We’re pleased to announce that the Household Support Fund has now been launched and will be open for applications early in the New Year. The fund is aimed at helping people afford essentials such as helping towards utility bills, food and staying warm through the tough winter months.
Gateway family services along with Age UK will be supporting households in the Edgbaston locality to complete online applications.
Further information will be announced over the coming weeks so please stay tuned to our social media platforms and website for updates and more detail!
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.
The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network is here to help all of Edgbaston’s community assets with everything from grants and funding applications to networking and promotion. That’s why Community Connectors Deb and Natalie are always on the lookout for new community projects to meet, learn from, and support! Every two months, they speak to one of our assets in depth and feature them in the the ENNS Newsletter. (You may remember the Sar Ramz Cooking Club from our December newsletter and Digikick from February.)
For the April newsletter, Deb and Natalie visited a new food pantry in Quinton.
Focus on Assets: Your Local Pantry
By Deb Ufton and Natalie Tichareva
For the last month, the Haven Centre and B32 Community CIC have been working behind the scenes to launch a food pantry, called ‘Your Local Pantry’. So we went along on a sunny Friday afternoon to find out more!
The Haven Centre is run by Rachel and her husband Simon, with a small team of staff and volunteers, and was already the first port of call for many local people who needed support or advice. However, when Covid hit, the team realised it was an opportunity to show the community that they were there for them. As Rachel said, “we couldn’t close the doors on people when they needed us the most”. So, for the last year, the activities and support the Haven offers have changed and grown according to local people’s needs.
Realising that there was an increased need for food, Rachel and Simon got together with Kerry and Becky from another popular Quinton community group, B32 Community CIC, and came up with the idea of a food pantry, to be based at the Haven Centre. They contacted Shabir Jivraj, Project Officer for the national organisation ‘Your Local Pantry’, and he helped them to set up.
The ‘pantry’ model enables people to access help by becoming members and paying a very small amount for food: for £4.50, members receive shopping worth between £20 and £30. The idea is to make sure no-one feels any sense of shame in accessing the essentials they need.
Your Local Pantry at the Haven has been running quietly behind the scenes for the last few Fridays, but now Rachel, Simon, Kerry and Becky hope that more people in the community who need help with food will sign up and become pantry members.
When we went along, pantry staff and volunteers from the Haven and B32 Community had created a welcoming environment for visitors, with Bob Marley playing on the radio and all who entered being offered a drink and a chat before accessing the pantry.
A local resident told us, “It’s a great thing! I came down during lockdown and it’s really helped. I love it so much, I’ve brought my mom too.”
It’s obvious that Your Local Pantry is a perfect complement for the other activities held at the Haven. The atmosphere at the Centre is happy and peaceful, and there’s something for everyone. In-person meetups of the long-established Older Adults Group, Youth Club, and Women’s Group are slowly being re-introduced; last week the Haven held a Stay and Play and this week they’re going to have a ‘pop up lunch’ at the Pantry.
Jade, who works at Your Local Pantry at the Haven, told us, “Work doesn’t feel like work. I first started to come to the Haven through the Women’s Group, and I really enjoyed it so I became a volunteer.”
From volunteering, Jade then became a member of staff, something which has helped her build confidence and recognise her skills. “Before I found the Haven I was in such a bad place, but I didn’t really realise I was in a bad place,” she says, “and I can see that in many of the people we help.”
We loved visiting Your Local Pantry and think it’s a great initiative, so we hope lots of people in the Edgbaston Neighbourhood community will sign up as members and make the most of it.
Your Local Pantry will be available on Fridays, 12 – 2pm, at the Haven, on Rilstone Road in Quinton. For more information, and details on how to sign up, contact the Haven Centre on 0121 681 0388, or simply keep your eyes peeled on social media – visit the Haven Centre on Facebook or B32 Community CIC on Facebook.
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.
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.
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.
If you run a community group or organisation in Birmingham, it’s important for you to know that voluntary sector activity is still allowed, and that you can continue to support those in need in the city, as long as you do so safely.
In most cases, you will simply need to follow the government guidance for that activity. However, some activities do not clearly fall into a set of guidelines.
Please note that the document sets out the understanding of the current situation from BVSC, but each venue, organisation and activity lead needs to consider their own circumstances and current official guidance.
Current official guidance
The single most important action we can all take to fight coronavirus is to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives. When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we reduce the spread of the infection. That is why, from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December, you must:
Stay at home, except for specific purposes.
Avoid meeting people you do not live with, except for specific purposes.
Close certain businesses and venues.
These new measures will reduce the growth rate of the virus, which will:
prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed
ensure schools, colleges and universities can stay open
ensure that as many people as possible can continue to work