“I always felt with Jack that he spoke for the Erdington communities with great credibility and confidence, always asked the right questions, was aware of the important things and what was impacting the communities the most. He was able to do his job with great dignity and respect for everyone.

“He always made time for me, valued what I said and I felt he truly cared not just about me but all of the Police family.

“I found him inspiring with his zest and energy; his leadership around the Erdington Task Force was remarkable.”

Haroon Chughtai / Deputy Head, Prevent, Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands (ex-Inspector for Erdington & Sutton Coldfield)

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“I am deeply shocked and saddened by Jack’s death. First and foremost my condolences go to his wife, Harriet Harman, and his three children.

“Jack stood up for others his whole life and served the people of Erdington tirelessly since 2010. He has been a formidable political figure for decades and a close ally of West Midlands Police.

“Jack was the Shadow Paymaster General but held a number of other Shadow ministerial positions including Shadow Minister for Policing.

“His passing is a huge loss for our region and he will be dearly missed.”

Simon Foster / West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner

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“Throughout our time working for Jack he steadfastly refused to be referred to as our manager and always said we were a team and colleagues.

“Jack was intensely proud of representing working people and the people of Erdington, both as a Member of Parliament and in his former role as Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, later Unite.

“Without fail, Jack energetically stood up for Erdington and was determined that the communities he represented achieved their full potential and were never left behind. As members of his team this drove us on to be the best we could be for him.

“We will all miss Jack immensely. His kindness, his deep affection for his family and his sheer belief in the labour movement will stay with us forever.”

Message from staff at Jack Dromey’s offices in Erdington and Westminster

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

LOCAL OPINION: Community spirit is alive and well in Stockland Green

Words by Uzma Shaffiq / Pics by Ed King

“The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.” 

Uzma Shaffiq, Community Developer Officer for The Pioneer Group, talks to Erdington Local about the community backbone and neighbourhood camaraderie that supported Stockland Green through the coronavirus crisis. 

Starting my new role at The Pioneer Group in February 2020, I had high hopes of building a strong network of organisations and people who wanted to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work. From these networks, I would be instrumental in creating several initiatives, and 2020 was going to be the best start to my working life.

Little did I realise, COVID-19 was waiting just around the corner, ready to turn everything on its head. The pandemic struck and suddenly residents needed support more than ever.

As for everyone, those first few weeks were a challenge. We needed to mobilise on a scale not seen since World War 2; but as a proud University of Birmingham History graduate, I understood the dedication behind communities in those tumultuous times and I knew our work would provide crucial support to residents during this modern crisis.

Our team works throughout a number of communities such as Stockland Green, Castle Vale and Falcon Lodge – and while each area may have a different programme of specific needs, we still come together to share ideas. Last year we faced the same challenge – we needed to support residents in all communities to ensure that no one was hungry, felt isolated or was left in a vulnerable situation.

With face-to-face interactions gone, the internet was suddenly our saviour and became critical as a tool to communicate in our quest to build a better community. It was no longer about boots on the ground, but rather fingers on keyboards and faces on video calls.

We started by meeting online with residents and community groups to understand their concerns and priorities. There were so many people that want to be actively involved in supporting the Stockland Green community, it was incredibly heart-warming to see how deeply people cared for their friends, family, and neighbours.

Food provision and mental health support was top of the list and once these areas had been outlined, we witnessed a huge mobilisation within the community. The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.

Local organisations supplied food parcels and arranged prescription runs to support residents through the months of uncertainty, and an army of residents came forward to help with the deliveries. The whole initiative was so moving; without these wonderful volunteers giving their free time, we could never have helped so many people.

For those that were more isolated and may not have much use of the internet, such as some elderly, wellbeing activity packs were created and delivered to keep recipients busy during lockdowns. Fantastic at raising spirits, boosting morale, and giving those who are staying at home something exciting to do, the packs were also delivered by volunteers, the lifeblood of our community.

2020 also saw the birth of other voluntary organisations such as the Stockland Green Action Group with the aim of making the community a better place. I am always blown away with their efforts as they tackle fly-tipping, unsightly alleyways, and fight for a better tomorrow for Stockland Green. We are pleased to work closely with these members, supporting them with funding bids and various initiatives as they set a shining example of community spirit.

With a keen sense of keeping the Stockland Green passion alive, we also revived the Stockland Green Ward Forum where organisations such as the Local Regeneration Trust, Councillors, the local MP, and residents all come together to work towards a shared vision of a better Stockland Green.

For The Pioneer Group, the commitment to the area has never been stronger. We provide affordable housing and want our tenants and their neighbours to feel safe and secure in their homes which is why we are now working with Birmingham City Council to deliver the new Safer Streets programme; a £432,000 initiative in Stockland Green that will implement a range of measures including street lighting upgrades, six redeployable CCTV cameras, and a crime prevention assessment for all homes.

Over the last 18 months, our community has faced major hardships with a healthcare crisis, job losses and new way of living. We came together to survive. Today we are in a good place to build even stronger community spirit as we say goodbye to 2021, probably the hardest year many of us have faced.

I look forward to 2022 and everything we are doing to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work.

For more from The Pioneer Group, and the work they do across Stockland Green and North Birmingham, visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk

NEWS: Careers Fair from Compass Support at The Sanctuary 18th August

Words by Ed King

Compass Support are organising a Careers Fair on Wednesday 18th August, being held at The Sanctuary on Tangmere Drive in Castle Vale.

Free to attend and open to ‘candidates from all backgrounds, experiences and education levels’, the Careers Fair will run from 10:30am to 2:30pm – offering direct pathways to local employers, as well as help and support with key vocational skills.

Compass Support have lined up a team of professional employment advisers, who will be on hand throughout the event to talk and walk people through skills such as CV writing and how to do well in interviews.

They will also be offering more direct employment support, such as on the spot job searches, work experience placements, volunteer opportunities, and links to local employers.

The Careers Day will also offer access to digital courses in IT, Maths, and English.

Anyone interested in attending can simply turn up on the day or contact Compass Support by emailing employmentadvice@compass-support.org.uk or phoning (0121) 748 8111.

A spokesperson from Compass Support told Erdington Local: “Happening this week at The Sanctuary, our local Careers Fair is a chance for people to speak with employers and training providers about opportunities available.

“We are also offering support with employability skills to help people progress into their ideal field of work – offering the support you need today for the success of tomorrow.

“There will also be one to one support tailored to the individual’s needs, including CV writing, job searches, training and employment all under one roof.”

With a longstanding history of helping people find employment and become work ready, Compass Support has close ties to the retail and care sectors – alongside strong relationships with large employers such as the NHS.

Compass Support also offers employment help and skills training through regular job clubs, computer clubs, and the Get Healthy Get Working programme – alongside the Ignite Aspirations initiative, delivered with Witton Lodge Community Association.

As part of The Pioneer Group, further employment support can also be found through the Place2Work project – being delivered across Birmingham with the Birmingham Anchor Network.

For more employment advice and access to services from Compass Support email employmentadvice@compass-support.org.uk or visit www.compass-support.org.uk/our-services

For more on Get Healthy Get Working visit www.compass-support.org.uk/our-services/get-healthy-get-working

For more on Ignite Aspirations visit www.compass-support.org.uk/our-services/ignite-inspirations or  www.wittonlodge.org.uk/our-projects/jobs-skills/ignite-aspirations

For more on Place2Work from The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk/place-2-work

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: Castle Vale school uniform clothing bank helps hundreds of families facing the new academic year

Words by Rachael Brazier / Pics by Laura Grigg & The Pioneer Group

A staggering 276 families have been spared the cost of school uniforms, thanks to an initiative set up by Compass Support‘s Parent Champions in Castle Vale.

The school uniform clothing bank was opened at The Sanctuary on Tangmere Drive in mid-July, collecting and distributing second-hand items before the start of the new academic year. All services and items are free of charge.

Molly Miles, Volunteer Coordinator from Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, who works with Parent Champions in Castle Vale, says:

I am so proud of Jodi (Dunstan), Jayne (Herbert), Jess (Llewellyn) and Lisa (Pountney) who are helping children and families far and wide. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to support children and families with essential school uniforms in 2021.

The project was planned back in February and was on hold till early July when lockdown eased. It’s a brilliant initiative in terms of both saving money for struggling families, especially those with multiple children, and for sustainability reasons as much of the uniform is in perfectly good condition.”

To help raise awareness of the project and let people know where they can donate unwanted school uniforms, the Parent Champions have set up a Facebook page and are planning to distribute leaflets about their service.

Via the popular social media platform, local families can directly ask for specific uniform requests – which can then be collected by appointment from The Sanctuary community centre in Castle Vale.

Once uniforms and school items have been donated at The Sanctuary they are put into ‘quarantine’, washed, dried, and ironed ready for their new owner. When picking up items, parents and carers will be met by a volunteer – all socially distanced and abiding by government regulations.

Uniforms are available for local schools, including: Chivenor, St Gerards, Topcliffe, Pegasus, and Greenwood Academy. However, families affected by the coronavirus pandemic are donating and collecting from further afield – for example Smith’s Wood Academy in Solihull – as some uniforms come as standard issue.

Boys trousers have been the most donated item, as many teenagers grow out of clothes quickly. Another popular item on the wish list are PE kits – including t-shirts, pumps, and shorts.

And whilst the cost of school uniforms can run into hundreds of pounds per pupil, the Parent Champions initiative aims to reduce some of that financial burden for local residents. 

Jodi Dunstan, one of Compass Support‘s Parent Champions, helps local families with a range of information and advice about activities and services in the local area – alongside the school uniform initiative.

As a result of her hard work at the uniform clothing bank, especially with the added fears and pressures around COVID-19, Jodi Dunstan was nominated for and won a local Facebook competition celebrating community endeavours.

Jodi says: “We are receiving requests from people of all different backgrounds, and we’re so happy to give back to the community. We had one family that needed to kit out a family of seven children – can you imagine the cost?”

We’ll carry on as long as we can as we understand the hardships many families are currently facing. Between us volunteers we have 13 school-aged children of our own. We love being able to help, and just the relief on the parents/carers faces and the joy that uniform that fits brings is phenomenal.”

Any donated items that are not suitable for use are being sent for ‘ragging’ – with any funds generated ploughed back into running the uniform clothing bank initiative.

To find out more about Compass Support’s Parent Champions uniform clothing bank, including information on donating or collecting uniforms, please call (0121) 748 8111

You can also ask to join the private Facebook group, click here or on the hyperlinks in this article.

For more on Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, visit www.compass-support.org.uk