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Birmingham conference to focus on compassion

Employers puts compassion at the heart of support for staff

Employers across Birmingham are being invited to join a special online conference as part of an initiative to make it the country’s first officially-recognised compassionate city.

National charity Compassionate Communities UK (CC-UK) will host the Birmingham Compassionate City Charter ­ – Employers Conference on Thursday, 17th February 2022 between 10am-4pm. The event is designed to support businesses and other organisations to improve the health and wellbeing of their workforces.

A compassionate community is one where people actively encourage and support one another during life’s most challenging times such as those relating to serious illness, death and bereavement, and the charity’s accreditation has already been awarded to the Staffordshire communities of Whittington and Fisherwick and Brereton and Ravenhill.

Organisations from Birmingham including charities, community groups, public sector bodies, schools, universities and hospices are now working together with CC-UK to ensure that Birmingham becomes the first city to be awarded City Charter status as the charity spreads its learning nationwide.

Dr Emma Hodges, CEO at St Giles Hospice and Business Development Director for CC-UK, said: “Employers have a unique position in someone’s life, whether that is an employee living with a serious illness or a member of their family, or a friend or colleague. Companies are, or can be, compassionate communities both internally and within their locality.

“Employers are able to make significant differences to the memories of those who live on, not just by having modern compassionate leave policies, but also culturally ensuring that colleagues of those who are ill or grieving are confident in their role as part of someone’s natural support network.

“We’d like to invite local employers to join us in being part of a multi-sector, growing group of people committed to Birmingham becoming a compassionate city and to consider the opportunities and benefits to employers in addition to the wellbeing of their workforce.”

The conference will feature a number of seminars by guest speakers, along with workshops and discussions.

CC-UK Director Dr Julian Abel will talk about the new model of primary care that he has developed alongside compassionate communities and the profound effects they can have upon the health outcomes of people living within them.

A seminar about the wellbeing of doctors and nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic and how their experiences can shape compassionate leadership in health and care services will be delivered by Professor Michael West, CBE, Emeritus Professor at Aston University, where he was formerly Executive Dean of Aston Business School.

St Giles Hospice Community Development Manager Ian Leech, who helps communities to better understand end of life care and bereavement support, will share positive and negative stories from people living with a serious illness or who are grieving, to demonstrate the impact that either experience can have on the person and their colleagues.

Dr Emma Hodges will provide insights into some of the challenges and approaches that need to be considered in supporting employees living with a serious illness or who are grieving – especially as many traditional sickness and bereavement policies are often outdated, inflexible and do not always support the individual or the employer in the long run.

The conference is aimed at supporting Birmingham’s work to becoming recognised as a CC-UK Compassionate City but it is also open to a wider audience who may want to consider how their businesses can best improve the relationships within their workforce and communities.

Tickets at £60 (£30 for sole traders) and further information about the event are available from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/birmingham-compassionate-city-charter-employers-conference-tickets-222635387437?aff=ebdssbeac

For more information about St Giles Hospice and the expert care it provides, please visit www.stgileshospice.com

Hospice appeal for shop volunteers

Emily Rich at work at the St Giles Hospice shop in Lichfield

Help out at a St Giles shops to make a difference in 2022

St Giles Hospice is calling for people to help make a real difference for a great local cause in 2022 by volunteering at one of its charity shops.

The charity has three shops in Sutton Coldfield and every sale made at the hospice’s 21 shops across the area helps to fund the charity’s support for local people and their families who are living with a terminal illness, and volunteers play a vital role in helping St Giles to reach the £850,000 total it needs to raise each month to run its services.

Emily Rich, from Lichfield, joined St Giles as a volunteer just over a year ago and gives her time to one of the charity’s shops in the city.

Emily said: “I’ve always loved visiting charity shops and always liked the idea of working in one. When I decided that I’d like to volunteer in a charity shop St Giles Hospice was the obvious choice for me. 

“It’s a fantastic local charity which cares for local patients and families when they really need support the most, so I knew it would be a meaningful and worthwhile way to offer my time. It’s really fulfilling to help out and see the shop supporting St Giles because we know how much of a difference the money we raise can make to hospice services.

“As a stay-at-home mum I really look forward to the social aspect of my two days a week at the shop. I’ve made friends with so many staff members and volunteers and you get to know the regular customers who come in on the same day each week. It’s great fun – it doesn’t feel like work, it’s more of a pleasure or a hobby to me, and there’s always something new to learn.”

Emma Yates, St Giles Head of Retail, said: “If you’ve volunteered for us before or would like to try something new and support St Giles by volunteering in one of our hospice shops we’d be delighted to hear from you. We’re looking for people to join our team right now. 

“We have 21 shops across our area, each one at the heart of their communities. We sell fantastic individual items which have been gifted by our donors. Our volunteers are vital to the running of our shops – we really could not care for so many patients and families without the generosity of all of the people who donate their time to help us out.

“There are many ways you could get involved with us, from visual merchandising and preparing stock to serving customers and sorting donations, the list is endless, and we will provide you with training and an induction to complete your role. Whatever your interests, strengths and experiences, we have something to suit you and we have a range of shops across our catchment area, so you are never very far away from a convenient volunteering opportunity.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at a St Giles Hospice shop can pop into their local shop to speak to a member of the team and pick up an application form or visit www.stgileshospice.com/shopvolunteer.

For more information about St Giles Hospice and the expert care it provides, please visit www.stgileshospice.com

Alert after home burgled in Sutton Coldfield

The gate from where the raiders gained access to the property

Officers hunt raiders in Four Oaks

Police in Sutton Coldfield have warned households to be vigilant after a house was burgled in Four Oaks.

Police are hunting the offenders who broke into the home last week.

The house in Bennett Road was targeted between 2.30pm on January 7 and 4.30pm on Jan 9.

Theh unknown offenders gained access to the rear of a property and then a window to a rear door was smashed.

The raiders then made of with a a gold watch and cufflinks.

West Midlands Police said they were investigating the crime and officers have said there where possible they would be conducting patrols in the area to help reassure the community.

They have advised people to take time to check gates and fences that enclose rear gardens and ensure they are secure and that all gates are locked.

More crime prevention advice can be found by visiting : http://West-midlands.police.uk and searching crime prevention.

Stepping out for Sutton hospice

Discover your spirit of adventure on a St Giles Hospice trek or challenge

An intrepid grandmother is calling on adventure seekers to make a difference in 2022 by joining a St Giles Hospice fundraising trek or challenge.

The hospice has a support centre in Lindridge Road, Sutton Coldfield, as well as charity shops in the town.

Hospice supporter Haley Stone, aged 56, is already thinking about which adventure she wants to try next after tackling a two-day Cornish Coastal Challenge last September (2021).

Haley, who is married with a daughter and two grandchildren, decided to join a group trekking from Harlyn Bay to St Agnes to thank the St Giles community nursing team for supporting her father after he was diagnosed with dementia.

Last year Haley, from Tamworth, managed to raise an impressive £815 from her trek to support the hospice’s work caring for local people and their families living with a terminal illness.

She said: “I would urge anyone to have a go – it was a fabulous experience, absolutely brilliant. The coastal walk around Cornwall was just beautiful and I really enjoyed pushing myself to complete the challenge. I had such a wonderful time that I’m already thinking of doing it again, or maybe tackling Mount Snowdon.

“I got great support from the St Giles fundraising team. They called me regularly and were always ready to offer advice on fundraising or training. It was a real comfort and inspiration to know that they were there to support me before, during and after the trek.

“You get such an amazing feeling of accomplishment when you finish the trek, it’s quite magical and quite an emotional moment.”

Haley worked as a Transport Manager at St Giles, arranging patient journeys to the hospice, in 2011-12 before moving to Cornwall to run a coffee shop. But while she was there her father, Doug Birt, from Glascote, was diagnosed with dementia and the hospice community nursing team helped to support him before she was able to move back to Tamworth to look after him through his final days before his death in 2017.

She added: “Going on the trek was a way to pay St Giles back and say thank you for the fabulous care that they gave him. Years later I’m still friends with two of the nurses – they were lovely.

“St Giles has a lovely welcoming and warm atmosphere and I worked with a great team of staff and volunteers who were all very supportive and positive. 

“I did the trek because I wanted to spread the message that St Giles is not just somewhere people go to die, it’s a place where everybody is focused upon improving the quality of life, however long you have left.”

In 2022, St Giles will be running a series of charity adventures both in the UK and abroad in partnership with Discover Adventure, offering fundraisers the opportunity to tackle a trek on foot or by bike to raise funds to support its care services.

Treks and challenges in 2022 include a Northern Lights Trek through Iceland in March, an Arctic Adventure through Finland, also in March, and a Three Peaks Weekend in the Yorkshire Dales in July.

Cornish Coastal Challenges, London to Paris bike rides, and Snowdon by Night adventures will also be taking place on various dates throughout 2022.

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said: “If you’ve made a new year’s resolution to get fit or to challenge yourself – or if you’ve just decided to try something new – then we’d love to hear from you.

“Whether you already support St Giles and are looking for a new way to raise funds or someone who has never encountered St Giles before, you can make a huge difference and #TeamStGiles will be there to support you every step of the way whichever challenge you take on.

“You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that your fundraising has made a real difference to St Giles Hospice and all of the local patients and families that we care for. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic there have been periods when we have had to cancel our fundraising events and close our shops – which has had a major impact on our income – so your support now is more vital than ever. We need to raise £850,000 every single month just to keep our services going and we’ve never needed our community more than we need you today.”

Young people aged 14+ can take part in some challenges when accompanied by an adult. All challenges will operate according to the current government COVID-19 guidelines at the time of the event. For more information about St Giles Hospice treks and challenges and the dates they are available visit www.stgileshospice.com/treks

Sutton Coldfield area ‘off the scale’ with omicron spread

This Public Health England map published before the latest figures shows the figure approaching 2,000 per 100k of population

Some parts of Sutton Coldfield are ‘off the scale’ according to a new measure introduced to track the rise of the COVID-19 omicron virus, with the latest figures showing cases approaching 2,000 per 100,000 of population.

The figures are up to December 31 and are now likely to be much higher, with the Royal Town particularly badly hit.

A new scale has been added by Public Health England (PHE) which shows where case rates are above 1,600 per 100,000 of population.

Previously the top line figure had been 800 per 100,000 of population.

But with the new variant surging throughout the country, the latest figures this week show Boldmere at a huge 1,985, one of the highest across the West Midlands.

Other parts of Sutton don’t far much better with Walmley showing 1,858, Four Oaks, 1,889, Rectory Park and New Hall at 1,803 and Little Sutton and Roughley at 1,649 per 100k of population.

Case rates are shown per 100,000 people for the 7-day period ending on the date shown. They are calculated by dividing the seven-day total by the area population and multiplying by 100,000.

This makes it easier to compare cases across areas of different population size.

The population used is the mid-2020 population estimate from the Office for National Statistics.

Sutton residents warned on vehicle crime

Residents in Sutton Coldfield have been reminded that there has been a rise in vehicle crime.

Among the trends noticed by West Midlands Police are:

  • Ford vehicles are in the main being targeted
  • Most thefts happen after 8pm
  • Tools are being stolen from vans
  • Cars are being stolen for parts because of the national shortage of car parts
  • Most crimes are keyless thefts. Which means the key’s frequency is scanned, copied and used to unlock the vehicle

Stefanie Sadler, Police, Engagement & Consultation officer, Birmingham Partnerships, says concerned residents in Sutton and across the West Midlands are now advised to take precautions which include:

  • Keeping cars parked in well-lit areas or secure car parks – especially in the evening
  • Keeping your keyless fob in a faraday bag so the frequency cannot be hacked
  • Removing all valuables from the vehicle when parked. This includes tools
  • There’s lots of vehicle security solutions that are available including steering wheel locks or immobilisers

Police say they know they cannot respond to all individual thefts. However we desperately need information that could help to stop this rising trend. If you see or know anything please visit our website and speak to us on Live Chat, call 101 or Crimestopperson 0800 555 111.

 Taking a motor vehicle belonging to someone else without the owner’s consent or without lawful authority is illegal. A motor vehicle is legally defined as ‘a mechanically propelled vehicle made, intended or adapted for use on roads’.

If the suspect who steals the car drives in a dangerous manner, or is involved in a collision that injures someone else, damages the car or other property then they could face charges of aggravated vehicle taking.

If a suspect takes a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission then this may be an offence known as Taking Without Owner’s Consent (TWOC).

For information, visit: https://west-midlands.police.uk/your-options/theft-motor-vehicle-0#prevention

Special party for Sutton residents

Tea party bring almshouse residents together for first time since pandemic

It was time for a celebration as Sutton Coldfield residents enjoyed their first party since the lockdown.

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust (SCCT) held a special tea party for residents of its 46 almshouses following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions this autumn. 

Guests at the Residents’ Tea Party were treated to afternoon tea, coffee, cakes, sandwiches, and music. For some residents, it was their first opportunity to see one another in over 18 months, due to Covid-19.

The tea party was one of three separate events organised by Almshouse manager Pamela Johnston, with Almshouse wardens Marie and Michael. A number of trustees joined Pam at the events, alongside Tina Swani, Chief Executive of the trust, and trustee Ammo Singh.

Of the events, almshouse manager Pamela Johnston commented: “The residents have greatly missed our regular social gatherings during the past eighteen months, and it was a pleasure to organise the tea parties where they could meet and socialise in person whilst maintaining sensible protocols. I know that they thoroughly enjoyed the events.”

The event coincided with the 75th anniversary of The Almshouse Association, a support organisation representing over 1,600 independent almshouse charities across the UK.

Pamela Johnston with Tina Swani and trustee Ammo Singh taking a break from the celebration

While Covid-19 has seen management exercising extra caution to protect its residents over the festive season, Christmas hampers have also been arranged to spread some cheer among Almshouse residents.

With 2021 coming to an end, the trust will also be releasing its 2020/2021 annual review, highlighting its many achievements throughout the year. The review details the total grants awarded, which came to approximately £1.1m in 2021.

This includes over £73,000 in school uniform grants, with almost 50 per cent more local families in poverty receiving grants to buy school uniforms in 2021.

For many years, the trust has supported local residents in sheltered or retirement accommodation with a contribution towards their festive celebrations. This year, 21 groups were awarded grants totalling £14,171.

Tea, sandwiches and cakes on the party menu

The trust remains committed to major ongoing expenditure to maintain and improve its almshouses and residents’ facilities, as well a wide range of communities throughout Sutton Coldfield.

With the release of their Social Needs Review coming in spring 2022, the trust will gain invaluable insight into Sutton Coldfield’s most vulnerable local communities, which will heavily influence their long-term strategic decisions and plans.

The trust recognises that the outcome of the Review will be of interest to the wider community and statutory agencies, and therefore aims to hold dissemination events from spring 2022. 

On track for a dance celebration

An innovative project which provides free training to children with a talent for dance celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2022. And to mark the occasion, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track is inviting everyone who has been through its programme to a celebration, including anyone form Sutton Coldfield who have been involved.

Launched in 1997, Dance Track offers specialist dance training to hundreds of inner-city children aged between six and 11, providing free classes, uniforms, the chance to see live shows and the opportunity to perform.

Run by BRB’s Learning, Engagement, Access and Participation department, the programme aims to reach into the community and support children who may not have access to high quality dance education.

Many Dance Track children have gained places at the Royal Ballet and Elmhurst Ballet Schools and have gone on to dance professionally but the team believe all the participants have benefited.

“I am so passionate about the programme because we are changing lives – it’s not just about teaching dance,” says BRB Learning and Participation Manager Rebecca Brookes.

“It’s about teaching social skills, self-development, independence, how to interact and communicate with each other. It’s also about understanding how to work as a team, how to perform, be an appreciative audience member and learn to be a critical thinker to enhance their ballet skills.” 

Dance Track would not be possible without its many supporters. The programme’s 25th anniversary activities will be supported by HSBC UK and Birmingham Royal Ballet is totally committed to the project.

Since its launch, Dance Track has supported 3,500 youngsters and now the team are keen to hear from as many former Dance Track students as possible for the 25th anniversary celebrations which include a new book and an event in the spring.

Dance Track children perform in the BRB production of The Nutcracker at Birmingham Hippodrome

 “We want to reach all those people who remember Dance Track, remember their teachers, remember what it did for them – however big or small – to know what that impact was. Maybe it changed their life choices,” says Rebecca. “We would like to celebrate the achievements of everyone, students and staff, who have been involved in the programme.”

Nine-year-old Joshua McKenzie was just five when the Dance Track team visited his school, St Teresa’s Catholic Primary in Handsworth Wood, and he was offered a place on Dance Track.

Joshua has excelled and is now a Royal Ballet Associate and an Elmhurst Young Dancer and was picked to dance a child role in this year’s BRB production of The Nutcracker at Birmingham Hippodrome. 

“It’s a life-changing experience for him,” says his mum Pei. “We didn’t know that he would find that ballet was something he would go on to become really passionate about. Before this he was someone who liked to be in the background but ballet has changed him and given him so much more confidence. He now enjoys being in the spotlight.”

This September, Joshua’s seven-year-old sister Kimora also joined Dance Track and Pei is grateful for the opportunities the programme brings.

“Most of the kids on Dance Track are just from normal families,” she says. “Dance Track is a place where everyone comes together and we feel we are valued. It is free and they get the best. Everyone is so wonderful, it’s the best programme in the world.”

*If you are an alumni of Dance Track, the team would love to hear from you at dancetrack@brb.org.uk

Sutton Coldfield practice aims for 1,000 jabs a day

Dr Rahul Dubb
Dr Rahul Dubb 

A leading Sutton Coldfield GP has said a massive effort was under way in the town to vaccinate 1,000 people a day as the new omicron Covid variant spreads.

Sutton Coldfield Group Practice has ramped up its capacity, to meet that ambitious target, according to a report in the Express and Star newspaper and website.

Doctor Rahul Dubb, the local GP leading on vaccinations, said the efforts were in response to the government announcement and target of offering booster vaccines to all over 18s by the end of the year.

He said: “We are putting these appointments on the National Booking Service and you can book either online or, if you do not have access to the internet, by ringing 119.

“Please remember, if you have not had any vaccination as yet or not completed your initial complete two jabs, or three for those who are immunosuppressed, you can have these at the Sutton Coldfield Town Hall as well.

“It is also vital to continue precautions of washing hands, maintaining space and wearing a mask as advised by the government.”

He added: “I am forever grateful to our volunteers and all SCGP staff who are making this possible by lengthening the times they work to 13 hour days, with more vaccinators and working through some of the bank holiday period to ensure we get our local residents protected as best as possible.

“Although the government have advised us to focus on vaccinations and urgent care as top priorities, I am proud that the practice is being run without closure of services while simultaneously upscaling the vaccination effort.

“Please get your booster jab at three months after your last jab, as soon as you’re eligible to have it. Wishing all Sutton Coldfield residents a safe and Merry Christmas.”

To book online visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/

Tree-mendous effort to help St Giles

Julie, Ian and Riley Deaves taking part in TreeCycle in January 2021.

Recycling Christmas trees raised £65k for hospice

Sutton Coldfield people are being urged to help make St Giles Hospice’s annual TreeCycle campaign next January (2022) the most successful yet.

Since 2016, local families and businesses have been disposing of their real Christmas tree in a clean, convenient and eco-friendly way by signing up to have their trees collected by the hospice’s army of volunteers in return for a small donation.

In January this year, 76 volunteers took part in TreeCycle. They picked up 4,428 Christmas trees, raising over £65,000 for the hospice, which cares for local people and their families living with a terminal illness.

This year St Giles is hoping that even more people will sign up to have their real Christmas tree recycled – and is calling for volunteers to step forward to help collect trees in January (2022).

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said: “TreeCycle is a brilliant fundraising campaign which supports our work at the hospice and makes a real difference to the environment too, so we’re delighted to be running it again this year. 

“We received an amazing response from our supporters and volunteers last January, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re hoping that this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever. If you’ve got a real Christmas tree then please sign up to TreeCycle, and we’ll take away your tree with no mess and no fuss.

“We’re also looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join our TreeCycle team – so if you want to banish your winter blues by taking part in something truly worthwhile then we’d love to hear from you. It costs St Giles £850,000 every month just to keep our services going so every donated tree and every hour volunteered makes a huge difference to everyone at the hospice.

“St Giles would also really like to thank Lichfield Tree Works, Greener Composting and Wincanton – without their support this campaign would just not be possible.”

Julie Deaves (47), a regular St Giles volunteer who lives in Lichfield and runs a business with her husband Ian (48), has taken part in the last two TreeCycle collections with Ian and their 12-year-old son Riley.

She said: “We absolutely loved taking part. It was really nice to do something worthwhile together as a family. St Giles is a great cause and it was really good to be able to help out. Riley really enjoyed it too – he said that when he’s a teenager he’s going to volunteer and get all his mates to join in.

“Volunteering for TreeCycle is our way of giving something back to the local community and we’d encourage anyone who is thinking of taking part to get involved. Signing up as a volunteer for TreeCycle is also a great way to be able to contribute to a good cause by giving up your time.

“Not only is it very rewarding,” she added. “It’s a great workout too and a good way to start getting back in shape after Christmas. It’s also great for the environment as you are putting your old tree to good use, as well as saving you time as you don’t have to queue at your local tip.

“TreeCycle is a great event which really helps the charity and the difference it makes is beyond words – especially when the charity is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic when shops had to close and events were cancelled.”

This will be the seventh year that St Giles has been running TreeCycle to raise funds for the hospice, and teams will collect trees from around Lichfield, Walsall, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth, Burton, Rugeley, Burntwood, Uttoxeter, Swadlincote, Stafford and surrounding areas.

TreeCycle will be collecting trees from Wednesday 5th until Wednesday 12th January 2022. The suggested donation for trees up to 8ft is £10 and the donation for trees up to 10ft is £12. For trees over 10ft, please call 01543 432538. 

Collections must be booked by 5pm on Wednesday 5th January 2022 and trees should be left out overnight on Tuesday 4th January as collections will start early the following morning.

Lichfield Tree Works and Greener Composting in Wall, Lichfield, will be recycling the trees for agricultural uses and as a result artificial trees cannot be accepted. 

To find out more about volunteering for TreeCycle, please email fundraising@stgileshospice.com or call 01543 432538. For more information or to book a collection visit www.stgileshospice.com/treecycle