Have your moment on stage – Dosh Days ‘play in a week’

Pay ahead

From the 17-21st August 2014 Pay Ahead Stay Ahead will be holding a festival of events called ‘Dosh Days’ to explore various issues around money. As part of the festival they would like to recruit a number of young people living in Birmingham aged 16-24 who would like the opportunity to work with Pay Ahead Stay Ahead and the renowned Shontal Theatre for FREE!

Over the course of one week they will work to create, rehearse and perform an original play at the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham City Centre. Pay Ahead Stay Ahead want to create a theatre resource led by young people for young people and perform the play as a promotional resource at events and conferences.

Thye are looking for individuals or established groups who are willing to learn new skills, commit to the project for one week and learn in a fun environment. In return they offer the experience to work with theatre professionals and the chance to perform in a theatre to an invited audience of some of Birmingham’s biggest change makers – an excellent addition to any young persons’ CV!

Travel expenses and lunch will be provided, and the participants will be able to invite family and friends to the performance. If you are interested please RSVP by contacting Melissa at Melissa.hurlbutt@ashramha.org.uk or by calling free from landlines on 0800 160 1990 or direct on 0121 764 3809.





Stop Loan Sharks Challenge – A chance to win £100!


Loan Sharks

Despite the cuddly-toy look Loan Sharks are very unpleasant people! They lend money without the necessary permissions –  which is a criminal offence – and they frequently charge high rates of interest. They can also harass, intimidate and beat up their victims to ensure re-payments.

Birmingham City Council has a dedicated Illegal Money Lending Team to help tackle Loan Sharks and do this though the Stop Loan Sharks project.

The Stop Loan Sharks project is run by Trading Standards and has been working across England for a number of years, raising awareness of the perils of using loan sharks, prosecuting them and supporting their victims.

The Stop Loan Sharks project team are always looking for new ways to get their message across to the general public and have recently launched an online quiz to warn people of the dangers of Loan Sharks, whilst giving them the chance to win £100 of shopping vouchers.

The quiz involves getting people to watch some short  video clips which convey the key Stop Loan Sharks messages – that Loan Sharks should be avoided, are criminals, and that help and support is available for people who have borrowed.   The closing date is not until the end of September so you have plenty of time to enter.

“Take a 10 minute online challenge and win £100 of shopping vouchers”!

The Stop Loan Sharks project online quiz, will give one lucky person the chance to win £100 of shopping vouchers. Two runners up will each receive a goody bag and it will take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

To have a chance of winning the prize please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/IMLTchallenge


Good luck!”


What’s All This Biz? – The context and the content

Thursday 14th November 10am: –  Margaret Way, from Young Talent for Business, is outlining the background and the context for this event and its link to the previous breakfast Youth Employment event held on 24th September, to  the mix of business and young people who have braved the cold wet morning, to attend the “What’s all this biz about?” meeting being held at The Pump in Kitts Green.


Margaret Way addressing the mix of business and young people at The Pump

The purpose of the event is to enable young people and business people the opportunity to have a conversation about how they experience their interaction with each other and how they can work together to help improve life chances and job opportunities for people who live in the Shard End Ward of the City.

Andy Munro and Ian White from Business Development Midlands Ltd have kindly given up their morning to help facilitate the event and Andy has briefed delegates on what is expected from them.  He has emphasised that we want the event to be informal and conversational in format.

Two apprentices Andy and Daniel from BSA Machine Tools  have also turned up to outline their experience of being apprentices.  How they apprentice 2found out about the opportunity to become an apprentice, and what their experience of apprenticeship life has been like so far. Both young men are very enthusiastic and seem to be enjoying their work very much indeed. They attend college a certain number of days each week and the rest of the time engage in a range of work, enabling them to gain a variety of new skills. They work on three of the highly complex machines that BSA are currently manufacturing, machines that are so complex they are not scheduled to be completed until next year!

After Andy and Daniel have spoken the room is buzzing with excited voices eager to discuss the topics of day. To help aid the discussion and to try and obtain some effective feedback on key issues, some questions have been provided, more as prompts than as ‘must-ask’ questions.

For young people questions they might want to ask business people have been suggested, these are:-

  1. As an employer, what are the main qualities that you look for?
  2. If I start on a minimum wage what are the prospects for advancement after the first year?
  3. Would you be prepared to offer work experience?
  4. What sort of training and support would I get when I start work?
  5. Would you take on a 16 year old/do you have any preferences on what age people are, when taking them on?
  6. How do you recruit and how can I get to hear about jobs becoming available?

and for business people these could be:-

  1.  What is your ambition?
  2. What training and education courses have you been on to date?
  3. How do you look for jobs at the moment?
  4. What has stopped you getting into work to date? eg. barriers such as travel
  5. What could we do to help you into work?

Soon young people are talking about how current apprenticeship schemes are not very helpful as they only provide £100 per week which is not enough to live on if they don’t want to remain living at home. They also want to be treated with respect, and be appreciated. There is also a sense that the young people are looking for meaningful work. Other issues that arise are the lack of adequate career advice early in their school careers, and knowing where to look for jobs, the internet is mentioned but there is so much out there…

One positive and possible outcome is the idea of setting up a facebook or twitter account for young people in Shard End Ward to highlight local opportunities to them.

Those attending from business are keen to engage too, and are eager to seek solutions to issues and problems that have been raised. Some are working in the same sector that the young people are interested in, and business cards are offered and further discussions take place….

A ‘washup session’ takes place where the five table facilitators feedback the key issues that have been raised. The general consensus is that this has been a very successful event and both parties, the young people and the business representatives, have enjoyed the discussion and learned a lot. People are now going off with the intention of following up on some of the suggestions that have been made. The idea of holding another event, to explore these issues further was well received. Watch this space….

What’s All this Biz about? – Thursday 14th November 2013


Following the successful Youth Employment Event held at Alcoa on 24th Sept we are now holding a follow up event at the Pump in Shard End to gather the views of local young people and stimulate a discussion between them and local businesses about how easy or difficult it is to get into work.

The event is titled “What’s all this Biz about?” and also has a twitter presence at #allthisbiz.

Some 14 busy business people have kindly made themselves available to attend this event and meet up with the young people from the locality to discuss, listen, learn and share ideas about the working environment and how young people can engage with it and benefit from it.

BSA Machine Tools Ltd have not only sent their Managing Director but have also very kindly allowed two of their apprentices to attend and share their experience of work, and what being on apprenticeship has meant to them.

Yesterday The Independent, Page: 18 announced:- “More than 950,000 under-25’s are now unemployed according to the Institute for Public Policy Research, with youth unemployment in the UK increasing steadily relative to adult unemployment.” So this meeting is very timely.



This event was part of the Action Plan put in place to deliver the recommendations of the SIP White Paper. Commitment 1.2 Develop an approach to ‘locales’.  – Locales aim to bring community development and economic development together. It also helps address the proposal to pilot local economic summits in Districts across the city as outlined in the City Council Leader’s Policy Statement 2013.



Social inclusion summit: Working Together for a Fairer Birmingham – 11th Nov 2013


Today’s Social inclusion summit: Working Together for a Fairer Birmingham is being held at Austin Court, next to the old Birmingham and Fazeley Canal which still provides an exciting mode of transport for visitors to the City.

IMG_0073A fine rain has been falling all morning making David Hockney pool-scapes of the dark canal surface. Clearly, our hope that this would not deter the delegates from attending, has proven true,  for the Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham – who has been leading the Social Inclusion Process since its launch in March 2012 – is currently welcoming some of the 150 or so people who have braved the drizzle in order to attend.

These summits have proved to be a very successful method of community engagement, encouraging people from the whole social spectrum of Birmingham, representatives and practitioners from the Third Sector, Business leaders and workers, member of faith communities, Birmingham City Council staff, colleagues from the Police, and Fire services, indeed everyone who contributes to make Birmingham a truly great city.

The Bishop is remarking on the fact that we all come together, to be together and to spend 2 or 3 hours together to listen to each other and to learn from each other. he goes on to explain how he was attempting to explain to a group of sixth-formers what Social Inclusion is. Addressing the question: How do we make Birmingham an inclusive city? He suggests that there are three levels – first level is the policy level (both local and central Government) and as a Bishop he is invited to address committees in Parliament, then there is practical level which is the level that many people attending this summit engage at, and thirdly there is a pastoral level, which the Bishop explains is more personal and direct for example, helping in your local area and looking after your neighbour.

Summit: Working together and ‘Standing up for Birmingham’ campaign

“Working together” is the key theme of today’s summit being held at Austin Court and the programme will include contributions from successful local collaborative initiatives, including the Birmingham Fair Money Campaign, Alcoa Kitts Green’s community team, the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity and locally-based community organisations addressing loneliness and isolation.

Another aim of this Summit is to encourage delegates to get behind the ‘Standing up for Birmingham’ campaign.  

Birmingham City Council leader, Cllr Sir Albert Bore has announced details of a new campaign for Birmingham called ‘Standing up for Birmingham’. The campaign calls for community groups and individuals to play a bigger role in the delivery of services in the light of the Government cuts. Launching the campaign Sir Albert said:

“We must all ‘stand up’ and make our contribution to getting us through this crisis, and the strongest need to do their bit to protect the weakest from the impact of these cuts.

Over the next few years we will need to restate the role of the city council in a new landscape, with far less resources. But that doesn’t mean we give up on our aims, values and priorities for the city.”

I would think that this is something delegates attending the social inclusion process summit, which aims to encourage everyone across the city to work shape the future wellbeing of the people of Birmingham, would fully endorse.

New Victim’s Charter for Birmingham


This week saw the launch of Birmingham’s Victim Charter which sets out to improve the experience of victims of crime and anti-social behaviour.

Birmingham’s Victims’ Champion, Cllr Jess Phillips was appointed in June 2012 and following extensive consultation with victims of crime, statutory sector providers and the voluntary sector, developed the first Victim’s Charter for the city.

The charter contains a series of recommendations that partner organisations have signed up, which will give victims the respect and support that they deserve during what is a traumatic time.

As a victim of crime you will expect to receive a minimum standard outlined in the Code of Practice:

  • to be taken seriously
  • treated with kindness when reporting an incident and thereafter
  • treated with dignity, respect and to be treated fairly
  • to be referred to Victim Support and/or specialist providers for additional support
  • to be kept up to date
  • to be offered the option of a contact plan
  • listened to, regardless of agency and not passed around
  • and know where to go if thing are not right and how agencies can be held accountable

Baroness Helen Newlove, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales congratulated Birmingham on becoming one of the first cities to introduce a Victims’ Charter affirming an important commitment that a real difference can be made to meet the need of victims.

At the launch Cllr Jess Phillips emphased that the interests of a victim of crime or anti-social behaviour must always be put forward whenever any incident is being investigated by public agencies and the charter will ensure this is the case.

During the same event, a video outlining the aims of the Vicitms’ Charter was also premiered: 

To find out more visit Birmingham Community Safety Partnership or download the charter and an accompanying Directory of Victims’ Services Victims-Charter-Directorate-011013-v3.

Youth Employment Breakfast event (24th Sept 2013)

This week several key businesses in the Shard End Ward, including representatives from the banking, retail transport and manufacturing sector, met along with colleagues from Birmingham City Council and local community organisations to explore how they could all collaborate  to support the local economy, help deal with high levels of  youth unemployment and address skill shortages in the local area.


Brian Summers chairing the meeting

The event was hosted by Alcoa Manufacturing (GB) Ltd  at their plant in Kitts Green, long time supporters of the local community, and chaired by Brian Summers Chair of The Pump, which provides help and support for youth in Kitts Green. Delegates were given an outline of the City’s aspirations around Social Inclusion, the Young Talent for Business initiative and the Our Place! project being developed in Shard End, which aims to design and deliver local services that focus on local priorities and reduce costs.

Steve Brittan from BSA Machine Tools Ltd, and President of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, gave an inspiring speech on the role businesses could play by providing opportunities for young people. He also stressed the need to change the image of manufacturing which is still seen as being dirty greasy work carried out on a cold factory floor. He proposed entering into a dialogue with schools and colleges to ensure they are providing the correct training for young people to enable them to engage with the manufacturing industry. He also reminded delegates that business can provide the opportunity for self development; as in his own case where he started off as an apprentice on the factory floor but eventually rose to be the managing director conducting business on a world wide stage.


The Alcoa community team outline the work they do locally

The Community Team from Alcoa outlined the work they do in the neighbourhood through the implementation of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme. As part of this they have entered into partnerships with over 30 local organisations (schools, sports clubs, day care centres etc) to help develop programmes which improve the local area. Alcoa staff also engage with children at the local International School where they help them with their reading and have seen impressive results.

The meeting then heard from businesses present about the challenges  they face  when it comes to employing young people;  such as young people not having the necessary skills, lacking in self confidence and having no understanding of the work ethic required to engage in a daily work regime etc..


A delegate from Jaguar Land Rover outlines some of the apprenticeship approaches his company have taken

One delegate considered the problem to be a moral issue in that the young people he dealt with had an unrealistic expectation from life;  they wanted to be pop stars or millionaires without the need to do any work for it, like the Queen song says ‘I want it all and I want it now!’  He blamed the ‘instant gratification’ culture, where young people expected everything to be instant. The idea of thinking and planning for the longer term seemed to be missing from their thinking. Young people need to be taught the value of making long term plans which are supported by their parents and friends.

Monarch Airlines outlined their impressive approach to apprenticeships where they have a policy of interviewing everyone who applies for a job; recently that involved interviewing 650 people! They are keen to meet the individual rather than rely on paper qualifications. This process tends to ensure that the individuals chosen do extremely well during their apprenticeships and become highly valued members of the company.

In a lively discussion delegates contributed further examples of good practice or areas where the current systems need to change in order to make the employment of young people much more straight forward.

Next Steps

All present agreed this was a valuable event and expressed a commitment to work together and try and make a difference for the young people of the Shard End Ward. One of the key next steps will be to meet and hear directly from local young people and what they see as the barriers to work from their point of view.


This event was part of the Action Plan put in place to deliver the recommendations of the SIP White Paper. Commitment 1.2 Develop an approach to ‘locales’.  – Locales aim to bring community development and economic development together. It also helps address the proposal to pilot local economic summits in Districts across the city as outlined in the City Council Leader’s Policy Statement 2013.

The Parable of the Good Brummie!

The Good Samaritan

At the recent Social Inclusion Summit there was a clear sense of eagerness, one could almost say enthusiasm, to put the commitments and recommendations of the Green Paper into action, along with a strong mandate from those present to proceed on to the creation of the White Paper and the Action Plan.

However, despite the enthusiasm there was also at times a frisson of uncertainty, and an underlying sense of bewilderment as to how we could make the recommendations a reality.

There is no doubt that it is a challenge, a real challenge. The task from now on is to come up with solutions to the problems that have been so clearly articulated.

Now, one response to this could be to become despondent and overawed by

One approach to the challenge

the clear enormity of the task, and ostrich-like bury one’s head in the sand.

Another would be to try and run head-long at it and, like some super-hero, set out to save the world.

Another is to keep working hard to find solutions, setting up the conditions to bring about the necessary change, and working through each obstacle as it arises.

It is this last method that seems most likely to succeed and I have a quiet confidence that the people of Birmingham can bring this about.

Let me tell you a story…

Amid the storms that lashed the country on Thursday night (22.11.12), leaning at a very steep angle to the universe, I made my way to my bus-stop against a fierce, relentless wind. Rain was bouncing of my clothing and the cold was lacerating my face as if I was being flayed by a razor-sharp icicle.

I could see the bus I was after in the distance but, as I drew closer, it uped its platform and drove off. I was now first in the queue; soaked, cold and miserable. Time passed. Eventually a bus from a rival company arrived. Sadly, my pass was not valid and I was reluctant to pay the top up fee which would enable me to use this service.

Suddenly an inspector approached informing the now swelling crowd that the bus was now loading further down the stop. I informed him that I could not travel on that bus as my pass was not valid. He said, “Come on. It’s cold and wet. Just get on. I’ll sort it.”  Flustered, I repeated my rather limp excuse about the wrong pass but he was insistent. “It’s freezing cold, just get on the bus and go.”

He escorted me down to the waiting bus, where three or four other passengers with the wrong passes were hanging around. Extending his beneficence he ushered all of us onto the bus, repeating his desire to get us out of the cold.

He then spoke to the driver and using some discretionary fund he had access to, waived the additional fees. We climbed on board and a few moments later, sitting in the warm, soothing comfort of the dry bus, we set off.

Here we have a clear example of the Brummie spirit! We know Birmingham is a welcoming city,  and I am sure there are many of you who, like me, have had a strong, vital, direct experience of how caring, compassionate and generous a city it is too.

It is because it is full of people like this bus-inspector, who is willing to use his discretionary power for good, that gives me the confidence to believe that we can make the commitments and recommendations of the Green Paper, and the emerging Action Plan and White Paper, work!

Operation Black Vote – West Midlands Civic Leadership Programme