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Thursday, June 7th, 2018

In case you missed it: what happened at the VCS Conference 2018

The 2018 Solihull VCS Conference took place on 24th May and attracted 85 people to the Core Theatre in Solihull town centre.

After networking over light refreshments, the audience moved into the theatre for a welcome by Janet Down (chair of the VCS Strategic Reference Group) who explained how the Conference theme VCS-Public Sector Relationships picked up from the previous Conference, which took the theme ‘Keep it Local’.

Local VCS-public sector collaboration

Work done at that time had estimated the financial value of volunteering in Solihull at £26 million per year, before looking at the additional value in terms of external investment through grants and the savings to the public purse realised through interventions by the sector. As a result, there is an economic driver for the local public sector to foster and partner with local community sector organisations.

Janet illustrated her point by describing the work of Meriden Adventure Playground, which she had become involved in supporting, and the benefits being delivered there to the local community, especially its young people, with the active support of the Council.

Calderdale double-act: VCS and council working in partnership

Guest speakers from Yorkshire, Sian Rogers of Calderdale Council and Graham Mynott of Hebden Bridge Community Association, then took to the stage to deliver what they called ‘a double act’. They described the benefits of their close working relationship and the consequent benefit to community delivered from the former Hebden Bridge Town Hall, consequent to the transfer of the asset from the Council to the Community Association in 2010.

They described how the benefits of that new relationship came into sharp focus as the heart of the town was flooded when the River Calder burst its banks in December 2015. The Town Hall became a relief centre with the Council, the emergency services and the community all working together from the building to respond to the emerging crisis.

They both underline the value, for community impact and economic resilience, of a ‘keep it local’ commissioning policy and the development of community anchor organisations.

Working with the Combined Authority

Henry Kippin of the West Midlands Combined Authority was next to the microphone. After an outline of the remit of the Authority, he referred to the imminent launch of its Inclusive Growth Unit, a cross-sector collaboration working together to transform peoples’ lives by developing new ways of positive social change. He went on to explain how collaboration is a key to growth in the region, and the importance of finding approaches that can embrace the contribution of the voluntary sector.

SMBC view: partnership with the VCS for Solihull residents

Alison McGrory, the Assistant Director at Solihull Council responsible for Stronger Communities, then set out the local vision for our communities through creating conditions for strong, cohesive and inclusive communities and networks of co-production and participation. She outlined approaches to locality based working, community wellbeing, voluntary sector development and partnership working as elements of a strategy underpinning a universal offer to residents. Places, she explained, would be shaped ‘with people’.

After a brief question time with the panel of speakers, there were more refreshments for keep delegates fuelled whilst they continued to network and engaged with the speakers.

An average evaluation score of 4.2 out of 5 gave a good indication that the event had succeeded in its goal and been well received.

Conference presentations

The PowerPoint presentations from the event have been combined into one pdf. It can be downloaded (pdf, 7MB) or viewed below.

The Calderdale slides begin at slide 10.
Alison McGrory’s slides begin at 27.

Further discussion

If you would like to discuss any follow-up from the Conference, please contact Dave Pinwell (Colebridge Trust CEO) at or on 0121 704 7860.

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

The Relate Macmillan Counselling Service

The Relate Macmillan Counselling Service

is now established in Solihull and offers appointments at Solihull Relate, The Core, Theatre Square, Solihull B91 3RG. Friday mornings and Monday early evenings.

‘Let’s talk about Relationships’

If you or a family member are living with or are recovering from cancer, or you care for someone with cancer, you can receive up to 8 free counselling sessions from a Relate counsellor.

We can help with issues such as:

  • changes and problems because someone in the family has cancer
  • difficulties talking to and supporting each other
  • challenges in getting ‘back to normal’ as a couple or family when cancer treatment is finished
  • problems with intimacy and sex life resulting from surgery, treatment, tiredness or anxiety

Macmillan Cancer Support is working with Relate Birmingham to offer this service. Appointments can be booked for individuals, couples, families or young people.

To find out more or make a referral to the service contact:

Eileen Clews, Service Coordinator on 0121 643 1638 or email

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Birmingham Enterprise Adviser Network seeking Enterprise Advisers

If an employer wants to engage with schools, one option is to work as an Enterprise Adviser (EA) as part of the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) Enterprise Adviser Network.

Enterprise Advisers are senior business volunteers who spend approximately 8 hours a month working with a school leadership team and use their business experience and professional network to plan and implement aspirational careers activities.

This role is fundamental to the success of the Network and we are looking for passionate, high calibre professionals from a range of sectors to join. We are particularly keen to recruit volunteers to work  with Special Schools and create opportunities for young people with a range of special education needs who are frequently overrepresented in the NEET cohort.

Alternatively if a business is not able to commit the time to work as an Enterprise Adviser we would be interested in hearing from any who may be able to offer ad hoc activities particularly for special school pupils,  either within the workplace or at their school setting

For further information please contact one of the Enterprise Coordinators who manage the school-business relationships:

Julie Stirrup

Hilary Smyth-Allen

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Solihull Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment – now published

Back in January Solihull Council’s Public Health team asked for comments on its draft Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA).

Comments have been taken into account and have helped create the recently published PNA 2018-2021, which will help ensure residents have good access to local pharmacy (chemist) services.

The document looks at the current provision of pharmaceutical services across Solihull and whether they meet the current and future needs of residents, identifying any potential gaps in services.

NHS England will use the PNA when making decisions regarding applications for new or changes to, existing pharmaceutical services. It will also be used by NHS England, Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Council to help make decisions about commissioning local pharmaceutical services.

Read the Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment 2018-21 here.

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Activities at Auckland Hall Smith’s Wood – Cars Area Big Local

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Ending FGM Conference – sharing key messages and research

Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid’s recent conference on FGM gave key messages from local research that addressed the impact of local work on ending FGM.

The study can be downloaded below. The key messages from the research and the conference are summarised in the following paragraphs.

We had a very successful conference on FGM on Monday 12th February 2018 at Tally Ho. 60 people attended, with many more wanting to attend but unable to do so due to room capacity. Key messages from the conference & Sophie McHale’s research are:

Nasheima Sheikh – Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWA)

  • Female genital mutilation is an issue of violence against women & girls, requiring a sensitive and confidential approach.
  • BSWA has delivered work on FGM since 2010, most recently in partnership with Coventry Haven, supporting many women and learning about effective approaches.
  • BSWA & Coventry Haven have recruited and supported 90 Community Champions from 15 different countries help to raise awareness to end FGM.
  • BSWA is developing an FGM Health Pathway to reach out to women affected by FGM.

Rachel Oluyemi & Ashley Mungai– Coventry Haven

  • Empowerment of women is key to ending FGM – the Haven has developed women’s groups from many different communities, changing attitudes and helping to end the practice.
  • Ashley “don’t underestimate the power of conversation” & start from understanding community perspectives on FGM.

Sophie McHale – University of Manchester and FGM Impact Study author

  • BSWA & Coventry Haven, with whom the research was done, have supported 860 women; developed 90 Community Champions; raised awareness amongst 1,964 people from FGM affected communities and trained 3,500 professionals.
  • Social Convention Theory advocates that we must reach a mass of people before a ‘tipping’ point is reached in changing attitudes – the impact study & PEER research shows that this may have  been achieved within the Somali community but more engagement needs to happen with marginalised and newly arriving communities
  • Professionals in Birmingham & Coventry had a higher reporting rate of FGM compared to a decline nationally – an indicator of the success of FGM training in the region, mainly by Coventry Haven & BSWA
  • A holistic approach is required; focus on health alone can result in a move from Type 3 to 1, but not eradication.
  • Work against FGM has to be nuanced otherwise perverse results can emerge – eg the emphasis on health consequences can also lead to a medicalisation of FGM.
  • Community attitudes have been affected to be against FGM in those who have participated in activities through BSWA & Coventry Haven: 83% had greater awareness and 71% would know how to respond to FGM confidently.
  • BSWA & Coventry Haven’s work has had a significant positive impact on the confidence, health and wellbeing of women affected by FGM.

Gill Squires – WM Police

  • Obtaining an FGM Protection Order is relatively simple – anyone can apply – and it is free. See above attachment for guide.
  • Many different criteria can be included to ensure victims and those around them are properly protected. Breach of an order can result in imprisonment.

Fiona Allen – Birmingham South & Central CCG – Designated Safeguarding Children Nurse

  • There are many health consequences of FGM yet health services are not always aware that the underlying cause of presenting symptoms could be FGM.
  • Women are suffering with PTSD, flashbacks, and other mental & physical symptoms but many health professionals are not confident in asking questions about FGM
  • There are legal responsibilities on NHS staff around FGM.
  • A new health pathway for FGM is being developed with BSWA & GP practices.

Materials from the conference to download:

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Bridging the Access Gap in Solihull – Signs4Life

A new initiative to encourage more staff and volunteers, to take up sign language as an extra language and skill is now available in the West Midlands and surrounding areas. Award winning Signs4Life are showcasing this local initiative to help staff and volunteers to communicate and engage with their colleagues, service users, and members of the public, who may have hearing impairments.

“You never know when you will come into contact with a client, a colleague or member of the public who is autistic, deaf or visually impaired. There are over 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people registered in the UK. We are working with organisations as varied as Specsavers, The British Red Cross, prisons, supermarkets, museums, schools and hospitals. Each of our workshops help you comply with the Disability Discrimination Act and Equality Acts 2010 and encourage a ‘can do’ approach to the 12 million people in the UK who have a physical, sensory or learning disability,” explains Ms Sara Phillips, Signs4Life tutor.

If you would like further information about the Signs4Life workshops in the West Midlands and surrounding areas, please get in touch with Sara on 07964 019 764 or visit our website

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Armed Forces Covenant newsletter: February 2018

AFC News for Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire: Family Day on 8 April

The 5th edition of the Armed Forces Covenant Newsletter for Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire is out now!  This includes details of the Forces Family Day at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park on Sunday 8th April when serving personnel and veterans, and up to 4 family members, can visit Compton Verney for FREE!

The Newsletter also introduces new staff, a veterans recovery project and details on the new Veterans’ Gateway; the first point of contact for veterans in need of support.

The newsletter can be found here AFC News 5.

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Solihull Together Fund Grants Awarded

An independent panel comprising three champions of our local VCS, Fidelis Navas of Xoserve, Matyn Garner of Solihull School and Sharon Gray of JLR, met to consider the 2017 Solihull Together Fund Grant Awards. They awarded a total of £3,000 to nine of the organisations which applied.

Some of the things that will be funded are new printer/photocopier for a community group, a First Aid at Work course for volunteers, three Forest School sessions, new flower beds for a Friends of Park Group, a planter for a Friends of Station Group and travel to a Community Cup tournament for a community/disability group.

The money was raised at last year’s Solihull Sustain / AgeUK Solihull Ball. This year’s Ball on Friday 13th July at the St Johns Hotel will again raise money for the Fund.

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Fraudsters offering fake Government grants

Action Fraud is warning people to watch out for emails and cold calls from fraudsters who are asking people to apply for Government grants in return for an advance fee.

Action Fraud has received 85 reports of this type of fraud since January 2017 with a total loss of £255,724 and an average loss of £3,000.

Bogus companies which have websites set up in the company name, claim to be operating on behalf of the UK Government

The fraudsters cold call businesses and individuals offering the grants and if they’re interested, direct them to fill out an online application form with their personal information.

Once the fraudsters have obtained the personal information they will re-contact victims and congratulate them on being accepted onto the grant programme.

Applicants are then asked to provide identification and are instructed to get a pre-paid card to deposit their own contribution to the fake Government grant scheme. Prepaid cards can be used in a similar way to credit cards, except the funds on a prepaid card are loaded on prior to spending.

Fraudsters will contact the victims by phone or email to ask for the details of their pre-paid card and copies of statements in order for them to add the grant funds.

Of course the grant funds are never given by the fraudsters and the money that’s been loaded onto the card by the victim is stolen.

For more on this scam and how to avoid it visit the Action Fraud website.