Safer, Stronger Communities

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Young people sought for Hands, Face and Space Focus Group

Are you between 16 – 25 years old?  Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG would like to hear from you. The Clinical Commissioning Group would like to invite you to participate in an informal group chat, which will last for about an hour and a half. They would love to hear your thoughts on:

• The various national campaigns about Coronavirus. For example, the most recent one on hands, face and space
• Hand sanitising/washing hands
• Face coverings/masks
• Social distancing
• Government Guidelines.

The information and insight gathered from talking to the Focus Group will help the CCG frame messages aimed at young people in the future.

You will have the opportunity for:
• A one to one talk with a team member virtually
• A group chat with a member and other young people virtually
• A group chat with a team member and your friends virtually.

To book a place
If you would like to take part, please email or telephone 0121 612 1447, so that you can be sent the joining details.

If you live, work or study in Sandwell, please book onto Monday 12th October 2020: 2 pm – 3.30 pm.

If you live, work or study in West Birmingham, please book onto Monday 12th October 2020: 10 am – 11.30 am.

The CCG need your help to get the message through to other young people about this virus and see how we can work together to beat it.

New-look Autumn Safer 6 Campaign Has Online Focus

Sandwell’s annual autumn Safer 6 campaign is getting under way today (Monday 21 September) with a special online focus this year.

The Safer Sandwell Partnership campaign, now in its 11th year, will promote a wide range of safety, crime prevention and healthy living advice over the next six weeks.

The campaign will also support the ongoing promotion of advice and guidelines around Covid-19, to help protect people from the virus.

Each of the six weeks will have a different theme:
• Week 1 (21-27 September): Health and wellbeing
• Week 2 (28 September-4 October): Exploitation
• Week 3 (5-11 October): Domestic abuse
• Week 4 (12-18 October): Hate crime
• Week 5 (19-25 October): Modern slavery
• Week 6 (26 October-1 November): Crime and anti-social behaviour

As well as online activities, the Safer 6 team will be targeting advice and information to people via posters, leaflets and community networks.

The campaign is led by Sandwell Council for the Safer Sandwell Partnership, which brings together the council, Sandwell Police, West Midlands Fire Service and many other partner organisations.
Sandwell Police Commander Chief Superintendent Ian Green, who chairs the Safer Sandwell Partnership, said: “Organisations work closely together day in, day out throughout the year to make Sandwell a safer, cleaner place.

“Safer 6 builds on that by providing extra advice, information and reassurance as the nights draw in – and it’s especially important this autumn with Covid-19 still giving real challenges and worries for people in our community.

Follow the campaign on Twitter and Instagram using the #Safer6 hashtag and on the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages for Safer Sandwell Partnership organisations and services. Go to for a list of key social media accounts taking part in the campaign.

Sign up for regular our e-newsletters at


Black Country workers urged to save with credit unions.

money-351078_640A new campaign has been launched to improve the financial health and resilience of employees across the Black Country and encourage workforce savings through credit unions.

The campaign, called #PaydayYourWay, aims to encourage staff to save regularly, help them manage their money and keep them out of the clutches of loan sharks.

The partnership involves the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), Black Country Chamber of Commerce, and Just Finance Black Country, along with four local credit unions (Wolverhampton City Credit Union, Walsave, Castle & Crystal and 6 Towns), working together to promote savings through payroll deduction.

Credit Unions offer access to safe and legitimate financial services, helping to reduce the risk of people going to illegal money lenders who often target the financially vulnerable.

Black Country Chamber of Commerce are encouraging employers and businesses to sign up to a payroll deduction savings and loans scheme through a credit union.

Chamber Chief Executive Corin Crane said: “We are pleased to support the launch of the Payroll Savings campaign and offer this free service to businesses, which can improve the financial wellbeing and productivity of their staff in the workplace.

“It’s important that we help people to save and build up their financial resilience, protecting them against future unexpected events and falling into the trap of unscrupulous loan sharks.”

The payroll deduction scheme allows employees to save regularly or pay off an affordable low-interest loan directly from the wage packet.

The scheme provides employees with greater financial stability as they can build up their savings and access low-cost loans should they need to borrow.

Wolverhampton City Credit Union (WCCU) currently has 16 payroll partners signed up to the scheme and credit union members who save directly from their salary have amassed nearly £250,000 during the pandemic.

WCCU’s Chief Executive Rob Shearing said: “Employers know that their staff could face a tough few months financially – so it makes sense for them to encourage employees to save and borrow responsibly at work.

“The scheme can be set up in minutes and is virtually cost-free for the employer. Most important, having money put aside cuts money worries and helps employees keep their minds on the job.”

All money saved in a credit union is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme up to the value of £85,000 per person.

26% of UK adults have little or no savings. This means that when an unexpected bill arrives or a family crisis occurs some households may be vulnerable to high-cost lending, including loan sharks.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of financial resilience to deal with unexpected life events. 

“We welcome the launch of this campaign and encourage businesses to set up a payroll deduction scheme for their employees that provides them with easy access to savings and affordable credit.

Continued economic uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic means loan sharks may look to take advantage of people in a vulnerable position who feel they have nowhere to turn for help.

Mr Quigley added: “We are urging victims of illegal money lending to recognise that they are not alone, and to come forward to seek support by calling our 24-hour helpline.

Just Finance Foundation is a financial inclusion charity helping to improve practical skills for people to manage their money well, such as saving more money and getting out of debt.

Rev Cassius Francis, from Just Finance Black Country said: “We are really pleased to support the payroll savings campaign with our credit unions across Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton because our aim is to support people and communities to thrive and flourish.  At Just Finance Black Country we want to promote a culture of regular saving – it doesn’t have to be a lot, but we know regular saving can make a difference.  If we can promote a culture of regular saving from our earned income it will help us to be better prepared for financial shocks in the future.

For information on how to become a member of your local credit union, speak to your employer or visit

To report a loan shark, call the 24 hour helpline on 0300 555 2222 or complete an online reporting form at


The National Lottery Community Fund announces Ethnic Minority-led Fund

The National Lottery Community Fund announced that it is committing £1.4 million to a new partnership with Global Fund for Children. The investment will support the co-creation and delivery of the Phoenix Fund, a new black and ethnic minority-led fund, which will support communities and BAME leadership practice in England.

The fund will also be part of a wider response to help address long standing inequalities present within both the sector and wider society – exposed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Phoenix Fund is expected to be launched within weeks so as to provide emergency funding to support small and micro organisations in communities most affected by COVID-19. More details on who and how to apply will be made available at launch.

Further information

A Partnership approach to Settling Well in Sandwell

Do you know of any Sandwell residents who have arrived in the UK in the last two years, who are in need of practical help and support to enable them to adjust to life in Sandwell and access the services that they need?

Citizens Advice Sandwell have a team of skilled Community Navigators who are able to:

• Accompany clients to appointments at job centres, GPs
• Help clients to register with GPs, dentists
• Obtain a NI number
• Access other services such as English classes
• Access advice on benefits, housing, immigration
• Give information on healthcare including covid-19 public health guidance.

The support is delivered in partnership with Brushstrokes who are able to provide specialist advice.

Although funding conditions mean that Settling Well is unable to support asylum seekers or people with no recourse to public funds, Navigators are able to refer them to other services funded to provide that help.

Navigators have a range of community languages including Bangladeshi, Polish, Italian, French, Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Dutch and Dari. They can provide longer term support than most services. Even if a resident has been helped with an immediate issue, Settling Well can assist them to put down roots and make a positive contribution to Sandwell.

The team of Navigators are returning from furlough in and have lots of capacity to support newcomers. They will be able to provide face to face support in a neutral community venue, such as a community centre, place of worship or coffee shop.

To make a referral Telephone: 0121 553 6431 (Option 5) or email

Further information

Council advising Sandwell businesses as COVID cases rise

Sandwell Council has written to all businesses in Sandwell in a bid to halt a surge in COVID-19 cases. This is to give the Public Health Team’s advice to firms on how to open and operate safely in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. The council has also created an online advice page for borough businesses.

The letter has been translated into all the main languages spoken locally, including Somali, Slovak, Punjabi (Pakistan and Indian), Polish and Urdu.

Director of Public Health, Dr Lisa McNally, said in some cases recently, by the time her team knew about an outbreak, there were already dozens of cases and a major outbreak underway – making outbreak management very difficult.

Anyone who develops symptoms – persistent cough, temperature or loss of smell or taste – needs to immediately self-isolate for 7 days.

Where possible people with symptoms should be isolated from others in the household who do not have symptoms. If you develop symptoms book a test immediately via or call 119.

Avoid any unnecessary interaction with people from outside your household. Crowded environments should be avoided.

If you have to go out, maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (preferably 2 metres) from other people and wear a face covering.

Sandwell highlighted for good practice on tackling Modern Slavery

Sandwell’s work to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking has been highlighted as a model of good practice in a new report. The report – It Still Happens Here: Fighting UK Slavery in the 2020s – has been released by the anti-slavery charity Justice and Care and the think tank Centre for Justice.

Initiatives by the multi-agency Sandwell Anti-Slavery Strategic Partnership led by Sandwell Council have been praised, including recruiting a Modern Slavery Coordinator, along with strong awareness-raising and training for staff.

The report also recognises the work of the Sandwell Slavery and Human Trafficking Operational Partnership (SHOP) – the operational group set up by the Strategic Partnership – which includes a range of agencies who are able to work together to protect victims, pursue offenders and disrupt modern slavery locations.

Click here to read the report.

Councillor Joanne Hadley, cabinet member for safer communities, said: “It’s reassuring that the work of the Sandwell Anti-Slavery Strategic Partnership and its operational group SHOP, is being recognised at such a high level in this report.

“A number of successful operations to rescue victims and the arrest of criminals has already helped to give Sandwell’s work a regional and national reputation.

“It’s vital that the council works with the police and other partner organisations to combat modern slavery and human trafficking and identify and support the victims and survivors.”
Councillor Hadley also urged anyone spotting any signs of slavery to report it to the authorities.

Call the confidential Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 if you think you may be a victim of modern slavery, need help to seek safe accommodation and support or have seen something suspicious. People can also report through the Unseen app, which is available to download.

Visit the website to find out how to spot modern slavery and click here to report it.

Outdoor Physical Activity, Sport and Recreation COVID-19 Guidance

Public Health have created an overview from the official Government COVID-19 guidance and Sport England resources to aid organisations returning in their delivery of outdoor physical activities, sport and recreation.

Please note, there is separate guidance for Out of School Activity for children. If you are providing out of school activities for children, please refer to this guidance as well.

The report can be accessed by clicking the adjacent link Physical Activity Providers V3.

Source: Public Health


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

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


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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

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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:

Find out more about Lisa Barrett:

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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.


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