A PLACE THAT IS INCLUSIVE AND COMMUNITY FOCUSED ASPIRATION PROGRESS Build partnerships with community groups Within the Local Strategic Partnership, the Solihull Council for Voluntary Service (SCVS) leads on building partnerships with community groups. It is estimated that there are more than 500 voluntary organisations at work within the Borough. They range from large service providers like Age Concern to scores of self help groups. Voluntary organisations, collectively, are a major area of public service provision and an important channel for many citizens to contribute to local public life. The Council is looking to further support this work through the recent appointment of a Community and Voluntary Relations Manager. The Local Strategic Partnership has agreed a Compact, between itself, the voluntary and community sectors and the Council. The Compact aims to define and strengthen the relationships by establishing a number of principles which everyone has signed up to. The Compact is only the start, but provides a basis for further developing these relationships in support of the Community Strategy. The LSP Executive has identified area where statutory partners can give greater support (e.g. offering training surplus places). Comment: initial feedback suggests that this is an area which requires greater attention. The re-freshed Community Strategy will contain specific action points with regard to how the LSP can support the voluntary and community sectors. Take active steps to ensure that local people The SCVS has a role in establishing new ventures; Solihull Carers Centre have access to affordable legal information being a recent example. Presently, SCVS is seeking to establish a Borough- and advice. wide credit union. There is a myriad of activity both within the voluntary and public sector in the Borough which is helping to create a more inclusive and community focused Borough. Although the Legal Service Partnership has been put on hold, the three Citizen’s Advice Bureaux have been active in obtaining debt and welfare advice franchises from the Legal Services Commission. The Council’s Trading Standards service provides free advice, assistance and information to residents regarding goods and services. In 2004/05 they received 5,275 enquiries via e-mail, letter, by phone, even by text message. Comment: there is a need for a clearer view about what support should be given in future. Encourage greater participation in groups Update to be given at the meeting and organisations Take advantage of external funds to improve In 2004/05 work was undertaken to attract external funding into the Borough. community life, particularly in north Solihull This resulted in a wide range of projects receiving funding including building through initiatives such as Fair Shares. nurseries, supporting people back into training and work, improving sporting and leisure facilities and funding to help communities celebrate special events. Comment: it is recognised that there is scope for statutory partners to offer more support - this will be reflected in the new Strategy. Deliver high quality housing support services The Council has worked with partner organisations such as the Primary Care Trust and housing associations to develop new, community based, supported housing in the borough. For example, in April 2004 a supported housing scheme for young parents was opened. Other developments have included the redevelopment of existing buildings, providing 17 flats with support, and achieving planning permission and funding for two further schemes – additional 19 places of supported accommodation. Review the Council’s housing allocation Review completed and the Council’s allocations policy has been amended to policies in the light of new homelessness reflect the legislative changes arising from amendments to the 1996 Housing legislation. Act and the introduction of the 2002 Homelessness Act. Identify pupils needing special educational 2% of children have statements. There has been a 99% turnaround in provision and make provision for them processing statements within 18 weeks. The number of statements has locally. increased since May 2003. Pupils with Special Educational Needs continue to be important with all SEN statements issued within the statutory guidelines. Work had begun to build the Solihull Centre for Inclusive Learning (SCIL) this will provide two new purpose built special schools at one location. Reduce class sizes without compromising All Infant classes have 30 pupils or fewer, in line with the statutory quality and standards requirement. Improve access for disabled people to an increased range of employment Within the Borough the key programme delivering support to disabled people opportunities. is New Deal for Disabled People. This voluntary programme is run through Jobcentre Plus. In addition to this, the Council’s local public service agreement employment target has a specific element which looks to support disabled clients, especially those on incapacity benefit, back into work. A shift is occuring in policy whereby working with incapacity benefit clients and therefore more disabled people is becoming a priority. Links with the PCT are being explored and there is an aspiration to provide assistance to people in different settings, primarily in health care settings. Comment: There is scope to identify more specific actions for partner agencies, as employers. Empower tenants’ groups and delegate Since 2003/4 Solihull Community Housing has set aside a budget for tenants budgets to them to carry out environmental to spend on environmental improvements. For 2005/6 the budget is £30,450 improvements. and tenants are invited, through the newsletter to recommend projects that will improve the environment such as lighting to garage site, closing alleyways and planting shrubs. All the suggested projects are then costed and evaluated by a panel of tenants who make the final decision on which projects will be carried out. Take steps to monitor equalities Although he Council has developed its own monitoring procedures, there is not, as of yet, any sharing of data across agencies. This will be looked at as part of the LSP’s next stage of development. The LSP Forum has identified a number of ways (e.g. joint protocol, sharing best practice) that partners can work closer together. Comment: greater attention is likely to be given to this area, in the revised Strategy, building on existing agreements (e.g. Diversity Concordat). Promote community facilities and allotments. Kingshurst Allotments, the Council, Kingshurst Parish Council and allotment users are working together to regenerate part of Kingshurst Allotment. They successfully obtained a grant of £26,750 from the Allotment Regeneration Initiative/Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. The project aims to encourage more local people, especially those with disabilities, to take up gardening and food growing and involves the building of raised growing plots, a wildlife area and a community garden. Much of the practical work has been done by young people as part of an accredited training programme. Similarly a disabled friendly garden has been established at the allotments in Ralph Road, Shirley. £30,300 was devolved to the tenant's Environmental Policy Development Panel for a range of environmental improvements chosen by the tenants. There are currently 13 allotment sites around the Borough. An allotments charter has been set up and circulated to all plot holders. Parks Action Groups have also been set up to build community involvement and shared ownership of our green spaces. The Park Ranger jointly runs these groups and Patch Manager services. Comment: this 'aspiration' will need to be more focused and measurable in relation to community facilities in the re-freshed Strategy.