Edgbaston NNS and Early Help Edgbaston – Focus on Assets: Love Your Neighbour

The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme newsletter goes out to members every two months, and we’re delighted to report that it now includes the latest news from ENNS’s sister service, Early Help Edgbaston.

Early Help is the Birmingham Children’s Partnership model of connected support for families and children across Birmingham. In Edgbaston, this work is led by Gateway Family Services, and so the team naturally works closely with the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme.

In each edition of the ENNS newsletter, we showcase great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency. So for this issue, we asked the Early Help team to get involved – and they told us all about the Love Your Neighbour food bank.

Love Your Neighbour helps Early Help Edgbaston to reach more families

By Marc Baggott, Edgbaston Early Help Coordinator

Love Your Neighbour, part of Gas Street Church, started out as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I asked Martha Goshawk, the Love Your Neighbour Co-ordinator, to explain how the project started.

“As a church we wanted to play our part in our local community and provide practical support,” Martha says. “We started small; delivering emergency food parcels and providing a telephone befriending service. Since then we have grown and expanded our work and reach and now run a foodbank, provide a financial advocacy service, have opened a CAP Debt Centre and CAP Job Club and work with children and families. We’re also just about to open our food pantry called The Community Shop, and a new cafe and soft play centre. In all we do, we want to bring light and hope to the city and that’s what Love Your Neighbour is all about.”

I first learnt about the Love Your Neighbour Foodbank just after Christmas. The start of the new year is when lots of Early Help clients have food needs, partly because families tend to spend what little they have at Christmas, but mainly because support services are reduced over the holiday period. I met Martha at the Food Justice Network meeting, and she helped Edgbaston Early Help to register so that we could distribute food parcels through their food bank.

Since then, we have come to rely on Love Your Neighbour and the Gas Street St. Luke’s team. As well as helping us to meet the most urgent needs – distributing food to families living in temporary accommodation in Edgbaston and Harborne – we have been able to expand on our collaborative work by helping to deliver Family Fun Sessions directly to families.

Martha explains, “Recently we’ve loved going into the Cobden Hotel and running craft sessions for children and families currently living there. From painting and bracelet making, to making vast quantities of slime and hundreds of biscuits, we’ve loved getting to know people, spread the word about Love Your Neighbour and just having fun! One girl described it as “the best day ever” and we couldn’t ask for a better report than that!”

I totally agree with Martha that the craft activities were very impactful – the families were engaged and happy to be part of something. It’s a great example of how we can build on our connections to reach more families and provide wider support. I hope Early Help can continue to work with Martha and the team on future projects.

For more information about the Love Your Neighbour project, visit the Gas Street Church website.

If you’d like to subscribe to the Edgbaston NNS and Early Help newsletter, and get it straight to your inbox every two months, simply fill in your details on the newsletter signup page.