Creating Opportunities for a Brighter Future!

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Bridge Project – Birkenhead

We were delighted to receive the recent news of a successful tender for our supported accommodation services for 18 – 24 year olds at the Bridge Project, Birkenhead.  Forum have held this contract previously for 25 years and helped many, many thousands of young people receive emergency accommodation, high quality support and help with move on and resettlement.  The new contract is for up to four years and allows funding for the employment of a number of specialist staff within the areas of Health, Complex Needs, Life Skills and Meaningful Engagement.

Integrated into the service is Forum’s new safe seat service allowing up to an additional five rough sleepers to be brought in from the cold every night whilst more permanent options are sought. This comes at a time of rising street homelessness and is part of the Association’s joint work with Wirral Borough Council Housing Options and Commissioning Teams.

During the length of the contract, Forum will continue in their commitment to Wirral’s Social Value action plan through the recruitment of volunteers, using locally based staff, supporting educational and workforce development through Chester University student placements and offering support for four local community projects per year.  Our staff will support our young people to release their talents to help their immediate communities through joint environmental projects and creating opportunities to give back to their local area.

 

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Merseyside Women of the Year Awards

At a glamorous ceremony on the 22 June, well deserved finalists and their supporters gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Liverpool for the prestigious Merseyside Women of the Year awards.  One of those worthy women was Forum’s own Amy Butterworth.

The Merseyside Women of the Year event aims to find and reward the unsung heroines of Merseyside, for their achievements in just doing what they do best, changing lives and giving extra meaning to people’s lives across Merseyside.

Winners and runners up were announced for 12 categories with one overall “Merseyside Woman of the Year” voted for by members of the general public.

We were delighted that Amy’s enduring enthusiasm and determination to make a difference for others were recognised in her nomination, and overjoyed that she went on to win the Merseyside Women of the Year, Community Change Award, sponsored by Neo Community and ADDvanced Solutions.

Amy has received many congratulations from all the team including Debbie Thompson, Chief Executive’s own commendation “Amy’s award is a result of her focussed effort, passion, and commitment to improve the lives of the people in the community.”

Reflecting on the event Amy commented:

“I was in the best atmosphere at the Crowne Plaza at such a touching and emotional event, having the privilege to meet some of the most incredible women who work tirelessly day in and day out for their cause and communities.   

I was so shocked to not only be recognised but then to go on and win the 2018 Community Change category.  I feel this is a reflection to the community we work within and the fun we have. 

Thank you so much.” 

For more information on the award and other winners please go to: www.merseysidewomenoftheyear.co.uk

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Supported Lodgings – Cheshire East

Cheshire East Council have continued their commitment to the Association through the award of a Five Year contract to start in April 2018 delivering a Supported Lodgings Service. The Association has held this contract for a number of years and was recently required to re-bid against some stiff competition for the continuation of this work.

Our Supported Lodgings Service provides a valuable option for young Care Leavers to live with a host member of the community in their own home, similar to the way that fostering works. We have 20 active hosts, all thoroughly vetted, trained and supported to provide a diverse offer across what is a huge patch of rural and urban areas across Cheshire East.

Young Care Leavers are extremely positive about this type of option as a stepping stone to fully independent living and are treated as a member of the family at all times. Forum are naturally delighted at this continued investment in our work and are particularly looking forward to refreshing the way this scheme works with our colleagues in Children’s’ Services.

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Links Service – Wirral

Forum Housing are thrilled to have received recent notification from Wirral Council of their intention to award the new contract for accommodation and support for 16 and 17 year olds to the Association.

Following a (very) competitive process, Forum have been busy mobilising the new service which has a number of exciting aspects to it. Our offer includes  a new 24 hour seven bed Super Hub at one of our bases which integrates a Health and Wellbeing facility, Reflection & Counselling Room and a Training Flat to help our young people get ‘move on ready’.

As part of our continued work on resident engagement, Forum have provided the resources to employ a young person with lived experience who will act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the new service and ensure our young people consistently get high quality service delivery and where they don’t, we know about it quickly!

The service provides an additional 18 units of supported accommodation across three sites and all provision is supported by dedicated, professional staff 24 hours per day.

Check back for a future update when we’ll take you inside the walls of our Super Hub and a chance to hear more through the lens of a day in the life of a Forum Super Hub staff member … watch this space!

 

 

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Community Entrepreneurship Programme

In December 2017, Forum Creative Enterprise launched a ‘Community Entrepreneurship Programme’ with 5 young people from Forum Housing Association’s projects across Wirral and Cheshire.

Dave Wood, founder of Metanoeo CIC, and Forum’s Amy Butterworth lead the programme, which includes developing a participant’s vision and skills for self-employment, accessing the relevant resources and building their confidence and self-esteem.

There has been positive feedback from attendees following their first day on the programme;

“It met my expectations fully” …
“I enjoyed exploring concepts and ideas in a relaxed setting”.

Participants are partnered up with life coaches, trained by Metanoeo CIC, including students from Edge Hill University and people who have experienced their own period of unemployment.

The participant’s ideas for businesses have varied widely, from a wellbeing life coach consultant for young people, by young people to developing a bespoke furniture business.

The first programme will be running until the summer by which time we hope to have an alumni of graduated young people running their own businesses.

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National Housing Federation visit to Forum

On 30 November we were delighted to receive a visit from senior officers of the National Housing Federation.  The National Housing Federation (NHF) is the voice of affordable housing in England, believing that everyone should have the home they need at a price they can afford.  The NHF represent the work of housing associations and campaign nationally for better housing.

Baroness Diana Warwick, Chair of the NHF; Katie Teasdale, National External Affairs Manager; and Jordane Shaw, Policy Officer valued the opportunity to better understand the essential work Forum undertake with young people in the region.

After an initial meeting with Debbie Thompson, Chief Executive, and Sue Elliott, Chair of Forum’s Board, the party visited a number of our accommodation sites where they met both residents and staff teams.

We were delighted that our Patron, The Right Reverend Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead and our honorary President, Chris Allen BEM were also able to attend the delightful buffet lunch at the Bridge which concluded the successful visit.

 

Feedback received following the visit was extremely positive, and we look forward to continuing our work with the National Housing Federation.

I wanted to send a personal note to say how much I appreciated the special effort you made not only to give us such a wide-ranging view of your terrific work but also to give us several opportunities to meet with your very special tenants. It was so moving to hear their stories and to see first-hand how they were turning their lives around because of the support and encouragement Forum is able to give them.

It was also lovely to meet several of your team members and staff and, through them, to see how the special ethos of Forum underpins everything they do. It was truly inspirational.

Baroness Diana Warwick

 

Diana, Jordane and I were so impressed by Forum- from your inspiring tenants to your dedicated team and innovative services. It was a wonderful day and an amazing insight into one of the most precious parts of our sector. The work you do is such a credit to you all and it is a privilege to understand that better. I know Diana is determined that the Federation does all we can to help you flourish and yesterday’s visit reinforced to us all why that matters so much.

We were overwhelmed by our welcome and grateful for you organising such a thought provoking tour and amazing lunch celebration- please do pass on our thanks to the whole team.

Katie Teasdale

 

 

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Charity Shop news

Another happy customer!

Customer A started coming to our Just for You charity shop located at 72 Market Street, Birkenhead about 6 months ago after making friends with another young mum locally who told her about the shop.

Her visits to the shop have enabled her to identify a big change to the services on offer.  The Pay as You Feel section has enabled her to give her daughter a weekly treat when she is well behaved at school.  This incentive has not only had a positive impact on her daughter in school but “has also taken the pressure off a little at home” as both Customer A and her partner are trying to manage their mental and physical health issues, and most importantly, maintain a happy family.

Since the shop is now open 5 days a week Customer A has dropped in more frequently and spent more time with the Community Asset Team members, our volunteers.  She enjoys a walk to the shop after a cup of tea with her friend as she finds that everyone is welcoming.

When asked what makes this shop different she replied that there is a difference in being able to walk out with a bag of food knowing it was affordable and having been able to make a choice of the items she wants instead of receiving a hand out.

Customer A now recommends the shop to friends at her daughter’s school.  “It just makes sense to stop food going to landfill…just because a cereal box is bashed up, rich or poor we don’t eat the box but we all still eat cornflakes with milk don’t we?!”

Customer A has recently had difficulties with her benefits being cut and is waiting for a Universal Credit claim to be processed.  She and her partner agreed that they don’t have much money, but when they do spend, they choose to spend it wisely in the shop.

They added that they would like to get involved in the shop one day once their situation is stable.

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Forum in the Community

Soon after discussing ways Forum in the Community could provide support to the local area Debbie O’Connor, Team Leader – Housing Solutions Team was approached by Town Host Mark Clemson, Birkenhead BID with an opportunity to help.

A new family business “One Stop 4 Paws” was due to open within just a couple of days but needed help completing their redecoration.

Debbie O’Connor shared “Our new Kickstart programme, is about engaging with young people who want to get involved in the community and helping them into education or employment. With that in mind, we could see that this was a fantastic opportunity to help Christina and Mark. Here is to more up and coming events and great partnerships!!”

Debbie immediately co-ordinated a response to this urgent appeal.  The next day a team of volunteers, both staff and young people wanting to give back the community, arrived ready to clean and paint wherever required. Fuelled by the refreshments and sandwiches donated by another neighbour, Mandy’s Place, the team successfully completed the mammoth task.

Christina Harris owner of “One Stop 4 Paws” said “knowing that there are people out there who are willing to help a family set up a business is amazing. We started in November 2016 with an idea and to be where we are now is phenomenal. We are really happy to be the newest member of this community and are really looking forward to opening and will definitely be getting involved and giving back.”

If you know of a community initiative our team can help with, please contact us.

 

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Upstream Homeless Prevention

Forum Housing Association has recently secured £ 370k from the Communities and Local Government Department to develop trailblazing approaches to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping across the North West.  The funding builds on the Association’s long standing work to prevent homelessness.

The new programme entitled ‘Upstream’ works across The Local Authority areas of Cheshire West & Chester, Warrington and Cheshire East, known as the sub region.  The Association has a team of staff working across these areas, co-located with the Local Authority and has a particular emphasis on working with individuals well before they actually become homeless and potentially end up rough sleeping.

The programme name of Upstream was specifically chosen to demonstrate our ability to ‘fish’ people out well before crisis point is reached.

The funding is for a period of two years and coincides with an important piece of legislation known as the Homeless Reduction Act (HRA) 2017.  The Act recently received Royal Assent and comes against a 40% increase in statutory homelessness since the start of the last decade. The HRA provides increased Local Authority prevention opportunities and responsibilities to tackle homelessness earlier.

The Upstream Service employs a Team Leader supported by three prevention workers, one in each Local Authority. The team is equipped with a personalisation budget to assist staff to financially support individuals at risk of homelessness. To date this funding has been used to meet travel costs, purchase of a pay as you go phone to maintain contact with the service and assistance with a flat deposit.

The Association was keen to ensure that the two year programme was shaped and developed by listening to individuals who had direct experience of homelessness and supported housing environments.  In order to support this, the Association recruited Alison Lewis as one of our practitioners who has considerable and direct experience of these environments.

In order to support and remove some of the barriers to employment, Alison received financial support to allow her to take driving lessons and successfully passed her test in August 2017! This has allowed Alison to purchase her first car and be equipped to support Upstream across the sub region.

Alison says ‘Forum have helped me immensely grow as a person and as a professional.  I have had unlimited support and guidance and feel I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.

The Association have always helped and supported me with training and achieving my goals. Recently I achieved one of my biggest goals to date passing my driving test.  Forum funded this through Upstream and without their help I definitely would not have achieved this fantastic step in my life. Getting my licence gives me lots of employment opportunities going forwards and I am super excited’

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Supporting Liverpool Pride

Pride- Homes for Everyone

Forum are pleased to be a member of Homes for Everyone, a group of 14 housing organisations working together to promote inclusivity in housing throughout Merseyside.  Homes for Everyone are an official sponsor of Liverpool Pride, and Forum are happy to continue to contribute towards this.

Working on behalf of Forum’s Equality and Diversity Steering Group, our Meaningful Activities Team participated in Homes for Everyone group meetings, assisting in planning the march and enabling Forum’s LGBT community the opportunity to be represented.

On Saturday 29 July the Meaningful Activities Team and 10 young people attended and supported Liverpool Pride.  As part of the 200 representatives from the Homes for Everyone group, showing united support and passion for equality and diversity, they participated in the 1.6 mile march from St Georges Hall across Liverpool City Centre.

Our young people had a fantastic time taking part in face painting, a multi coloured paint battle, listening to live music, and experiencing all the culture and diversity that Liverpool Pride has to offer.

When asked about the event young people said

“ It was an inspirational experience, really fun and enjoyable, boss day”

“ I loved it, it was something I wouldn’t of normally done, but I am made up I did”