Colors: Blue Color

Thousands of EU nationals living and working in Birmingham may remain undocumented just days before the deadline for the Government's EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). And Birmingham City Council Deputy Leader Cllr Brigid Jones today urged the Government to extend the 30 June deadline, following reports that 130,000 EU citizens settled in the UK could be on the verge of losing access to healthcare and other benefits.

Councillor Jones has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel MP, outlining serious concerns about the looming deadline and requesting an urgent on the number of Birmingham residents that have applied. She said: "Like other cities across the UK, Birmingham has seen higher than expected application numbers. But gaps in national data mean it’s not possible to accurately say how many more people are yet to apply. 

"What we do know is that the Covid pandemic has significantly impacted the level of outreach, support and advice available and has exacerbated existing challenges for people, as well as their ability to access face-to-face services. This predominantly affects households with dependent children, women, survivors of domestic abuse, older people.

“Surely it's reasonable to extend the deadline for these and other vulnerable groups. We’ve worked very hard to reach out to them through Adults and Children’s Services and Schools, but there’s a limit to who you can reach during a pandemic."

Cllr Jones added: “Birmingham is a wonderful diverse city and we are proud to offer a warm welcome to all who want to make their home here, including our friends from across the European Union.

“They play an important part in city life, helping to deliver our public services, enriching our culture and running and supporting businesses. Brexit has not changed this; we are still the same welcoming city and we want our EU citizens to stay.

“So, my message to EU citizens is this: I’m so sorry you are having to go through this but it is so important that you apply so you can stay here with the same benefits you currently have. I have written to the Home Secretary asking that government extends the deadline for people to apply.

“However, there is no guarantee this will happen, so please do apply no if you haven’t already.”

Marking the anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush ship in Tilbury Docks in Essex, in 1948, today, June 22nd, celebrates the contribution of the ‘Windrush Generation’ – the moniker used for the ship which brought the first group of people from countries in the Caribbean to live and work in the rebuilding of the UK, following the Second World War.

Introduced in 2018 - the 70th anniversary of the Windrush migration - today is the fourth national Windrush Day. It was brought in following a campaign by Patrick Vernon, an activist and a former Labour councillor in the London Borough of Hackney, who called for a celebration of the contribution of people from the Windrush Generation and migrant communities to UK society.

The day that the Empire Windrush discharged its passengers at Tilbury was not the first-time black people arrived to live in Britain.  Black people were here before 1948. The Empire Windrush ship is the first to be given such publicity and is more widely known because it was the first visible mass migration of black people to Britain; this noteworthy occurrence changed Britain forever.

The new arrivals were met with unease by some. It prompted complaints from some Members of Parliament. One MP remarked the new immigrants would be on the first boat home once the British winter sets in. The Empire Windrush ship was followed by other ships such as the SS Auriga, the SS Orbita, the SS Reina del Pacifico, the SS Castle Verde and the SS Georgic.

One of the Windrush projects is the Back to Eden Community Allotment Project which is based at the Heath Town Allotments, situated on the New Park Village estate in Wolverhampton.

The project initiated by Churches 4 Positive Change will focus on using horticulture and gardening activities, encouraging all age participation to grow fruit and vegetable crops, adopting healthier lifestyles, improving physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, whilst providing community social interaction for seniors and others to share Windrush stories in a relaxed natural environment.   To get involved in the project email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit them at facebook.com/C4PCWolverhampton.

Birmingham Museum Trust West Midlands is commemorating the Windrush Generation through 4 short films and interviews, including a schools learning resource supported by the digitisation of The Birmingham Black Oral History Project, and an online lecture as part of the Museums on Demand programme, whilst the Equality and Inclusion Partnership (Equip) West Midlands, is set to have a series of workshops to gather creative materials that celebrate, share & illustrate the journey of the Windrush generation to the UK, culminating in an exhibition and event.

Citizens for Change West Midlands, a community allotment project to enable the Windrush Generation to pass on knowledge and skills about plants, cultivation and cooking, are marking the Day with their own celebratory events whilst wider afield organisations throughout the UK, including the Leicester Caribbean Cricket Club East Midlands, who will be documenting stories from the local community there who established cricket activities and developed resources for local schools and youth clubs from those stories. Open Doors Forum East Midlands is capturing Windrush stories via a podcast and videos/short films to produce a ‘mixtape’ alongside music and photographs for publication online, with a magazine, school resource packs and community outreach events.

Telford African & Afro-Caribbean Resource Centre is producing specially designed thank you cards to Windrush elders, a Windrush Day celebration, a Windrush themed art competition and school workshops documenting Windrush oral histories whilst the Vine Community Centre East Midlands will be documenting Windrush stories through film & photography, a church service on Windrush Day, costume workshops for Nottingham Carnival and other creative workshops with a legacy day in October.

Leeds City College Yorkshire and Humber, ESOL and Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) learners interacting with the Leeds Caribbean community through creative workshops, a letter-writing campaign and creation of life storybooks, who will be presented to the Windrush Generation at a celebratory event and shared digitally as an educational resource. Hull Council Yorkshire and Humber are partnering with Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum to print the online book ‘70 Objeks and Tings’ for distribution to schools, libraries and community venues; producing a new book on Caribbean culture in Hull with an online version and an interactive trail, and a Caribbean cultural exhibition to tour community venues.

At Ipswich Borough Council East of England, an Ipswich Community Radio programme and a town centre event will include interviews with key Windrush Generation leaders, which will become archived for use beyond the event.

Leading a host of events in the capital, the National Maritime Museum London, presents the Windrush Generation’s histories in video and music to complement digitised photographic collection; creation of reminiscence packs for Windrush people experiencing dementia; school workshops and a webinar to share learning.

The 492 Korna Klub London are presenting a virtual project of 4 online events, accessed either 1:1 or in groups, at which 30 Windrush volunteers will appear as an interactive ‘human library.’ The Blackfriars Settlement presents a creation of a digital archive & soundscape exploring the experiences of and contributions by immigrants from the smaller Caribbean islands, and then touring local schools with the product, Evewright Arts Foundation South East, has a production of monographs as a legacy resource to preserve Tilbury Bridge Walkway of Memories, an art & sound installation to commemorate the Windrush Generation, whilst the Bernie Grant Arts Centre presents their 3rd Windrush Festival with 25 creative events championing a wide range of Caribbean diaspora artists, including an ‘An Evening With Lovers Rock.’

Harmony Youth Project North West has a 3-month creative exhibition focussing on Windrush with smaller creative projects leading to a final event with a Caribbean church choir, a performance at residential homes by school pupils, live Caribbean music, a seminar on the history of Windrush, and a disco for young people.

The UK Government has backed the day with the Windrush Day Grant Scheme, with grants for projects commemorating the unique day in history. Highlight all of the events and activities that will be happening across the UK to celebrate and educate the day, the events have been largely funded by the government’s Windrush Grant Scheme to get wider recognition and understanding not just from the Caribbean community but all communities in the UK about the Windrush Generation and their contribution to our country.

In 2018 Kingsway Project commissioned the Royal Mail Windrush 70 Stamps. The group continues to produce informative booklets, calendars and short films to inform people about Windrush. For information visit windrush70.com.

 

A West Midlands charity working to tackle youth violence and build mental health resilience has moved into its first office location.

First Class Foundation has taken 274 sq ft of serviced office accommodation at the former Carillion House building in Salop Street, Wolverhampton.

The charity, which delivers services on behalf of West Midlands Combined Authority, Sandwell Youth Offending Service and the Youth Justice Board, has been home-based since its inception in 2019.

Chief executive, Sabrina Dennis, said that the move will provide enhanced facilities for the charity’s seven employees and facilitate its future growth.

She said: “We’re thrilled to have moved into a new home in the heart of Wolverhampton. It means that we have a shared space for meeting and collaboration, rather than exclusively operating remotely, which will be even more important as we bring new people into our team.

“Although we have proved that virtual working can be successful, our practitioners are increasingly undertaking sensitive work involving issues of youth violence and mental health. The new office space provides sound proof booths and private meeting space to guarantee client confidentiality.”

First Class Foundation is best known for its delivery of Kitchen Table Talks, a six-month self-funded community pilot programme for the parents of young people aged 13-25 in Sandwell. The project has since expanded to become a successful and established vehicle for tackling issues including youth violence, knife crime and county lines.

Last year the charity was awarded a new regional ‘pathfinder’ project, focused on reducing serious youth violence in the West Midlands by engaging with the parents of young people involved in the youth justice system. The pathfinder is being delivered collaboratively between seven Youth Offending Teams in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton in conjunction with their local Violence Reduction Unit.

“We’re very proud that what started off as an idea to support parents in Sandwell, is now a regional service giving people a strategic voice about youth offending services in their area,” said Sabrina.  

“It will encourage parents to know that they are not alone and that with access to support, education and mentoring from relatable role models, they can overcome the many challenges that arise during a parenting journey.”

First Class Foundation also delivers the Dear Youngers project, a mental health and resilience programme for young African Caribbean males. It was profiled in the National Lottery Community Fund’s Voices from the Pandemic publication and featured on ITV News during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

As part of its delivery of the project, First Class Foundation was consulted by Dr Justin Varney, head of public health at Birmingham City Council, regarding the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black and Ethnic Minority communities (BAME).

Oldbury and West Bromwich are the latest towns to be added to the growing West Midlands Cycle Hire (WMCH) network following the launch in Sandwell today.

More than 60 of the distinctive grey and green bikes are now available across ten docking stations at popular destinations around the area including Sandwell Hospital, Dartmouth Park, Sandwell College and Sandwell and Dudley Railway Station. This follows successful launches earlier this year across the West Midlands which have seen tens of thousands of riders clock up more than 150,000 km on the bikes.

Now the people of Sandwell will be able to try the bikes for fun or for their daily commute simply by downloading the West Midlands Cycle Hire app and following the instructions to find and unlock their nearest bike. First time riders can enjoy their first 30 minutes free of charge. Among those keen to give them a go this morning was Cllr Jackie Taylor, cabinet member for sustainable transport at Sandwell Council.

She said: “It’s incredibly exciting to launch the new cycle hire scheme in Sandwell. The scheme has been popular in other areas and I know Sandwell residents will welcome this new mode of transport to help them get around the borough.

“There will be cycling docks across the six towns in Sandwell and I encourage people to take this opportunity to reap the benefits of the cycle hire scheme. Cycling is also one way of staying fit and healthy and will also help lower carbon emissions by reducing the number of cars on our roads.

“But important as cycling and this scheme are, this is only one part of a truly sustainable transport system for Sandwell. That’s why I am committed to ensuring that people with physical disabilities and women who are survivors of female genital mutilation have access to cycling. I will be working closely with our partners at WMCA to ensure that everyone has access to the transport links we all need.”

The cycle hire scheme has been developed by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in partnership with local councils. The scheme is run by Serco – the operator of London’s famous Santander Cycles – using bikes, docks and locks manufactured in the West Midlands - part of the locking mechanism is made by West Bromwich engineering firm PHA Europe.

Investment in cycling facilities is a key part of the region’s plan to provide more alternatives to the car for shorter journeys around busy towns and cities with a view to reducing congestion, improving air quality and helping the region achieve its #WM2041 net zero-carbon target. Next month the region hosts the UK100 International Net Zero Local Leadership Conference meeting of city leaders to share best practice on climate change.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “With the addition of Sandwell today, we now have our cycle hire scheme up and running across all seven boroughs of the urban West Midlands.

“Our bikes have proven to be very popular across so far, with more than 150,000 kilometres already clocked up by riders across the region. I am delighted we’ve now launched in Sandwell where I am sure they will prove just as popular.

“Not only is cycling good for people’s health and wellbeing, but it also helps us reduce the number of cars on the road as we look to tackle air pollution and the climate change emergency. So, if you haven’t already then please do give our bikes a go – and remember your first 30-minute ride is free!”

Sam Jones, Serco’s micromobility director, said: “We are delighted to be working with TfWM to introduce the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme for the residents and visitors to Sandwell.

“Serco is using its experience managing the successful cycle hire schemes in London and Edinburgh to bring the new cycle hire scheme to the West Midlands and we have successfully launched the scheme in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Solihull, Stourbridge and Walsall. The new cycle network is already becoming part of the transport infrastructure in the West Midlands and we look forward to working with our partners Pashley and Beryl as well as TfWM to ensure that the scheme goes from strength to strength.”

When fully rolled-out later this year there will be 170 fixed docks and 1,500 bikes for hire across the region, of which 150 will be powered e-bikes. The pedal cycles have three gears to cope with hills and are fitted with high quality laser safety lights.

As an introductory offer everyone who signs up will get their first 30 minute bike ride for free. The normal cost of unlocking a bike is £1 with a 5p per minute charge after that, which means a 20 minute cycle will cost £2 and an hour £4.

City of Wolverhampton Council’s new housing allocations policy will come into force on September 28, 2021. Prior to the new policy going live, all applicants will have to re-apply to determine their eligibility to join the Housing Register.

The council has started the process of contacting all current applicants over the coming months to provide them with instructions on how to reapply so that their circumstances can be reassessed under the new policy. Until then all current applications are still valid, and no action is required.

The Council consulted with customers about changes to its housing allocations policy. The changes are designed to ensure that council homes in Wolverhampton are let to those in the greatest housing need. All current housing applications will be closed after September 2021.

Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing, said: “This is a crucial piece of work focusing on how we allocate our limited council housing stock.

“The consultation enabled people to have their say and addressed the challenges being experienced by residents, which is reflected in the new housing allocations policy. The Council remains committed to the objective of giving people in the greatest housing need the greatest opportunity to access suitable housing that best meets their needs.”

With sizzling hot summer days already upon us and pandemic restrictions on travel abroad still a concern, most of us will be planning to spend a lot more time in our gardens over the coming weeks.

With this in mind, Rob Smith – allotment gardener and regular on Channel 4’s Packed Lunch – has shared his Top Ten Tips on how to get the most out of your garden this summer:

1.      Get ready for summer by decluttering the shed, tidying the garage or sprucing up the garden and finally getting rid of all those broken or cracked plant pots, old bricks and other bits of garden waste.  HIPPOBAGs are the responsible way of getting rid of garden rubbish with over 95% of your waste diverted from landfill; and don’t worry if you don’t think you’ll fill your HIPPOBAG straight away as you have up to 6 months to fill it!

2.      Make sure you keep your potted plants and baskets well-watered in the warmer weather.  Placing a large saucer under each pot will help reduce the need for watering and you can add water retaining crystals to baskets and troughs, saving you time and money, leaving you to enjoy the garden.

3.      Sow tasty salad leaves little and often to keep you cropping home grown veg all summer; perfect for BBQ’s and alfresco dining.  Try sprinkling mixed lettuce seeds into old buckets every 2-3 weeks, then within a month or so you’ll be harvesting sweet cut-and-come again leaves; it really is that easy!

4.      If you’re growing veggies in a greenhouse, make sure to keep the doors and windows open as the temperatures rise, after all it can get hot in there and you don’t want your plants to scorch.  Consider using shade netting to give your plants some protection from the sun in the height of summer.

5.      If you’re growing tomatoes inside or outside, remember its best to water the soil at the base of the plant rather than watering over the leaves as this can encourage blight, which in turn will ruin your plants and your harvest.  Removing leaves which cover the fruit will also encourage your toms to ripen and taste super sweet.

6.      Any plant that fruits or flowers will benefit from a feed during summer.  You don’t need to buy lots of specialist plant feeds; using a good quality tomato food will work on anything from tomatoes to cucumbers, through to strawberries and raspberries.

7.      If you are growing flowers in the garden, be it dahlias, begonias, cosmos or anything in between, the more you dead-head (remove the old wilted flowers), the more they will flower!  By doing this you are encouraging the plants to put energy into producing beautiful blooms rather than setting seed.

8.      All gardeners end up with lots of old plastic plant pots after they have planted out their flowers or veg in the garden, so why not wash them, save them and re-use them next year when you sow your seeds?  Instead of piles of pots, why not store them in a HIPPOBAG Midi Bag, it's the perfect size to put behind the shed or garage and its only £12.49, plus it folds up flat when not in use; this makes it great for storing stuff on the allotment too!

9.      Annual weeds should be removed from your garden by hoeing or digging them up and adding them to your compost heap.  However, if you have lots of problem weeds like nettles, dandelions or dock, why not put them in a HIPPOBAG to dry out so they won’t spread, then at the end of the summer you can add the desiccated weeds to the compost or simply book HIPPO to come and take the bag away, weeds and all! (Try the handy new HIPPO app for a really easy way to buy HIPPOBAGs and book collections.)

10.   Courgettes are a great veg for hardened gardeners or newbies to have a go at. They’re quick and easy to grow, they crop by the bucketful and it can be griddled on the BBQ, made into courgette spaghetti, added to curries and pasta sauce and even made into chutneys and jams.  Just remember to keep picking the fruit every couple of days or you’ll end up with a giant marrow; then again at least you’ll be ready for the village show if you grow a whopper!