Safer, Stronger Communities

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West Midlands Police – Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community

A message from Chief Superintendent Mat Shaer, Force Lead for Hate Crime:

“Dear All,

You will all, no doubt, be aware that due to the current Covid-19 situation, this season’s Pride events will be held entirely online.  I am aware through contact with the LGBTQ+ community; both within West Midlands Police and wider, and national policing of a planned campaign of homophobic abuse. It is suggested certain individuals are planning to attack websites and social media accounts that have posted support for the LGBTQ+ community.

This kind of harassment is clearly unacceptable. I would like to reassure anybody who is concerned that this is being taken seriously. There are robust plans locally and nationally to deal with any incidents as well as to support those who may be affected.

I would encourage anyone affected to make contact with West Midlands Police (Hate Crime App, Live Chat, 101) or True Vision or third party reporting centres and/or their community support networks.”


‘Thank You’ for making a difference in Sandwell

Thank you, thank you, thank you…

This week reminds us to give our heartfelt thanks to the thousands of volunteers giving their time in Sandwell to really make a difference to local people and communities.

Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) is a long-standing event in the voluntary sector, established in 1984. If it was ‘business as usual’ we would be celebrating, along with hundreds of other organisations, and getting together to hail our champions at events across the borough.

This year, of course, things are slightly different; so we’re going to bring you a few stories over the week that demonstrate the wide range of ways in which people are giving their time to make a difference. (Check back each day to read the next story).

In the last few weeks we have enlisted a small army of local people who have come forward to support their community, many for the first time.

We have facilitated hundreds of them to ‘do their bit’, from shopping and collecting prescriptions for isolating residents to supporting existing voluntary organisations to change their way of working to cope with the crisis.

But of course there are always people in Sandwell giving their time freely – having fun, building their own confidence, making new friends, boosting their CV and learning new skills alongside making a massive difference to local communities.

To all of you, whether you’ve been helping out for years, or you’ve just joined the party, we thank you most sincerely.

And if you’re still waiting for your invitation then please get in touch and find out more by emailing getinvolved@scvo.info

Helping out can be a joy for life, not just for crisis.

 

Some of the stories we’ve gathered from our recent work…

Friday (2 stories today) – ‘Bryan at Brushstrokes’ and ‘Gurdeep gives her time’.

A Letter to SCVO from Tipton volunteer Bryan, helping out at Brushstrokes

“Hi Kim,

Just want to say thanks for the kinds words. It was so nice too to receive those pictures and letters from the children of the families I’ve been delivering to.

Thought I’d share with you a couple of little things from myself. Firstly, there’s a family that speak limited English, and the man’s name is Roberto. From the very first week we instantly clicked, not sure how or why (maybe the way they all come to the door with a smile). Every time I go there I instantly shout Roberto at the top of my voice and they all respond – quite funny with my thick Black Country accent! As I leave they all shout ‘ciao’, to me. From about my 3rd delivery up till present I give them a little present from myself, usually sweets, yesterday was a large bag of jelly beans (did want them myself be honest!).

Over the past few weeks any donations I’ve been given from friends and family I try to share out equally but I seem to find myself putting the odd tin of something extra in theirs. I scour the internet for free nappies which I collect if they are local to me, also as of yesterday my local shopkeeper Suky (known him for years), is topping up the parcel. He told me to pop in on a Thursday and just ask for a donation to take with me.

Anyway there you go – who knows how long my furlough from work will be or if I ever return but at the moment my volunteering will carry on in some form with Brushstrokes and with Sandwell Litter Watch and team. I enjoy both volunteer roles and either would be an area I could see myself in.

Regards Bryan.”

Bryan’s ‘Thank You’ picture.

(you can click the picture to see a larger version)

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Gurdeep gives her time

The voluntary sector looms large in Gurdeep’s life, as under normal circumstances she has a rewarding career with a charitable organisation.

When the Covid crisis hit, however, she found herself furloughed from work and realised she could put some of her experience to good use as a volunteer.

“I have a background in safeguarding and signposting and have always considered myself a good listener, so I signed up to SCVO’s volunteer data base and was steered towards the Sandwell Together befriending service.

“Within about a month I had seven people to chat with on a regular basis and they have all turned out to be so lovely.

“Most of them really need someone to just listen, not to talk back at them too much. They have so much to share and it’s a privilege to hear their stories without judgment, and without any obligation to do anything more than listen.

“Of course there are occasions when it’s useful to be able to signpost people to other services that could help them, and Helen from Sandwell Advocacy is great at that kind of training and support for volunteers. But in the main, the people I’m befriending don’t need any specialist intervention. They need little more than to open up to a listening, impartial ear.

“Some of them have absolutely no one else to talk to, and personally I don’t think that’s just because of the current virus situation. I believe there is a need for a service like this all year round.”

If you would like to know more about giving a little time to really help a lot then please email getinvolved@scvo.info

 

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Thursday – Phil’s Story

Skip hire manager Phil, from Great Barr, never imagined volunteering before the current crisis.

In recovery himself from cancer, when lockdown loomed he decided he needed to step up and ‘do his bit’ for the Sandwell community.

“I was furloughed from work and my partner was working full time from home, so apart from household chores I felt a bit useless,” he said.

“I sent in my expression of interest to SCVO but was a bit hesitant about what I could do because of the cancer recovery.

“Remarkably, they set me up to be a telephone befriender, which was absolutely perfect. I was used to talking to people on the phone, and I had some training from Sandwell Advocacy to deal with stuff I might encounter, which was great.

“That first time I rang someone who needed befriending was very daunting. I was nervous to say the least, even though I talk all day at work. But I soon got into it and it’s been amazing – there’s a different world out there I never knew of before and I’m privileged to be able to make it a bit better place.

“My family and friends are quite surprised I’m doing this but I enjoy it and have no plans to stop volunteering in some way or other even when this is all over.”

Phil is a volunteer for Sandwell Together, created during the pandemic by Sandwell Advocacy and SCVO as a befriending service for isolated residents.

Dave Bradshaw, project co-ordinator at Sandwell Advocacy, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has seen our community pull together in ways never seen before.  People have come forward in their hundreds to step up to the challenge and volunteer to do something positive in a time of adversity.  From supporting the work of health and social care services, to providing practical support to people unable to do their shopping or collect medication, through to those providing emotional support and social contact via telephone befriending the response has been overwhelming.  At a time when the work of volunteers is especially recognised during Volunteers’ Week this army of volunteers has demonstrated what a huge difference volunteering can make”.

SCVO set up the Sandwell ‘crisis’ volunteer response service and currently has close to 400 volunteers out and about supporting residents – shopping, collecting prescriptions and even walking dogs!

If you would like to join them contact getinvolved@scvo.info

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Wednesday – Lisa designs new ways to work

Jigsaw is a local charity working with adults with learning disabilities and due to the pandemic had to stop all social activities for members – no craft group, no bingo, no trips 🙁

For most members, Jigsaw activities were the only things they did outside of their home; where they met friends, had fun and enjoyed shared, new experiences, so naturally they were devastated.

Jigsaw staff and volunteers quickly developed an action plan to keep their members happy, including phoning members every week to check in on them, and setting up two WhatsApp groups where members, volunteers and workers could chat and have online fun. Even bingo was re-imagined via WhatsApp!

The skill set they were missing was graphic design, making activities visually appealing to their client group, and that’s where volunteer Lisa Barrett stepped in.

Lisa, a freelance graphic designer from Bearwood, had signed up to the SCVO ‘crisis’ database, expecting to be called for something like shopping or prescription-collection. But she had mentioned design in her volunteer application, which a quick search identified.

With Lisa’s help, Jigsaw has been able to produce a weekly pack of fun activities for members and a growing number of other people with a learning disability in Sandwell. They make the activities available to other people with a learning disability via free downloads on their website homepage. The activities include colouring for adults, dot-to-dot, spot the difference, a range of quizzes and other puzzles, and word searches.

Lisa said: “I registered my availability to volunteer locally via SVCO’s website back in March after seeing a call for volunteers on Twitter. Most of my work had been put on hold due to the pandemic, and I was keen to help people with my new-found time. It was fantastic to receive the introduction to Liz at Jigsaw, and I’m really enjoying being able to help in a small way as they keep their fantastic work going through this time.

Although I’ve worked with many charities in the past, I’ve not worked with adults with learning disabilities, and it’s been so rewarding learning about how Jigsaw truly helps its community of members, and is helping bring enjoyment and connection at this difficult time.

I hope to continue to help Jigsaw going forward through Coronavirus and beyond, and look forward to the day when I can meet some of the members in person, and join them for tea and cake at our beautiful Lightwoods House.”

Liz from Jigsaw said: “Our members love their weekly packs and Lisa’s contribution has enabled us to present activities in an accessible and engaging way. She has designed a number of resources including a healthy food quiz, which in addition to being fun also helps our members to eat healthy under the lockdown. We are really grateful to have a volunteer with Lisa’s skills working with us at this time.”

Find out more about Jigsaw: https://www.jigsawevents.org

Find out more about Lisa Barrett: http://www.lisa-barrett.com

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Tuesday – Doreen says “thank you” …

Hundreds of people signed up during the pandemic to support people in need in their local community. One of them was Andy (pictured right) …

“Sending volunteer Andy to us has been like some kind of miracle. My husband and I have no family close at hand, and all of our friends are in the same boat, stuck inside unable to go shopping. Andy calls us to see what we need and he’s so warm and friendly. When he turns up with fresh veg and fruit it feels like your birthday and we’re so glad to see him, even if it has to be from a distance.

Last week when he dropped off the shopping I wasn’t feeling very well and even from the end of the path he noticed. He asked me what was the matter and insisted on going back to the shops to get me Paracetamol in case I had a fever. He made sure I had numbers to call and knew what to do if I got any worse, which thankfully I didn’t, and then he rang every day to see how I was.

I can’t thank Andy enough, and SCVO too for organising such a fantastic service.”

Doreen, Smethwick.

 


Women’s Aid Heart-to-Heart Fundraising Appeal

Black Country Women’s Aid is an independent charity which has supported survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence in the West Midlands for 30 years.

The sensitive and holistic support and refuge services help victims of domestic abuse, rape and sexual violence, child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and women involved with the criminal justice system, to escape from violence, cope with trauma and rebuild their lives.

There has been a rise in domestic violence since the beginning of lockdown. Coronavirus has led to increased isolation for all, making things much worse for victims who want help.

Black Country Women’s Aid is still open and giving support to victims. The organisation is asking you to support their fundraising appeal via Heart-to-Heart, a knitting challenge of Hearts and caterpillars.

The Heart-to-Heart Challenge was created to assist adults and children to get the help they need to overcome the trauma of violence, rape and exploitation.

To help get you started, see full details in the information pack.


Coronavirus (COVID-19): Increased Risk of Fraud and Cybercrime Against Charities

Fraudsters are exploiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to carry out fraud and cybercrime. Police have reported an increase in coronavirus related scams.

The Charity Commission are issuing this alert to help charities minimise the risk of becoming a victim of such frauds and cyber-attacks.

All charities, but especially those providing services and supporting local communities during the coronavirus crisis, could be targeted by fraudsters.

Webinar about the risks of coronavirus frauds: what to watch out for and how to stay safe click here to watch.

The Fraud Advisory Panel and Charity Commission have pre-recorded a webinar with sector partners to help you spot COVID-19 related fraud, and better protect your charity from harm.

The Charity Commission have joined by fraud experts from the City of London Police and Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy who share practical advice and tips.

To read the full Charity Commission article click here.

Source: Charity Commission


National Business Response Network … now open.

A few weeks ago we launched our National Business Response Network (NBRN) – An online platform where offers from business and requests from communities across the country are matched.

We’re absolutely delighted that in such a short time we’ve been able to match more than 400 community requests for help with businesses who can offer support.

Each match helps to change lives and support those who need it through this crisis. We’re so proud to see so many businesses from our network and beyond coming forward to pledge their support, and we are delighted to have two Founding Partners – AXA and the London Stock Exchange Group.

Please log your offer of support or request at: https://businessresponsecovid.org.uk/   

For more information contact Kelly Stackhouse 07921 493274 or Palvinder Dulai 07803 746618.


Charity Commission Issues Advice About Coronavirus-Related Financial Difficulties

The Charity Commission has published guidance on coronavirus related financial difficulties in charities and how to work through them.

It states that “charities will be exposed to higher levels of risk than in more normal times” and that it will recognise this.

“We understand that many trustees are having to cope with serious financial challenges that will have a major effect on their charities and those who depend on them. We have therefore set out some guidance for trustees, especially at smaller charities, who may need help facing difficult situations or decisions,” the guidance reads.

The guidance states that in reaching decisions, open and informative communication with users, supporters, staff and volunteers will be important.

It adds that it is important to make sure to have as accurate a picture as possible of the current and immediate future operations and their financial implications on the charity.

‘We will take account of the fact that things may go wrong despite the best efforts of trustees’

It tells trustees to consider the best interests of the charity. This will likely include considering the trade-off between reducing costs in order to be there to support users in future, and meeting the immediate needs of the charity’s users with the possibility that in future the charity will have to reduce its services or close entirely.

The guidance adds: “As trustees you will generally be protected when you have carefully applied your skills and experience to decisions and taken advice when needed. We recognise that these decisions will often be difficult, that there may not be an obvious ‘right’ decision, and that charities will be exposed to higher levels of risk than in more normal times.

“We also recognise and will take account of the fact that things may go wrong despite the best efforts of trustees to act in their charity’s best interests.”

The guidance also states that if it looks as though the charity may not survive the Covid-19 period, “you should consider when to develop plans to close”.

“Also agree who will do this and when to trigger closure if the recovery plan does not succeed,” the guidance adds.

Charities should report a ‘serious incident’ to when an assessment reveals that either that the scale of financial loss threatens the charity’s ability to operate and serve its beneficiaries, or the charity’s financial reserves or other measures are not sufficient to cover the losses.

Source: Civil Society


The Charity Commission Issues COVID-19 Guidance for the Charity Sector

The Charity Commission in the UK has issued advice for charities across the country on handling potential coronavirus (COVID-19) related fraud and cybercrime.

According to the commission, fraudsters are exploiting the prevailing COVID-19 outbreak to carry out cybercrime. Police have reported a spike in coronavirus related scams as well, which has prompted the commission to issue an alert to help charities in minimising the risk of falling prey to such frauds and cyber-attacks.

The Charity Commission warned that all charities across the UK, particularly those offering services and supporting local communities during the COVID-19 crisis, could be the targets of fraudsters.

The commission believes that there are various ways in which charities can be a victim of scams, including those which involve the online sale of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks and gloves.

Warning that certain sellers have been fraud, the commission said that in some cases, once payment is done online, no products are dispatched or the products do not comply with the necessary standards.

The Charity Commission wants charities to undertake due diligence in case they are purchasing from a company or person they did not know previously. Furthermore, when charities are not sure from whom they are buying, it is advisable that the concerned person discusses with fellow trustees, colleagues or volunteers before making the purchase, said the commission.

The charities’ regulator wants charity employees to be cautious all the time when asked to make changes to bank details or sending payments to a new account. It urges charities to follow their validation procedures, wherever possible, and check the authenticity of such messages prior to making any payments or carrying out banking changes. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

The Charity Commission said that charities should always question unsolicited offers of goods or other financial support which require an advanced fee payment. It warned that just because someone knows the charity employee’s name and contact details, it does not confirm that they are genuine.

Source: Government Computing


Coronavirus and Social Isolation

As Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the UK, it will be harder for people to maintain their social connections.

Campaign to End Loneliness will keep their page up to date with ideas for how we can all combat social isolation and look out for each other during the spread of the virus. They’ll also link to the latest guidance and advice from government, charities and experts on how to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak.

For many people there will be a tough, but necessary period of social isolation. Many of us will miss seeing family and friends and taking part in our usual hobbies, interests and activities.

It shows how important friendship and connection are in our lives, and how difficult it can be when they’re missing. This reminds us that for too many people their lives are often quite a lot like this.

Research shows that half a million older people regularly experience these kinds of protracted periods of isolation, going at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. During the Coronavirus outbreak it’s especially important we can stay in touch with people who are alone.

Staying in touch
Making sure that you stay in touch with friends, family and neighbours can help to ease any feelings of loneliness you and others may experience while in isolation. Technology can help with this enormously.

  • Call your friends, colleagues and relatives regularly on the phone and see how they are.
  • Create WhatsApp groups with neighbours, family or friends. Share how you’re getting on and ask other people how they are.
  • Use Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date and keep in touch.
    Offer to help with shopping or running errands. You could use an app like Nextdoor to see if your neighbours need assistance. If you’re worried about transmitting the virus you can leave the bags on the doorstep.

For many, the telephone will be the easiest and most accessible way to keep in contact. Some of this technology might be new or difficult to use for some older friends and family. Offer help and support to install and use apps.

When using social media be mindful that this may be a frightening and isolating time for many. Be kind. Offer help and advice where you can. Try not to spread unfounded rumours that may cause upset or panic.

Technology can’t replace the feeling of communicating in person, but there are ways of staying connected in isolation that can help.

For many of us this will be a difficult time. Isolation measures are to protect as many people from the worst effects of coronavirus and this will be temporary. If we make the effort to stay connected, we can make a big difference to people who are feeling alone at this time.

Source: Campaign to End Loneliness

 


No Excuse for Abuse

Being confined to our homes is stressful and can be an emotionally challenging time for all of us, but even more so for those who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse whether physical or mental.

We know already that there is a lot of evidence of the infliction of abuse getting worse for some people, or that they are experiencing abuse for the first time in their home. There is no excuse for domestic abuse, no matter the situation we find ourselves in.

Everyone copes with experiencing domestic abuse in different ways, including using excessive alcohol or drug misuse. We also know the long-term impact of using these coping mechanisms and we want to make sure that anyone using these methods to cope with their experience of domestic abuse that they still have support options in place.

Click here for further advice from West Midlands Police and for agencies who offer help and support.


COVID-19 Support from the Ethical Property Foundation

The Ethical Property Foundation is working hard throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic to support charities, across the UK, manage their property during this extraordinary period. Although, many of us are no longer working in our buildings it is vital, for the health of the sector, that we do not forget about the bricks and mortar. In order to support charities, the Foundation is offering for free:

 

  • Covid-19 Charity Property Webinar on 23rd of April covering how to manage your building, questions for your landlord and next steps. This webinar is free and will also have a Q&A session with our expert property advisors. Register for your place here.
  • The Foundation has also launched a Covid-19 Charity Property Survey which will help tailor the support we are offering and provide vital actions for Government and funders on how they can aid charities. This survey only takes three minutes to complete, please do so here.
  • The National Programme for Property Education is moving online. We are offering FREE workshops on Premises Management and Negotiating Leases in May and June. These workshops will help you manage your building and will again feature a Q&A session with a Property Advisor. Register for your place here.
  • Our Free Property Advice Service is open as normal for all of your charity building questions. Get in touch with us today.

All this support is available to you for FREE so please do utilise it today.


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