Category: Neighbourhood Network Scheme

Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme supports older people in the Edgbaston constituency to connect with individuals, groups, organisations, activities, services and places in their local neighbourhood.

Edgbaston NNS – Focus on Assets: DigiKick

The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme, which launched last year, has a bi-monthly newsletter for members, which you can subscribe to here. In each edition of the newsletter, we’ll be showcasing great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency.

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

Deb Ufton, ENNS Community Connector

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 and Chris from 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.

Yorda, one of DigiKick’s Digital Engagement Officers

“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.

Emily from DigiKick, who co-hosted the Quinton session

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.

Some of the DigiKick team

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.”

For more information visit the DigiKick website or sign up to their newsletter.

Get involved

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 d.ufton@gatewayfs.org, or Natalie, at natalie.tichareva@ageukbirmingham.org.uk.

Supporting Edgbaston families over the Christmas period

Justin delivers some toys to families in hotels on the Hagley Road

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.

Early Help Co-ordinator Marc packing his car to deliver food parcels to families at Christmas

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.

 

Edgbaston NNS – Focus on Assets: Sar Ramz Cooking Club

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.

For more stories and updates about our Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme, and to find out how we can support local assets like Sar Ramz, please subscribe to the ENNS newsletter by clicking this link. 

From Cooking Club to Virtual Cooking Community

By Natalie Tichareva

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.  

COVID restrictions: FAQs for voluntary, community and faith organisations

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.

FAQs for community organisations

To try and support all types of voluntary and community activities, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC) has produced a set of Frequently Asked Questions for voluntary, community and faith organisations.

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:

  1. Stay at home, except for specific purposes.
  2. Avoid meeting people you do not live with, except for specific purposes.
  3. 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

For the latest government guidance, visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Edgbaston NNS – fundraising support survey

Are you a community group or voluntary organisation based in the Edgbaston or Northfield constituencies? Do you need help with fundraising, or want support to find suitable grants and funding opportunities?

We’ve been talking to Birmingham Community Matters, a charity which helps people develop and fund community projects, about how we could work together to provide support to members of the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme. If you run a local activity group, social club or community organisation, we want to hear from you!

To make sure we can offer the right support, we’re asking community-run groups in Edgbaston, Harborne, Quinton, Bartley Green, Shenley and Weoley Castle to complete a fundraising survey. We have anecdotal knowledge of what local groups might need, but this survey will help us to make sure that the needs of the area shape what happens next.

Click here to complete the Fundraising Support survey.

When we have heard from as many groups as possible, we’ll put together a programme of support and let you know how you can get involved.

Want to know more about the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme?

The ENNS is led by Gateway Family Services with Age UK Birmingham. We act as a central co-ordination point for the network, and can offer support for volunteers and groups, including access to grants. If you are a community group or local voluntary organisation based in one of the areas listed above, and you haven’t yet been in touch, contact us to find out more on 0800 599 9880, or info@gatewayfs.org, and consider joining the ENNS mailing list.

Edgbaston NNS – Focus on Assets: Quinborne Community Centre

The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme, which launched in July, has a bi-monthly newsletter for members, which you can subscribe to here. In each edition of the newsletter, we’ll be showcasing great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency.

In this edition, Neighbourhood Network Scheme Community Worker Natalie Tichareva writes about her (socially distanced!) visit to the Quinborne Community Centre.

Focus on Assets: Quinborne Community Centre

By Natalie Tichareva

We visited the Quinborne Community Centre, a fantastic community space that provides a number of activities for local residents in Quinton and Harborne as well as its surrounding areas.

This photo, of an adult education class at the Centre, was taken before the Covid-19 distancing measures came in. Photo: Quinborne Community Centre website

The Quinborne Centre has been serving the community for over 80 years, having been established in July 1938. Since its formation the centre has been at the heart of community activity in Quinton and Harborne and today is home to a diverse variety of groups who use the centre to host activities.

On the day of our visit Colin Simmonds, one of the centres Directors, gave us a tour of the impressive building which sits on the site of the former Edgbaston Golf Club. The centre boasts multiple large meeting rooms, a nursery space, gym and dance rooms as well as café and working kitchen. At the centre of it all is a beautiful garden which offers attendees a time to relax during their breaks.

Many who attend the social activities at Quinborne have been doing so for many years; drawn to the centres large array of activities. Similarly, many of the Quinborne Centre’s staff are also longstanding, and when asked about his favourite parts of working with the centre Colin informed me that their staff and volunteers were key part of this: “everyone is so dedicated and hardworking”. One such staff member is Aaron, who greeted us on arrival alongside Quinborne Centre Manager Carl. Aaron started out as apprentice with Quinborne before working his way up to his current role as Centre Supervisor, an example of the centre’s commitment to nurturing relationships with all those find a home within its walls.

the Quinborne Centre also has a pretty garden where people enjoy spending time. Photo: Natalie Tichareva

Another of Colin’s favourite parts of working with the centre is the buzz of activity that takes place when the centre is open, “Walking into the centre on a Tuesday, which is usually our busiest day, you have all the different groups taking part in activities. The noise of it all going on is great!” Like many community centres Quinborne had to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures. But on the day of our visit the team at Quinborne were busy getting the space prepared for re-opening to the public, which will hopefully take place in September.

A key part of the centre’s longevity has been its ability to change and adapt to meet the needs of the community, and this has remained the case through the COVID-19 pandemic. Colin informed me that staff have kept in regular telephone contact with attendees to the centre, ensuring that the social connections that keep so many people attending each week have remained during lockdown measures.

Thinking ahead to the future Quinborne Community Association will soon be launching their ‘Virtual Friendship Club’ where they will be providing isolated older adults with a tablet, training on how to use their new technology and the opportunity to join the Virtual Friendship club hosted on Zoom. The project has been funded through the Edgbaston NNS Small Grants Fund, administered by Heart of England Community Foundation. Alongside this Quinborne are keen to continue their great work while strengthening relationships with other community groups in Quinton and Harborne and are always looking for ways the most lonely and isolated in Edgbaston can be given an opportunity to engage with centre.

We wish the centre the best of luck in this and would like to thank Colin and the team for taking the time to chat to us!

Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme officially launches

At the start of this year, Gateway and Age UK Birmingham were appointed to lead the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS). We were about to start planning our launch event when Covid-19 hit and the country went into lockdown.

Rather than holding an event to launch the new scheme, we dived straight into supporting community groups in the area. Our Asset Development Worker Sam, and seconded Early Help co-ordinator Marc, began co-ordinating the delivery of food parcels and other vital support to the local communities — and this is how the scheme has been running for the last four months.

Now, however, we are starting to move forward again and on 23rd June, we held the official launch of the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme — albeit as an online meeting rather than the physical event we had originally planned.

Around 25 people came together via Zoom to discusss the original aims of the ENNS: the ways in which we can help local community, activity and social groups to sustain themselves and, if they wish to, develop further. We also talked about how things have changed since March and how we can support groups to adapt to a post coronavirus landscape.

The event was attended by representatives from Gateway, Age UK Birmingham, the Adult Social Work team, Birmingham City Council, BVSC and other agencies, but also by a mix of community groups (also known as “assets”).

After introductions and some information about the ENNS and how it can help community groups, attendees split into three “breakout rooms” to discuss issues in more detail: funding, the “three conversations” social work model, and lessons learned from Covid-19.

Natalie Tichareva, from Age UK Birmingham, said, “I think it is safe to say we were all slightly nervous about how a digital launch event would go, but in the end I do not think it could have gone better! Thank you to everyone who attended and took part in our breakout room discussions following the presentation. We have made some great links through our launch event which will be able to strengthen our work in Edgbaston going forward.”

We understand that many people weren’t able to attend, and that some of those who did attend would like the opportunity to reconvene so that they can attend the other breakout meetings, so we’ll be planning more digital get-togethers in the near future.

In the meantime, click here to download the ENNS Welcome Pack PDF, which you should be able to print as a booklet. If you don’t have access to a printer and would like a copy of this, please email info@gatewayfs.org and we’ll send you a copy.

Edgbaston Early Help Scheme: Food for a family in crisis

Because of the Covid-19 crisis, Birmingham Children’s Partnership has accelerated their plans for “Early Help”, a new model of connected services and communities to help families across the city.

It means that families and children who need emergency help during the crisis can get it in a timely way, from a network that includes schools, health services, the local authority, and voluntary and community organisations.

In the Edgbaston area, the Early Help response is being co-ordinated by Gateway. Programme Co-ordinator Marc has been seconded to lead the project, and is already working closely with schools and children’s centres in the area to provide support for dozens of families.

We have found that even those families who were previously doing well are starting to struggle now, due to the impact the crisis is having on income and health, but the Early Help scheme is designed to make sure schools and children’s centres can refer families in and get them the help they need as soon as possible.

Here, Marc tells us about a family he supported a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fairly typical example of how the scheme works and how the joined-up model is providing urgent essential support.

Food for a family in crisis

By Marc Baggott

Marc Baggott
Marc, who is usually our Straight Talking Peer Education co-ordinator is now leading the Edgbaston Early Help work.

On Wednesday 6th May I had a call from Sarah*, a Designated Safeguarding Lead at a local secondary school, with concerns about a family.

She explained that two of the teenagers she works with are currently living in temporary accommodation with their dad after being made homeless. Their dad Jason* is a single parent and, although he usually works, he had been off sick for three weeks with Covid-19. Because he holds a zero-hours contract, hadn’t been paid for his time off sick, so they had no money coming in.

Sarah had contacted Edgbaston Early Help because she could see Jason was struggling, and was worried the family was low on food.

After speaking to Sarah, I phoned Jason to find out more and we talked in depth about the support he needed. His main concern was their lack of food, but he also highlighted that they were unable to do any cooking at the hotel – although there are some shared cooking facilities, they are dirty, and utensils and equipment go missing.

The first thing I did was to contact St Germain’s Church in Edgbaston, which offers freshly prepared hot dinners on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It meant that Jason and his children wouldn’t go hungry that evening.

The following day, after some more research, I referred Jason to the Four Dwellings Foodbank; usually it opens on Fridays but because of the bank holiday it was open a day early that week. Jason would be able to visit the foodbank himself that day and pick up food for the whole family.

The lack of cooking facilities at their accommodation was still an issue, though. Even if Jason had food, there was no guarantee they would be able to prepare a meal. So I made an application to the COVID-19 resilience fund for £75, through BVSC, and helped him find a microwave and some tupperware storage containers within his price range.

That afternoon, I received a call from Jason thanking me for all the support he had received. He said that the support really helped him when he was struggling, and that the food and microwave meant that his children could now cook snacks and a lunch when they needed it. He sounded over the moon.

I asked if there was anything else they need, but Jason said they were OK now they had food. I have told him I’ll be back in touch in a few weeks’ time to see how the family are getting on and to check they have access to the things they need.

*Sarah and Jason’s names have been changed.

Covid-19: support for groups in the Edgbaston constituency

Recently, Gateway and Age UK Birmingham were appointed to lead the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS).

We hoped to announce the launch of Edgbaston NNS this week, but of course, current events have overtaken us. Instead of a launch event, we are diving straight into support for community groups in the area.

The Council and BVSC (Birmingham Voluntary Services Council) have asked us to focus purely on how organisations in the Edgbaston constituency are responding to Covid-19 and how we can provide the necessary support to those who need it.

What is a Neighbourhood Network Scheme?

Neighbourhood Network Schemes are designed to support older people in Birmingham to connect with individuals, groups, organisations, activities, services and places in their local neighbourhood.

As part of Birmingham City Council’s new community social work model they are constituency based, so the Edgbaston NNS covers the areas of Edgbaston, Harborne, Quinton, Bartley Green, Shenley and Weoley Castle.

At the moment, however, every NNS in Birmingham is focusing on support for community organisations as we all adjust to events relating to the coronavirus and the resulting isolation.

How is your group managing?

To help us build up a picture of what’s already happening and what more may be possible, we are asking community organisations and groups in the areas of Edgbaston, Harborne, Quinton, Bartley Green, Shenley and Weoley Castle to get in touch with us by email or phone (details below) and let us know the following:

  • Has your group had to close or otherwise change in terms of what you normally do? We know most meetings have been suspended, so how has this affected you?
  • Is your group in a position to offer help? Let us know if you are doing something, planning to do something, or are willing to do something to help with the response.
  • If you’re not in a position to help, do you have any worries? Are you concerned about members of your group and how they may be coping?

It’s clear that a lot of work is already underway locally to ensure that vulnerable people, and those made vulnerable by this situation, get the help they need. We are here to build on this by coordinating, and potentially resourcing, support.

Over the next few weeks, Gateway and Age UK Birmingham, working together as Edgbaston NNS, will be:

  • Continuing to contact existing groups to find out your approach to the Covid-19 response
  • Monitoring new offers of Covid-19 support
  • Providing guidance and support to groups which are providing Covid-19 assistance
  • Connecting groups which are providing Covid-19 support to ensure they work together, maximise reach, avoid duplication and fill in gaps

If you run a community group in the Edgbaston constituency, contact Katherine at Gateway Family Services via email: k.hewitt@gatewayfs.org, or phone: 0121 456 7820, to let us know how we can help.