Author Archives

Sandwell Financial Services Hub for Tenants

Funding & Finance - CalculatorSandwell Financial Services Hub is a five year BIG lottery project aimed at helping social housing tenants become more confident in, and more aware of, how to take control of their finances.

The project is being led by Black Country Housing Group in partnership with: Accord Group, Midland Heart, Sandwell Community Information & Participation Service Ltd, Sandwell Consortium CIC, Sandwell Council and 6Towns Credit Union.

The service is aimed at tenants from specific target groups, namely those who are social housing tenants living in Sandwell AND who are ONE of the following:

  • A first time tenant of any age
  • A tenant moving in and out of work of any age
  • A young tenant aged 16-24 years old

For more details please contact Sandwell Financial Services Hub on 0121 561 7935 or email

Black Country Tool Bank opens

Tools from ToolBanksHigh-quality, low-cost tools for hire to voluntary and community organisations and community projects.

The Tool Bank lends tools to charities, community groups, schools and social enterprises at 3% of their retail value for up to eight weeks at a time. This 97% discount cannot be matched by commercial tool hire companies and is available only to Black Country Tool Bank members. Instead of spending time asking for £1,000 to purchase tools you might use for a limited period and need to maintain and store, the Tool Bank can lend that equipment for £30 per week.

Most organisations join for £25 for a 12 month access agreement. This agreement gives organisations an online ID and password to peruse their catalogue, make an order and a reservation so you can pick up tools from their Dudley service centre at Ionic Business Park. This tool handling fee allows us to maintain and grow the tool bank by keeping tools in circulation for at least five seasons.

The Tool Bank accepts donations of tools and equipment to help increase the range of equipment in stock and they are looking for volunteers. Stock includes dozens of shovels, spades, hoes, shears, loppers, scythes, saws, pitchforks, paintbrushes and other gardening and DIY implements. Based on member advice, they are now preparing a new order including industrial strength garden shredders, lawn mowers, soil tampers and strimmers.

You can learn more at

The new-look SMBC cabinet structure unveiled

Sandwell Council HouseSandwell Metropolitan Council has been unveiled has announced changes to the Cabinet structure.

Darren Cooper will continue to be the Leader of the Council with Steve Eling remaining as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Resources.

Cllr Simon Hackett will take up the lead for Children’s Services, with Cllr Yvonne Davies taking over from Ann Jaron to lead Adult Social Care.

A post of Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing will see Cllr Paul Moor leading with Councillor Mahboob Hussain jointly deputising as Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Town and Neighbourhood Services.

Cllr Crompton will lead for Highways and Environment with Cllr Ian Jones taking up the role of Cabinet Member for Jobs and Economy.

For a full list of contacts for the Cabinet at Sandwell Council please Click Here.

For details of what is included in their respective portfolios  please Click Here.

The Impact of Welfare Reform in Sandwell

post - Welfare ReformHere in Sandwell we expect welfare reform to hit particularly hard. A high proportion of our people depend on benefits.

There will be negative impacts on the local economy and housing market, on people’s everyday lives, on services from key partners including the third sector and on just about every council service.

Many of the welfare reforms, while coming from different pieces of legislation, will have a combined impact on essentially the same individuals and families who are already among the most deprived people in our communities.

In Sandwell, about 45,000 people are on benefits, and many will have never had to think about working out household budgets. With the move to universal credit, all benefits will come monthly in arrears and people will have to learn financial skills very quickly. People will suddenly face a need to manage their own money (paid to them direct) rather than, for example, have housing benefit paid direct to their landlord. Households with 4 or more children will be in for a shock because they will get less money unless they can find 24 hours of work a week.

This cut will be on top of potential reductions to housing and incapacity benefits, from disability living allowance and/or from having non-dependants living with them. On top of this, residents are facing a reduction in council tax discount.

About 8,000 Sandwell households in the private rented sector claim local housing allowance. At a stroke, 3,000 of those properties are no longer affordable, and all households stand to lose income:

  • about £70 a week for 100 households in houses with more than four bedrooms
  • about £30 a week for 600 single people between 25 and 35 (who will face living in a bedsit rather than flat).

In the social housing sector anyone in a house with “too many” bedrooms will lose about £10 a week per excess bedroom. Anyone with a grown-up child at home will face the difficult choice of squeezing more rent from son/daughter or suggesting they find their own place.

There are key risks, increased homelessness and more family instability as the same people suffer loss of income from a variety of legislative changes.

The changes will also have a cumulative impact on Sandwell itself, taking around £100 million out of the local economy and making it harder to provide jobs as a path out of poverty.

The Council is responding to the multiple challenges of welfare reform by working with partners in the voluntary and community sector to:

  • build people’s financial confidence
  • help people to make the most of job opportunities
  • deliver Local Welfare Provision
  • find imaginative ways to make best use of existing housing stock
  • build a range of support to help the most affected families into work

The really hard work of helping people cope to is just about to begin.

For more information please visit the Sandwell Trends website: or contact Jane Alexander –

Sandwell : Community Infrastructure Levy

post - Environment + housing - ParkSandwell Council is considering the introduction of a Community Infrastructure Levy (or CIL) from April 2014. This is a charge on new development which the Council can then use to pay for new infrastructure needed as a result of the new development, for example roads, public transport, open space or health centres.

Later this year, in May/June, the Council will be formally consulting about a “Draft Charging Schedule”, in other words, the amount of money to be charged to developers for different types of development. In some areas of the Borough it is proposed to charge £70 per sq m of new residential development.

The Council also has to make an assessment of what community infrastructure will be needed in future, known as the Infrastructure Development Programme (IDP).

Something of particular interest to community organisations is the fact that a minimum of 15% of CIL income must be spent “on behalf of the community”, and the Council must engage with the local community to agree how this money is spent (further guidance and regulation from central government is awaited).

Further information about consultation will be provided later in the year, together with a link to relevant webpages. In the meantime, if you want further information, contact

Healthwatch Sandwell : Update

post - Health & Social Care - TalkThis is a statement from Sandwell Council to update readers on where they are with implementing Healthwatch.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012, paved the way for a national body, Healthwatch England and a local organisation local Healthwatch for each local council in England with social care responsibilities.

Healthwatch is intended to strengthen the collective voice of users of Health and social care services and members of the public, and will replace Local Involvement Networks (LINks) from April 2013.

Healthwatch Sandwell will be a new organisation that will form part of the executive decision-making health and wellbeing board, bringing the views and experiences of people who use services to influence and improve the way in which health and social care services are provided and run.

The LINk Management Board and the Healthwatch steering group have recently merged to support the setting up of Healthwatch at a local level.

Working with Sandwell council, the new reference group will take the development of the new Healthwatch organisation and Healthwatch Board forward.

Councillor Moore, Cabinet Member for Health and Commissioning said: “we are continuing to work closely with Sandwell LINk and its host organisation Black Country Housing Group, so that there is continuity during the transition to the new social enterprise.

Quality Goods for Charitable Organisations

Office Furniture - ChairsIn Kind Direct redistributes surplus goods from manufacturers and retailers to UK charities. It was founded by The Prince of Wales in 1996 and is one of The Prince’s Charities, which is the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the United Kingdom.

In Kind Direct have redistributed £140 million worth of goods from over 880 companies. Almost 6,000 voluntary and community organisations have received products helping millions of people in need both in the UK and abroad.

In 2012 Civil Society UK said; A survey of some 500 charities which have benefited from In Kind Direct’s services found that 67% say it has helped their charity remain sustainable. The average estimated saving per charity in 2011 was £9,141.

Laura Hales, Head of Charity Partnerships, In Kind Direct said; “Our charity partners are increasingly coming to us with questions about where they can get additional help in these difficult financial times.”

Visit the website here:

The People’s Orchestra celebrate becoming a CIO

people's orchestra logoOn 21st March, The People’s Orchestra celebrated becoming Sandwell’s first Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

The People’s Orchestra was established as a community project run by volunteers at The Change Consortium, funded by its members and by a development grant from the Arts Council.

Now a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), the aim of The People’s Orchestra is to give everyone access to orchestral music whether it be playing, listening or volunteering in the back offices. In some instances people who are less well off have been given free instruments, tuition and bursaries for membership, giving The People’s Orchestra a unique rich tapestry of talented individuals from all walks of life. There are no age limits or limits on the numbers or instruments or musicians involved. The company also provides free events so people who wouldn’t normally have access to these types of events get to experience a live orchestral performance.

The People’s Orchestra have a professional approach for an amateur orchestra which means they recruit the best musicians without discrimination due to background or financial status.

Becoming a CIO

The process was very easy. Forms can be downloaded from the Charity Commission web site and Helen Trueman from the SCVO, helped to complete them should you need advice.

The Charity Commission are very busy. They prefer email contact and will most probably ask you further questions once you have submitted your online application. There isn’t much space on the form to explain some things clearly and they may need clarification, although they will look through your website first to gain a better feel about what you want to do.

The best advice I can give is to remember that the Charity Commission have a 15 day waiting rule. Your email will be answered in 15 days, and not any earlier. Answer any questions they ask you as fully as you can because if you miss something you’ll be waiting another 15 days!

Get Support

SCVO offers a range of services to voluntary and community organisations in Sandwell, including governance support, constitutions and charity registration. If you would like further information or to request support please contact the Capacity Building Team on 0121 525 1127.

Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG – appointment of members

Board MeetingSandwell and West Birmingham CCG is the new NHS commissioning body for our area, which will take over from Sandwell PCT in April 2013. 

As part of the process of setting up their committee structure, they are looking to recruit four people to their governing Board – two “lay members” (a Vice Chair and a Chair of Audit) and two “independent committee members” (one for “partnerships” and one for “strategic service redesign”).

For an overview of these roles, see the links below:

Advert for all roles

Vice Chair job description

Chair of Audit job description

Independent Committee Member – Strategic Service Redesign

Independent Committee Member – Partnerships

Anyone intending to apply should ensure they are eligible to apply for these roles by checking the CCG Regulations 2012.

If you are employed by a local authority or you are an Elected Member you are ineligible to apply for the lay member roles (Vice Chair and Chair of Audit). However, you can apply for ICM roles (partnerships and strategic re-design).