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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:, or phone: 0121 456 7820, to let us know how we can help.

Health Trainer Vacancies

Gateway Family Services CIC is a provider of training and employment to the health and social care sector. Our aim is to reduce inequalities in learning, employment and health.


Position Title:                       Health Trainer

Salary:                                    £16,399 – £17,868 (dependent on experience and qualifications)

Hours per week:                 Various (Full Time/ Job share/Part time hours considered)

Interested in improving the health and wellbeing of others? This role involves engaging with individuals from target groups to support them in learning how to make better health choices. You must have the natural ability to build effective relationships, be approachable and have an outgoing personality. You will already have some experience of supporting people and have excellent listening skills. Working across the city you must be flexible in your approach and have good planning and organisational skills.


Successful candidates will hold a Level 2 qualification in a related field and are required to undertake the City and Guilds Level 3 Health Trainer qualification (if not already obtained) along with additional training as required.


This post is subject to enhanced DBS disclosure, satisfactory references and occupational health clearance.


If you are interested please contact Marisol Daley – HR & Finance Administrator on Tel: 0121 4567820 or email:, quoting reference number GW175 for an application pack


Closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 16th December 2016.





Gateway Family Services CIC is the leading provider of training and employment to the health and social care sector. Our aim is to reduce inequalities in learning, employment and health.


Position Title:        Lighten Up Programme Manager

Salary:                  £25,313 per annum

Hours per week:   37 hours per week 

Contract:               Permanent


The successful candidate must have a Minimum Level 4 Management qualification (or equivalent) or significant experience within a similar role and willingness to work towards achieving a Level 4 Management qualification.


You will take the lead on delivering high quality services and providing strong leadership. The role is to manage commissioned services within the West Midlands region and you will be required to manage staff and partner relationships. The role will be to manage a team of call centre staff and to ensure high quality service delivery. We are looking for someone who is highly organised with a track record of effectively managing people and contracts. You will be required to work 37 hours per week, which will include some evening and weekend working and will involve some travel across the region.


Please email Marisol Daley at for an application pack, quoting the reference number GW170, or telephone on 0121 456 7820.

LU PM Job Description & Person Specification


Closing date for applications is 5pm on Wednesday 16th December 2015.

Speaking our clients’ language – with a training course for interpreters

There are over 200 different languages spoken in Birmingham, so many of our client visits require interpreters. Our staff already speak a range of languages including Punjabi and Urdu; however, the clients who are really in need of our services are those who have recently arrived in the country. They bring new language needs and, generally, interpreting services are not geared up for that.

For a while now we’ve been using translation agencies but we find that it doesn’t allow us to deliver as flexible a service as we’d like. We occasionally need to access interpreters with short notice; POWs need to spend time before an appointment giving an interpreter background information and explaining what they are trying to get out of the visit.

Luckily, we are often able to interpret for clients using the skills of our own staff and volunteers. For example, a client who was recently referred to our POWs service is from Democratic Republic of Congo and speaks French. Although none of our POWs speak French,  one of the Gateway volunteers is from Madagascar, so it’s her first language. With help from the volunteer, our POW was able to introduce herself and Gateway to the client. Between them, they were able to start giving the client the support she needs.

In this video, Pregnancy Outreach Worker Shazia explains how, by offering her skills as an interpreter, she can persuade women to attend important appointments that they wouldn’t otherwise have the confidence to.

So we’ve decided to fill the gap – and formalise things – by setting up a training scheme for interpreters.

The training will lead to a formal qualification – an OCN Level 2 in “community interpreting”. But, like the training we give our volunteers, it will also include things like confidentiality, safeguarding, and work on boundaries. As well as giving us more control, this will give trainees a load of extra transferable skills that we hope will be useful to other organisations, leading to further interpreting work for them.

Many of the trainees already signed up are former clients themselves, so they are very well placed to understand how the service works, as well as a natural empathy for the client. As well as providing a translation service, they will be able to act as an assistant to the POW.

We’re hoping the course will open up work opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. The opportunity to gain a formal qualification, and to start earning money by working for us and other organisations could be the beginning of a new career.

Want to find out more?

Our first group of interpreters will start on Thursday 16th May 2013, but there are still some places available.

You don’t need any prior qualifications – just a willingness to learn! However, although English will probably be your second language, you need to be able to speak English well.

So if you speak French, Somali, Arabic, Bengali, Romanian, or any other language that is spoken in Birmingham, and think you could benefit from our scheme, get in touch.

Complex clients: how do you gain trust?

Pregnant-Teen-in-Shadows-001Some of the women our Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWs) support are what we refer to as “complex clients”. They have many issues – they may be drug users or victims of domestic violence; they may be homeless – and so they tend to have had many interventions, usually over many years, from multiple agencies.

So how does a POW begin to build a relationship with a complex client?

Flexibility, availability, consistency

One of the main benefits of the POW setup is its flexibility. Sarah Samersinghe, a POW who has had some memorably complex clients, explains:

“As a POW, I can go to the client – she doesn’t have to come to me. If it’s not appropriate for me to visit her at home, I can meet her elsewhere, or pick her up in the car and take her out. And I’m always available; I don’t expect to only speak to clients at appointed times.”

Consistency is very important, especially when clients have otherwise chaotic lifestyles. “It’s important to do what I say I’m going to do,” says Sarah. “If I say I’m going to be there, I’ll be there.”

Pitching it right

How does she attempt to connect with women who find it difficult to trust new faces? How does a POW help a frightened woman to make quite dramatic lifestyle changes?

“It’s about trying to read people,” Sarah says. “Pitch it right. Choose your moment. When someone’s ready, they’re ready – you’ll just know. The way I personally do this – and not all POWs do, of course – is to talk about my own family; to find elements of my own life that chime with theirs. It often allows me to identify with the client – to show that we’re human too.”

The flexibility of the role means that the POW isn’t necessarily restricted by a time limit for each case.

“Our aim is a healthy outcome for all concerned,” Sarah says. “So if I can justify it, I’ll keep the case open for as long as I feel is necessary to achieve that. For example, a social worker might have to close a case once a child is placed elsewhere, but I feel fortunate that my role allows me to stay with the mother.”

Case study: Hayley

One of Sarah’s most complex clients is Hayley (not her real name).

“Hayley’s had many issues but, when I met her, the main problem was housing. The flat where she lived was pretty much uninhabitable. It was cold and dark all the time and the building was infested with rats and mice. There was no gas supply, and the wiring was downright dangerous. There was no way of cooking, or even making a hot drink, and there was only cold water to wash in. Not good for anyone, but particularly not for a pregnant woman.”

However, the flat, owned by Hayley’s boyfriend, was her home – and it wasn’t easy for her to make the decision to move away. She was scared.

It took a long time for Sarah to persuade Hayley that she should apply for temporary accommodation elsewhere. One day she finally agreed, largely because the weather had become very cold.

In the video below, Sarah and Hayley are on their way back from the appointment with Housing Services to pick up Hayley’s ID and other paperwork she needed for the move to go through. Hayley reflects on how far she’s come. And, poignantly, she tells Sarah that she thinks this is the type of support she’s always needed.

Can you live on £53 a week? Yes… if you don’t have to

The media has been full of people talking about how they could live on £53 a week recently but, even if someone takes up the challenge, it will not prove a thing.

If anything, it will camouflage the reality of living in poverty and hardship.

Many people think that it’s possible to live on £53 a week. Those people generally don’t have to – but they are right, it is physically possible. After heating, lighting, phone and a few bus journeys there may be about £12 a week left for food – and, yes, with careful buying and home cooking it could be done, although there would be no cleaning or washing of clothes or people.

But all of this misses the point.

by Kate Hiscock

The message seems to be: if you live off the state then you have to live a joyless existence. And £53 a week, every week, is certainly joyless.

The real point, and the point the government seems to be trying to make, is: if you want nice things (or even just things) then you must earn your own money. This is where the stunt of living on £53 a week, a stunt that Iain Duncan Smith or others will inevitably pull, will camouflage the real issues.

Most people who can’t make ends meet, who struggle to feed their families first and themselves second, who are the most punished by these reforms, aspire to better things. The politicians  who insinuate that people don’t want to work, and therefore deserve all they get, can never emulate the lives of real people in poverty.

In these times getting a job is not easy. Many more people are out of work and competition for work is high. To secure a job, you need – at the very least -:

  • Basic education and key skills

  • Family support

  • A network of supportive friends and peers

  • Work experience opportunities

  • Experience of different places and people

  • Self-belief and confidence

  • Financial help at key times

  • Role models

The majority of the population (and almost certainly Iain Duncan Smith) have had most of these in their lives.

And the point is, if you have them, not only could you live on £53 a week, you could lift yourself out of poverty, get a job and reduce your benefit dependency.

But without them? Well, Iain Duncan Smith will never know.

“Measuring Outcomes – Producing Evidence – Demonstrating Impact” Event

We are running an event this month to share some of the exciting work we have been doing using technology to measure our impact. This has led to the development of some new and inspiring tools that help social enteprises and commissioners understand the needs of the local population.

Date: 24th April 2013
Place: Leeds Church Institute, LS1 6DG, Leeds
Time : 9.30am- 1.00pm
Cost: FREE

Click here to find out more and register for the event

As the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider, and as cuts to public services threaten to reduce the support available for our most vulnerable families, we have to target services where they are most effective.

Gateway Family Services are a Community Interest Company who have been providing family support services for many years. Like most organisations, we know the changes that people can make if they have the right support.

Recently we have been working with The Department of Health via The Social Investment Business to investigate how to replicate good projects that achieve real change for vulnerable families. A significant part of that work has been spent looking at how we measure outcomes, produce evidence and demonstrate the impact of our work.

In doing so we hope to help:

  • commissioners to understand what works and what the outcomes are from the services they commission, and
  • providers to receive feedback from people who use their services, to create evidence of the value of their work

We have been working with digital technology developers to create some new and exciting tools that:

  • Capture how organisations are supporting people
  • Listen to, and analyse  people’s experiences
  • Align with multiple outcome frameworks

Our event will be an opportunity to hear about this work and to have an early look at the tools being developed.

Speakers include:

  • Vicki Fitzgerald – Chief Executive – Gateway Family Services
  • Stephanie Futter-Orel – General Manager – Latin American Women’s Aid
  • Sarah Cowling – Chief Executive – HealthWORKS Newcastle
  • Simon Whitehouse – Digital Developer

A successful end – and new beginnings – for the twenty minute walking group

Yesterday saw the final session of our 20 minute walking group, based at Shenley Green Surgery.  As previously mentioned, the idea for this group was to provide some gentle group exercise for those who, for a range of reasons, can’t manage to join a regular walking group.

After a two week delay due to the bad weather, our intrepid group took a stroll up to Ley Hill Park in the sunshine yesterday.

Overall, the assisted gentle exercise programme has been a great success. The participants have found benefits not only physically but also socially. All the walkers have spoken of a boost in confidence and happiness levels. The two minute video below shows the group describing what they’ve got out of the six week course – and admiring the views.

Keiran drew lessons from the previous walking group he’s organised to develop and promote this programme – and to get as many people as possible to complete it. “I promoted this as a course with a completion date, to give the walkers an aim and encourage them to attend all the sessions,” he explains. “This was reinforced with mid-way incentives – we gave the attendees pedometers and, at the end, each participant received a small prize for completing the course.”

Although he had planned many aspects of the programme, Keiran still had to adapt his approach slightly as they went along. “In the first session, I found it harder than I’d anticipated to cater for slower and faster walkers – even after only 20 minutes, it’s surprising how much a walking group can separate,” he said.

“So we arranged for two Gateway volunteers to get involved in the planning of the next five sessions and to help co-lead the walks. This meant we could focus on individual needs more, allowing walkers to increase their capacity and make the most of their time.” Of course, it also allows the volunteers to gain some valuable experience in event planning and leadership.

Each of the sessions kicked off with a short health awareness talk before the walking began. Various things were covered, like diet advice and safe ways of exercising.

The future of the assisted gentle exercise programme is bright. Most walkers have said they’d like the group to continue and some have already arranged to meet next week. Keiran’s arranging some further volunteer support for them, so that – ideally – this group can continue to meet up fortnightly from the surgery. In the meantime, he’s working on starting up the next walking group, with new participants to start in six weeks time.

“Overall, I’m very happy with our success,” Keiran says. “I’m really looking forward to the next one!”

Health Trainers having a real impact

Most people who use the Health Trainer service want to lose weight – but their stories are very different. That’s why the support we offer has to be different for every person.

One of the ways we make sure that we tailor our services to each person is by gathering information on our new Impact Assessment App. Rather than writing up a report after an appointment, the App allows us to record the client directly, during the visit, in their words. It records text, video, audio and images.
This means that each time we see a client, we can record how they’re actually feeling – it’s a direct record of a person’s wellbeing. We even ask people to give us a “happiness score” out of 100 during every visit.

And the App allows us to record their journey from beginning to end. After a few appointments, we can sit down with a client and look back with them to see how far they’ve come.

So here are a few examples of the variety of help that the Health Trainers give – in the words of their clients.


Eighteen year old Thomas came into the service in late Nov 2012 with a BMI of 50.

Four months later he said:

This is my 5th appointment with my health trainer today. So far I have lost 2 stone 10 pounds. I feel really good about my weight loss; as a young man I was embarrassed about my weight, and I’m not now. I wished I had met my health trainer last year. How I’ve lost the weight is by eating breakfast and lunch and an evening meal every day, and eating fruit and vegetables. The correct amount is crucial. I am looking forward to meeting people now, I go shopping, and I’m enjoying life more. Thank you for everything. You have been great.


Aston, aged 52, was referred by his GP at Karis Medical Centre at the beginning of March. He needed support with healthy eating as he eats very little during the day but then eats a lot in the evening, which is bad for him as a diabetic. One of the first things Joy his health trainer asked him to do was keep a food diary for a couple of weeks.

Completing the food diaries has helped me to see where I can start to make changes. I’ve decided to make a start with eating breakfast and looking at the menu options you gave me.


Nyachin is a 17 year old student who lives in Edgbaston. She wanted to lose weight so she would feel more confident and be able to wear trendy clothes. She began working with her Health Trainer just before Christmas. She’s now just had her fourth appointment and says:

Your advice has helped to keep me motivated and to think about what I am eating. You have given me more information and support to help me continue with the changes I have been making.

Her happiness score has increased from 65% to 100% in three months.


Fifty eight year old Derek was referred into the service in October 2012. At the time, he said:

Over the years my weight has kept going up and up. I was buying larger tops, now I’m wearing size XXL. I’m at my heaviest ever at 29 stone. Wayne [the Health Trainer] is advising me on healthy eating, portion sizes and doing moderate exercise. I feel really crap at the moment – Wayne you’ve got your work cut out as I’m hard to motivate!

In March 2013 he said,

I’m a driving instructor with major weight problems; my car seat was pushed that far back no one could sit in the back. After six months of being with my health trainer I feel so much better. My car seat has moved forward and my pupils are asking me my secret to losing weight! My health trainer has changed my life. I’ve still a long way to go but I’m doing it. I’ve lost weight before but put it all back on, and more besides. I now eat three meals, have fruit every day, drink water and eat no rubbish. Cakes, crisps, McDonalds have all gone! I have lost four stone so far.


When 35 year old Rhiannon from Ladywood started working with her Health Trainer in January, she said:

I’ve tried many times to lose weight, so I’m really glad you can support me because I know I can’t do it on my own.

Two months on, she said:

I’ve lost over 2 stones with your help and I’m really happy. You made me feel good about the two stone I have lost so far – and to concentrate on this and not the 2lbs I’ve gained.


Clare, from Longbridge, is 25 and came into the Health Trainer service with her husband.

In February, Clare said:

I have no confidence at all.

Three months later, her Health Trainer took this video:

Pregnancy Outreach Workers Handing Over

POWs can support women all the way through their pregnancy and then for a short time post natally (usually a maximum of 8 weeks). In total the support can last for almost a year. This gives the POW the time they need to tackle the woman’s issues, but equally it gives them the opportunity to forge a useful and trusting relationship.  

However they always have an eye on when their support will end – and much of what they do is to prepare the woman for this.  Ideally she will be on a more stable footing and well able to be independent.  For some women the journey is longer so there will still need to be a support network in place that adequately meets her needs.  The aim to to ensure there is a seamless transition and that she doesn’t get lost in the system.

Michelle POW Programme Manager explains; “Ideally handover is something that is thought about before baby comes along.  We like to ensure that every woman has at least one professional to turn to, should they need them. Frequently the handover is to a Family Support Worker so what we’ll try and do is arrange a visit to the local Children’s Centre while mum is still pregnant.  Not only do they get to meet their Family Support Worker and begin to establish a relationship but they see what’s on offer and what they can tap into, so classes, groups etc.”

Michelle continues: “Sometimes mums-to-be, particularly those pregnant with their first baby, may worry about where to get support if they should need it once the POW is no longer around.  This shows them that it’s there.  It’s one less thing to worry about.  It also means that they get familiar with the facilities before baby comes along, which is always a busy time, and it won’t all be new to them.”

Natasha’s coming to the end of her support from Rachael, her POW.  She’s made real progress and it’s hoped that in a few months she’ll be ready to apply for her own house so she and her baby can live independently.  For now, though, Rachael feels Natasha still needs some extra help – which is why she’s introducing her to what her local Children’s Centre can offer – and Natasha’s already applied to do their Positive Parenting course.

Some of the women we support are going to need more help than others.  In many cases the POW has been able to solve the problems the woman was referred to us with, but in some complex cases this isn’t possible.  In this situation it’s about working in partnership with other professionals and ensuring that everyone knows the part they have to play.

Miriam, one of our POWs, has concerns about one of the women she’s supporting: “She had her baby six weeks ago but due to some recent changes both she and I feel she needs some specialist help.  So I’m going to initiate a CAF (Common Assessment Framework).  I’m just filling out the paperwork to get things underway because my aim is to make sure the initial meeting happens before my support ends. I’d like to see who’ll be responsible for doing what and make sure someone takes over the role I’ve been doing which has been sort of co-ordinating things”

Michelle adds: “It depends on the woman.  We take a lead from her and how well she’s coping.  What is set is that handover must happen. There are things we do as part of it that are standard, like making sure mum knows how to register the birth, that she’s getting the benefits she’s entitled to and that immunisations are booked in, but what support remains is a unique thing; it’s tailored to the individual.”