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A feeling of community

Most of us are looking forward to spending Christmas with our families and friends but what if you don’t have that luxury? What if you’re a young person with nowhere to live, who, for whatever reason feels that they don’t have a family to support them - add to this scenario, the fact that you have a baby or are pregnant. This is the case for the young people who live at Heath Way young families scheme in Cannock.

I’d heard that the young mums and their children were asked what they would like to do at Christmas, and without hesitation they all said that they wanted to have a party. But there was a problem – where would the money come from?

As we all know funding for just about everything at the moment is tight and due to the nature of the funding of Bromford’s support services, there’s no spare cash to put on events and organise parties. So the group got together at one of their monthly meetings and came up with a plan.

They decided that during their regular craft sessions they would make reindeer food to sell in the run up to the festive celebrations. Their support worker, Katie Hunter said that they were determined to make it happen as many of them had never had a Christmas party before.Katie on PlayBus

I was invited to the party and luckily there was a bag of reindeer food left over so I handed over my couple of pounds and asked how much they had made in total. The smile on Katie’s face told me that it was good but I was still surprised when she announced that their reindeer food had brought in over £220.

The young families had decided that they wanted to spend some of the money on a play bus for the children (and children at heart) so Chase PlayBus were contacted and they generously supplied the bus for a very enjoyable two hours of fun – all at a discounted rate. David Cooper, who owns the PlayBus said, “We always try to help out community projects, it’s great seeing the children having a good time.”

Katie said, “It was amazing to see everyone having so much fun, and we’ve even managed to save some money back for future events. It’s fantastic to see an idea come to life – all the customers at the scheme have worked really hard to make this party happen – it’s a real achievement.”

At the party I also met community connector, Vicky Sonderlo who told me that she had recently started in her new role. She said that it was her job to offer housing management for support schemes, dealing with tenancy related issues such as dealing with anti-social behaviour and signing customers up to their tenancies. She said that everyone loves to get involved and explained that there’s always something going on. One of the most popular things that they have at the scheme is a regular cooking session, this is facilitated by West Chadsmoor Family Centre who offer the customers new taste experiences and the chance to learn about healthy eating.

Lisa Simpson,Leo on PlayBus service manager at Bromford explained about the community connector role, "It was created to help to free up support workers, allowing them to concentrate on working with their customers. Bromford recognises that the changing face of funding means that there is a real need to do things in the most efficient way possible and by having community connectors in place, every single penny that is paid for face-to-face support is spent on helping the most vulnerable."

The supported housing scheme is home to seven young families and I spent a really enjoyable couple of hours chatting to the customers who live there. It was obvious, even in the short time that I spent at Heath Way, that there is real community feel to the place.

Two of the young mums are working full time – Courtney is on an apprenticeship at a local nursery while Charlotte works as a kitchen porter but they had both made the effort to book the day off work to attend the party.

Another young mum, Chloe who has lived at the scheme for just over year is coming towards the end of a course with the Prince’s Trust. She began last September and by January she will have seven different qualifications under her belt which will stand her in good stead when looking for work in the future. This kind of opportunity may not have been available to her if the support was not available.

Sian, who has lived at the scheme for nearly two years told me that thanks to the support she has received she is now ready to move into her own tenancy. She said that living at Heath Way had really helped to build her confidence and has made her aware of the responsibilities attached to running a home and looking after a child. Sian went on to say that she doesn’t know where she would be without the support – she said that she would be lost.Santa on PlayBus

It was a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours and the children even got to meet Santa, thanks to support worker, Steve Dewes who took on the role. It really brought home what a brilliant job support schemes do in building communities and offering vulnerable people the opportunities that many of us take for granted.

Communication specialist - My days are spent telling stories, networking, copywriting, posting on social media and delivering training to colleagues - a bit of everything really! 

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