This week, it’s the turn of St. Germain’s church who are using the money to run their community ‘Food Hub’.
St. Germain’s Community Food Hub
The church’s Food Hub uses donations to provide fresh meals and food parcels for people in Edgbaston. Each week, volunteers collect clothing and enough food for 300 meals. An Emergency Assistance Grant has allowed St Germain’s to pay their expenses.
With more money, the Food Hub have also been able to run a debt and benefits advice service, which Les Allan, St. Germain’s Operations Manager, says has been able to ‘lift the whole person up’.
Les applied for the grant in January 2021 describing the process as ‘straight forward’- adding that he loved the fact you can save your progress as you go!
He also praised Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme’s support, whose community connectors met with him over Zoom to offer hints and tips on how to focus his application.
‘The funding came just in the nick of time’, Les said, highlighting that the quick turn around between the application and receiving the money allowed St. Germain’s to keep the service running.
Les explained the impact it has, mentioning Nadia (not her real name), who had been using the Hub since the summer to feed both herself and her son who was not very well. The Food Hub has done a 360, Les explained, where Nadia is now back on her feet and even volunteering in the kitchen.
It has ‘been a very difficult year for our community’ Les noted, ‘but, thanks to this funding, our service will be able to continue supporting them.’
Funding is still available for groups and projects similar to St. Germain’s and Home from Hospital Care’s. If you are interested, get in touch with Marc Baggott at M.Baggott@gatewayfs.org to find out more. Deadline for applications is 23/4/21 (noon).
‘Home from Hospital Care’, is one such charity who have received this grant. The team are using it to provide food and fuel vouchers to those discharged from hospital and living in Edgbaston.
Dawn, Fundraising Officer at Home from Hospital Care, made the application which she says she found easy, complimenting the website and support from their local NNS development worker.
One month after the application, Home from Hospital Care had received the funding, and were able start helping people.
‘It’s going pretty well so far’, says Rosalind Ejenavi, Fundraiser at Home from Hospital Care. The grant has allowed them to support two more people in Edgbaston in the last two weeks.
Brian (not his real name) was discharged from hospital into temporary accommodation after deteriorating health issues alongside his contraction of COVID-19. However, he has quite complex needs, including an eating disorder, and financial difficulties.
Thanks to the extra funding, Home from Hospital Care has been able to provide Brian with free, tailored food parcels. The fact they cost him nothing and allowed him to choose what he received has been, as Rosalind puts it, a ‘lifeline for him’.
Brian now feels less worried whilst he recovers from COVID-19 and is being supported in making longer term support and accommodation plans.
‘COVID has made people feel so anxious about how they are going to meet their basic needs’ Rosalind noted, who said she hoped this grant would give people the ‘sense that there is support there’.
Funding is still available for groups in Edgbaston and Northfield, with the extended deadline for applications now falling on the 23rd April 2021. Contact Marc Baggott at M.Baggott@gatewayfs.org to find out more on how to apply, and what guidance Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme can provide.
For the February issue, Community Connector Deb Ufton spoke to DigiKick, a Community Interest Company that helps people to get online and to feel more comfortable using technology.
Focus on Assets: DigiKick
By Deb Ufton
The Covid-19 Pandemic has seen us all having to social distance, isolate, shield and work from home. It’s seen us having to move support to telephone calls and online groups and adapt to new ways of living. It has increased the need to access online resources and it has highlighted the digital literacy gaps in communities.
For one local asset, 2020 was definitely a year of learning and adapting. DigiKick has seen so many more communities and groups of people that need this support – more than they previously would have thought: older people, school children, jobseekers, migrants and carers to name but a few – some of whom were alone because they didn’t know how to access the internet or didn’t have the device or internet connection needed.
Who exactly are DigiKick and where did it all start?
I caught up with one half of the dynamic duo to find out how they came to be and what they’re doing in the community.
One’s a local girl from Quinton, with a passion for community and young people; the other is an energetic lad from Somerset with a passion for bringing people together. Together, they are the founders of DigiKick.
Sair Reading and Chris Laband met nine years ago and spent a few years as work colleagues. A few years later they had a random coffee catch-up to put the world to rights; both were frustrated at what was happening in their local areas and looking for a greater sense of purpose in their work lives.
They put their heads together to see if there was something they could do to help change that and within four hours they had started a Community Interest Company. Although at the time, they had no idea what it was going to do, or what they were doing; they believed they could bring something positive and exciting to the table. Since 2017, DigiKick have been delivering fun, friendly internet access projects helping people become more confident and safe online and learn internet skills they can use every day.
Sair said, “It wasn’t planned how it worked out. Our original ideas were aimed at younger people, but the more time went on we saw there was an issue affecting people of every age. It was loneliness. In 2018, loneliness was more dangerous than obesity, and we could only see the problem getting worse. So many people and so many communities were disconnected and alone, but didn’t need to be.
“Chris and I are ‘Inbetweeners’; we know what it is like to grow up playing in parks and fields with friends, but we also grew up alongside technology and the internet. We felt connected in that way and confident we could access the things we needed to. There is a benefit to using the internet and if we could help people feel confident online, fewer people would feel lonely. We needed to find out what people wanted, so we set up a table in Costa Coffee in Longbridge and invited people to come and talk to us – and our very first customers were 77 and 82. We started from there and never looked back! It’s been an adventure, and hopefully it’s just the beginning.”
In February, they started running two projects in the Edgbaston constituency: Tea and T’Internet in Bartley Green and Tea and T’Internet in Quinton.
Natalie and I (the ENNS Community Connectors) have both popped online to join sessions. I went to the Quinton session, where I found hosts Lewis and Emily (pictured) to be welcoming and friendly from the start. They’d previously had a few one-to-one sessions with each of the participants, to make sure they had the skills and confidence to get online and this was the first ‘group’ gathering.
The theme of the session was “Scams”, and the team took us through the key points on how to recognise and avoid scam websites and emails and keep ourselves safe online – which we can all agree is a very useful skill to learn, especially with the increase of online scams during Covid 19. The session ended with a game of hangman, digital themed, and I left the group confident that anyone that joins in with a DigiKick group can feel comfortable meeting other people from their own community; learn new, practical, internet skills, and feel confident they’re in control. (Thanks for inviting me to the group, guys!)
It’s not just the participants that get something out of the sessions either:Lewis, one of DigiKick’s Digital Engagement Officers, said he loves watching the sessions develop and that the group gives him a place to have fun whilst they all learn.
Sair had this to say: “Chris and I are #tooproud of the participants and the teams in the Bartley Green and Quinton Tea and T’Internet Projects. The Team: Lewis, Effy, Emily and Yorda, feed back with stories and ideas for the next sessions. We have some fabulous characters in the projects; who keep the team busy with questions, jokes and new things to learn each week. The individuals are leaving the sessions feeling confident, connected and happier. It would be fair to say we are overjoyed with the feedback.”
When asked if they had any advice for other assets in the community, Sair said, “We have had a brilliant time pulling together with some other organisations. Referring people to other projects is one of the best things we get to do! Hosting other organisations in our sessions and sharing what else is available has been helpful to the assets and to the participants. NNS have been a joy to work with! They are able to connect to their community in a way that DigiKick can’t. As experts of their community NNS have connected us with links to other organisations and to participants, which has only made the projects better. We look forward to our continued work together, to create new projects that support more people.”
We at Edgbaston NNS are looking forward to future projects with DigiKick too. Through our micro grant scheme, we have already funded three assets to attend a small DigiKick focus group which helped them to develop and update their website and social media presence. We are also looking to fund workshops for up to twelve people in “How to use/ better use spreadsheets”, “marketing your group” and “how to use zoom as a host”. If you are interested in joining a focus group or workshop, please contact your ENNS Community Connectors: me (Deb) at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Natalie, at email@example.com.
Since then, Early Help Edgbaston has directly supported over 340 families, providing them with emergency food and financial support, and connecting them to Edgbaston’s local services.
“Tanya” (not her real name) was one of the first people to access support.
In May 2020, Tanya* was given the number for Early Help Edgbaston by a member of staff at her children’s school, who felt the family needed extra support. When she called, she told Gateway’s Early Help Co-ordinator Marc that she had left her partner due to domestic abuse, and that she and her five children were now living in a hostel.
After listening to Tanya’s concerns, Marc began to connect her to local services which could support the family. First, he contacted The Active Wellbeing Society to start getting regular food parcels delivered to them. He also referred Tanya to the Karis Neighbour Scheme, which runs a baby bank. The charity provided Tanya with nappies, baby clothes and wipes to help her care for her two youngest children.
Toiletries, clothes, mobile data… and a place to live
A week later, Marc called Tanya again to see what other help she needed, and she explained she was finding it difficult to afford some essentials. As well as toiletries and children’s clothes, she also needed mobile data so that she could contact friends, family and other support from home during the lockdown.
So Marc contacted the The Active Wellbeing Society again and arranged for the family to receive some clothes from their ‘Wear and Share’ project. He also put together an application for a small amount of money from the Birmingham Children’s Partnership Resilience Fund, which Tanya could put towards data.
With some of her anxieties now reduced, Tanya was able to focus on finding a more permanent housing solution. With the help of her Social Worker and Birmingham’s Housing teams, the family were able to move into semi-permanent accommodation within a couple of months.
A happier Christmas
Although the family was now living in a different area, Tanya’s Social Worker and the Early Help Co-ordinator for that locality stayed in touch with the Early Help Edgbaston team to keep them updated.
In December Marc learned that, although the family was doing better, it was unlikely that Tanya would be able to afford Christmas dinner or any presents for the children. He therefore arranged for Tanya to be included in Gateway’s Christmas Campaign – a series of events to support families over the holidays.
With support from Tesco, who donated food, and a toy drive co-ordinated by InUnity and Birmingham Forward Steps, Early Help Edgbaston was able to give Tanya and her family a Christmas hamper, which included a Christmas dinner, a board game and some toys for the children. When Tanya saw how much was in the hamper she seemed shocked and very grateful.
The Early Help Edgbaston team was able to support Tanya’s family through a crisis by connecting her to local services and giving her specific, practical help. Now, with fewer worries about their basic essentials, she is able to start building a new life for herself and her children.
*Tanya’s name has been changed
If you are a family in need of support, or an organisation helping families during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Early Help Edgbaston pages on our website, call Early Help Edgbaston on 0121 456 7821 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to our team.
Since Early Help Edgbaston started in May 2020, our team has directly supported 340 families to access services, receive emergency funds and get back on their feet during the pandemic. This didn’t stop over the Christmas period, when our Early Help team worked hard to make sure that Edgbaston families facing the added strains of winter were supported.
The team coordinated with InUnity, Birmingham Forward Steps and our local Tesco, to try to ease some of the families’ winter anxieties with a Christmas campaign that we nicknamed #EdgbastonElves.
On 16th December two of our Community Connectors, Justin Hinton and Deborah Ufton, worked with Lorraine Lane from Birmingham Forward Steps Edgbaston, and Hannah Brooman at InUnity, to deliver gifts from the Birmingham Forward Steps shoebox appeal. They delivered 190 toys to children staying in temporary accommodation on the Hagley Road, making sure that each child who asked for a toy got one.
Later in December, Gateway’s Early Help Co-ordinator Marc Baggott collaborated with Tesco Hagley Road to put together 35 Christmas hampers to be delivered to families. Together they assembled 15 hampers full of Christmas dinner and all the trimmings, as well as 20 grocery hampers of non-perishable goods, so that even those without cooking facilities would have enough food over the festive period.
Gateway staff from across our services — Jemma Abbott, Adwoa Owusu-Barnieh, Justin Hinton, Abeda Begum and Anita Ward — all helped to deliver the hampers to Edgbaston families.
The families receiving these gifts seemed very grateful, with one mother saying “Thank you so much. You don’t know what this means to me and my kids”. The Early Help Edgbaston team were able to provide practical support to families by listening to their needs and collaborating with others.
The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network (ENNS) supports older people in Birmingham connect with others in their local neighbourhood, and is led by Gateway, together with Age UK Birmingham. So our ENNS Community Connectors are always on the lookout to find great community work and learn from it, as well as helping them with whatever they need, from funding applications to networking. Every two months we feature one of our “assets” – the activity and community groups in Edgbaston who are doing great things for the neighbourhood.
One inspiring group has been working hard over the last year, in the face of Covid-19, to support its community by running a Virtual Cooking Club. The Sar Ramz cooking club developed out of the Edgbaston Multicultural Community Group, led by Nadima Vasi, and provides recipes, tutorials and much needed social support to the Edgbaston community.
Community Connector Natalie spoke to Nadima to hear more about how she used the Sar Ramz Cooking Club to bring people together, and you can read her report below.
In early 2020 Nadima, who runs the Multicultural Community Group based at Edgbaston Community Centre, received a grant from the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme to run a series of cooking classes, which she called Sar Ramz Cooking Club.
Sadly, soon after receiving the grant, COVID-19 hit the UK and the social distancing restrictions meant that the cooking classes were unable to go ahead in person. Undeterred, Nadima began to contact people in her group to check on their wellbeing, and started to think through ways she could adapt her activity to keep the Sar Ramz Cooking Club going.
The Multicultural Community Group already had an active WhatsApp group for members so, instead of hosting cooking classes in person, Nadima began to post cooking tutorials and recipes onto WhatsApp for Sar Ramz members: the Sar Ramz Virtual Cooking Club.
These tutorials were incredibly popular. Soon, other members began following Nadima’s recipes, sharing their own, and taking part in tutorials through WhatsApp video calls.
Throughout the first lockdown, the Sar Ramz Virtual Cooking Club grew from strength to strength. Now, it’s much more than a cooking club; it’s a thriving WhatsApp community, bringing people together through a shared love of food, culture and inclusion. Through the Sar Ramz WhatsApp group, Nadima also hosts weekly quizzes and prayer nights, and hosts virtual celebrations for members to observe religious and cultural events.
With Birmingham currently under Tier 3 Coronavirus restrictions, there are no plans to put the group, which has been an important social support for many, on pause. As Nadima says, “COVID19 has changed our lives and we will always be more alert about how we live and approach people, but I feel this has brought people closer, we value and appreciate each other more.”
Going forward the Edgbaston NNS team will be working with the Sar Ramz Cooking Club to support it with applications to our small grants and micro-grant funds. We would like to thank our colleagues at Ageing Better Birmingham for introducing us to Nadima and her wonderful group.
This is the fourth blog post in a series highlighting the inspiring work of our Social Prescribing Link Workers. Previously, Wayne, Becky and Glenn highlighted some of the ways our Link Workers listen and support their patients, helping them to improve their confidence and develop their independence.
To support the UN’s #16days of activism against gender-based violence this blog will look at the support given to Ellie* by Link Worker Liana after Ellie separated from her husband. Much like all our Link Workers, Liana was able to listen and offer guidance to help Ellie deal with the practical problems she was facing after her life changed. This allowed her to have better control over her finances, set boundaries with her ex’s family as well as find more permanent housing.
Ellie was referred to a Link Worker by her GP because it was felt she needed additional support. A mother of three, Ellie had recently separated from her husband because of domestic abuse.
Link Worker Liana called Ellie as soon as possible to find out more about her situation and to talk through how she may be able to help.
Ellie told Liana that, although she was working, she was struggling – both financially and emotionally. After moving out and living with a friend for a while, she and her children were now living in a property rented from a private landlord, but it wasn’t ideal and she was finding it hard to budget. She was also finding the new family situation very hard; she wanted her children to be able to see her ex-partner’s family, but was finding the management of these relationships difficult and it was causing her a great deal of anxiety.
Liana realised that Ellie’s confidence was very low and that she would need help to rebuild it after such big changes. Between them, they established that Ellie’s priorities were to get a handle on her finances, to feel more confident about setting boundaries with her ex’s family, and to secure a more permanent housing solution.
The first referral Liana made was to Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, which would be able to provide expert advice and help Ellie to make the necessary arrangements for child support.
Then she helped Ellie to make some benefits calculations, putting her in touch with the benefits agency and helping her to research and claim for the benefits she was entitled to.
Liana also helped Ellie to budget and find more suitable ways to manage her day-to-day finances. She showed her how to apply for the Severn Trent Trust fund and their Big Difference Scheme, which is for people on a low income, to see if she would be eligible to make non-standard payment arrangement for water bills.
The housing situation was very important to Ellie, so Liana and Ellie looked at all the options available to her. They contacted Birmingham City Council to find out current waiting times, and talked about applying to local housing associations – for which Liana was able to give Ellie all the information and contact details she needed.
This practical help, together with the amount of time Liana has been able to give Ellie to talk things through and decide for herself what she and her family need, has been a great help to Ellie. She’s found ways to allow her children to see their dad’s family in a way that causes her much less stress, and is feeling much more confident about her future.