Tag Archives: Charles House

Victory for Charles House!

The reply from the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families (Councillor Les Lawrence) to a question from Cllr Eddie Freeman (Weoley) says it all;

A significant number of comments, representations and consultation responses were received with regard to the provision of respite services to those young people, such as attending Charles House, indicating the value and importance of the service to their well-being, personal development and families.
The commitment shown by parents, staff and young people as expressed at the Northfield Ward Committee Meeting and at the meeting, as you detail in your question, was an important factor in the consideration of the future for Charles House.
I can therefore confirm that Charles House will continue to be a vital component in the overall provision of respite services. Already changes to the process by which places are provided have occurred, staffing profiles assessed, to enable improvements in the access to and provision of placements.
Therefore Charles House, which has on three separate occasions been judged by OfSTED as outstanding, will continue to provide high quality respite care for young people together with supporting their families underpinned by staff who are highly respected.

There is not much wriggle room in that. So, congratulations to the staff and children of Charles House, their parents who campaigned so effectively and to everyone else who lent their active support. The latter includes a few Labour Councillors in the South West of the City and our own Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts group. (SACAC)

This victory was achieved by high-profile, effective and militant campaigning, led by the parents themselves. It was all organised at regular mass parent meetings; they planned the press campaigning, the lobbying, the letters to be written and the relevant meetings to be attended. These meetings also invited in Council officials such as Eleanor Brazil, legal experts and Les Lawrence himself. Some Labour Councillors turned up at times of their own volition, others had to be dragged. SACAC members were proud to have been invited in for every meeting, to give support and advice on campaigning strategy.
But it was SACAC that pioneered the two most public demonstrations, a street corner Saturday morning stall in Cotteridge on Saturday 5th November and on the Kings Norton Green on Saturday 10th December. This latter event was preceded by parents, children and SACAC members filling up Councillor Steve Bedser’s surgery to bursting point and winning Steve’s active support for Charles House. At both stalls the public support received was overwhelming.

It was also SACAC that accompanied the parents to a memorable Northfield Ward Committee meeting on Monday 21st November. To say that the campaign made its point forcibly would be an understatement. It was probably the turning point – as acknowledged in the letter above. Councillor Lawrence was reminded in no uncertain terms of the promise he had made to keep Merrishaw Community Day Nursery open, only for the shutters to go up soon after. When we all trooped out having made our point, Cllr Lawrence followed, and spoke to us in a very different tone of voice. It was probably at this point that it was realised a big mistake had been made.

So, the articles in the press, the coverage in the B31 blog, the lobbying of Councillors, the street demonstrations, the letters written and the solidarity achieved by keeping all parents together, plus the support of the local anti-cuts group, made a victory possible.

We, of course, hope that the survival of Charles House is not at the expense of any other such house or Council services. But if anywhere else does feel threatened, the service users concerned can take a leaf out of the Charles House parents’ campaign to see how to defend themselves.

If and when the Council cutters come for any other vital services in this part of the city, be rest assured that SACAC will be there once more. And while we think about it, is it not time to consider re-opening Merrishaw Community Day nursery?

Report from Bob Whitehead of Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts

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Save Charles House, Kings Norton events

Update: Please see comments, Charles House will not be closed! Great news.

On Saturday, parents and children from Charles House, crowded into the surgery of Kings Norton Councillor Steve Bedser (Lab), accompanied by Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts. After a long meeting, the attendees were very pleased to hear that Steve Bedser pledged to give full public support to the campaign, at ward and Council level.

Following the meeting, we all trooped out to do over an hour’s street stall activity on Kings Norton Green. As usual, there was often a queue of people ready to sign the ever-growing petition, and some of the passers-by were even considering coming to the social on Thursday.

This all followed a meeting with Councillor Les Lawrence the previous day, where he seemed to have appeased the parents a little as he told them to think positive (suggesting a positive result for them?) and promised a decision by January 10th. He made the right noises, saying that respite care provision was important. He also acknowledged that Charles House children are not suitable for respite care with foster carers.

However, a word of caution; similar reassuring noises were heard from Councillor Lawrence about Merrishaw Community Day Nursery earlier this year. There were allegations of scaremongering. Two other Tory councillors from Northfield then gave their backing to the nursery, but the the shutters suddenly went up and the toys were shipped out. The campaign to save Charles House will not rest until its future, with a full level of resourcing, is in black and white.

The next planning meeting of SACAC is this Wednesday, 6.15pm at the Stirchley Community Church, (canteen), Hazelwell St. Stirchley.

Bob Whitehead, Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts

You can read more about the campaign to save Charles House on B31 Voices, including testimonies from parents, or in our own archive of posts.
If you want to get involved with the campaign, can email charleshouseparents@gmail.com or join their facebook group. There is also a campaign to save Cambourne House, a similar disabled childrens’ respite home in Aston, who have a facebook group.

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Save Charles House Petition Hand In Tomorrow

Save Charles House campaign will hand in the petition against its possible closure to the council during their meeting tomorrow.
Councillor Andy Cartwright will submit the petition to the council meeting on behalf of the campaign and it would be great for people to be there when it happens.

The meeting runs from 2pm-8pm tomoroow (Tues 6th December). The parents campaign have a facebook group and if you want to get involved with the campaign either ask to join the group, or you can email charleshouseparents@gmail.com

B31 Voices has been following the campaign closely and has organised the petition. You can read more about Charles House and find parents’ testimonies of the service there.

In addition to Charles House, 4 other homes face closure. Cambourne House in Aston has a parents campaign, if you use the service or want to help them, email us at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com and we’ll put you in contact. If you are a parent or staff member at one of the other homes, we would encourage you to put together a campaign. With enough pressure we can make the council reconsider their plans entirely. We can help you to advertise the campaign and support you with ideas and experience.

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Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts Newsletter

· At our last meeting we all agreed that the November 30th strikes, the city centre demonstration and rally at the NIA had been very successful. Congratulations to all concerned! You can read our report from the day and see more photos here

· We were very pleased to have two parents from Charles House at our last meeting. They have a pledge from Councillor Les Lawrence that he will attend to meet parents next Friday at 12.30pm. The press will most likely be there. The next day, 10th December, there will be a street stall on Kings Norton Green, meet at 10.30am, where they also plan to visit the local Councillor’s surgery.

· We had a first discussion about the problem of having three pro-cuts council candidates in Bournville and other local wards at the May elections. A representative from the Green Party attended and confirmed the offer of a no-cuts collaborative approach. Various views were put forward on this and it was agreed to re-discuss the issue at our next meeting and come to a decision. Despite being invited, a representative from the Labour Party did not attend.

· We agreed to make a special free offer to Charles House parents for our upcoming social on December 15th. The updated flyer is attached. You will see that bar food will be available.

· Our next meeting will be on Wednesday 14th December, venue to be confirmed.

You can contact Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts by emailing

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Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts Nov/Dec activities

Activities agreed at last night’s planning meeting. Please help out where you can.

Charles House;

Mon 21st Nov; 7pm – Lobby of Cllr Les Lawrence. Ward Committee, Hamstead House

Sat 26th Nov; 10-2pm Cotteridge Church Centre Xmas Fair (check time we turn up)

Sat 10th Dec; 11 – 1 – Street stall at Kings Norton Green

Thur 19th Jan; 7pm – Kings Norton Ward Committee, St.Pauls JI School, Pool Farm
Also, please fill in the petitions which you can find at the end of this post

Birmingham against the cuts Public Meeting 24th Nov at the Council House 7pm

Sat 19th Nov; 12-2pm – Leafleting in town centre, outside Waterstones, near the Bull, alongside TUC day of action.

Mon 21st Nov; 2.45pm – leafleting Cotteridge JI school parents

4.30pm – leafleting at Kings Norton Station – car park entrance

Tue 22nd Nov; 2.45pm – leafleting Bournville JI school
4.30pm – leafleting Bournville Station

Wed Nov 30th; most of the day! Huge public sector strikes over pension attacks
7am – probable picket at Lifford House, maybe picket at Lifford Refuse depot even earlier, probable pickets at Connexions – Northfield and other places.

9am – protest at Cotteridge Church Centre. Be there with our banner!

10am – Trade Union rally outside University main gates, opposite Fire Station.

11am – Demo assembly Lionel St, town Centre

1.30pm – Rally at the NIA

(Sat 26th Nov; Waterstones, further Trade Union leafleting 12-2pm)

Lifford House lobbying

Fri 18th Nov; 5pm – lobby of Councillor Dawkins. Woodlands Park Rd.
Monday 5th Dec; 7pm – lobby of Cllr Dow, Selly Park Tech College for Girls.

Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts next meetings

Wed 23rd Nov; 7.30pm – Special meeting of SACAC. One item on agenda – Nov 30th! Cotteridge Church Centre.
Thur 1st Dec; 7.30pm, Stirchley Community Centre. Elm room. There will be a proposal put to the meeting; “This group agrees to have joint campaign/candidate with the Green Party, on a no-cuts basis, in the May 2012 local elections. This is to be in the Bournville, and possibly Kings Norton and Northfield, wards”

Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts Social!

Thur 15th or Fri 16th Dec; at the British Oak, Stirchley, with Naomi Paul (Comedienne) and “No More Numbers” (GreenDay) band – to be confirmed. Any more talent amongst our supporters?
(We need to raise £££ to pay for printing and other expenses)

Cotteridge Church Elderly Day Centre
No news is good news? Some money seems to be coming in for the next few months


Academy News

KNHS voted to go with ARK. Maybe delay till next September. Debts paid off by BCC before conversion? No news of Hawkesley JI. West Heath JI?

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Cuts “Consultation” Meeting in Longbridge

Another so-called consultation meeting was held today in Longbridge, for local people to consult on the council’s proposed budget.

The council officer told those in attendance that Birmingham City Council had already decided they need to make £65 million worth of cuts but wanted local people to help them decide which bits they should cut and which bits they should save.

No one from the public supported the platform and many of those in attendance were service users and carers. There was also a sizeable turnout from the Labour Party and Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts and some UNISON members.

Parents from Charles House, a service which offers respite care for disabled children, told the meeting that getting respite care meant the difference between families staying together or their children having to go into care. Most of the parents had to fight an average of 5 years to get a place yet the council have accused the capacity service of being under-used. One of the parents had 18 rejections from foster carers who didn’t have the skills to support their child safely yet the council wants to close Charles House and provide parents with respite from foster carers instead.

A number of local people involved in or supported by services funded by “supporting people” pointed out that the savings made by providing preventative services far outway the short term gain of cutting those services.

Questions were raised by Richard Burden MP as to why councillors were not prepared to be politically accountable and why they wouldn’t question the budgets handed to them by central government, as well as on academies, connexions and putting finance before the rights of children. Councillor Ian Cruise raised the issue of some children’s centres having 20% cuts locked into their budgets for next year.

People also raised the question of how much has been spent on consultants. None of the questions raised were answered, but many individuals were offered private one to ones after the meeting and vague promises of how concerns would be followed up.

Despite resistance from the supposedly independent chair Chris Khamis, who wanted feedback to be taken in focus groups and selectively recorded by scribes, the meeting was able to pass two motions which were both carried with a few abstentions and none against.

Motion 1
This meeting rejects these £65 million of cuts as politically motivated and non-acceptable.

Motion 2
This meeting opposes all the cuts Birmingham City Council is proposing for the 2012/13 budget as politically motivated. We further call for the reinstatement of all jobs and services cut as part of the 2011/12 budget in particular the allowances removed as part of the new contract, which savagely cut the pay of some of the lowest payed council staff.

Report from Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts. Kings Heath and Moseley against the Cuts will be attending the consultation meeting on Wednesday in Kings Heath, and would love you to join them. There are also further meetings around the city – do get along to one to oppose these cuts.

See also a report from B31 Blog with more quotes and information from the meeting

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Save Charles House

A packed emergency meeting of parents and supporters was held yesterday at Charles House. This is based in West Heath and provides respite care for disabled children, including such things as autism. It takes children from all parts of the city and provides expert, quality care.
The meeting was addressed by the Council official responsible for such provision, Eleanor Brazil (Director CYPF), who explained that “savings” (cuts) were behind the threat to this Council service. She said its occupancy rate was only 57% and that was similar to another home in the city. Foster care might be an alternative.

When it came to question time for parents, a host of heartfelt, angry and tearful comments were made. It was stressed time and time again that without the respite care being delivered by Charles House, parents would not be able to cope. It would lead to family breakdowns, which would then cost the state even more.
Most parents said that they had found it very difficult to get their children into the house for respite care; it was time consuming and bureaucratic. If it was made easier and more transparent, the take up rate would very quickly climb to 100%.
As regards to fostering care, one parent said that she had been turned down by eighteen potential foster parents because they didn’t have the skills needed to look after her child. At Charles House they do have those skills! Incidentally Birmngham City Council wants to cut at least 23 Fostering Social Workers currently based at Lifford House!
No, the whole proposal to close or merge Charles House is misconceived nonsense. It should be kept open in its own right with a full level of provision. In reply to the economic argument, the Council is spending £200 million this year in repayments to the banks, via the government. As it was the banks that caused the economic problems behind all of this in the first place, let them wait for their money! The Council has also spent £186 million on Capita. What is the Council getting for this, and is it more important than respite care for disabled children and parents?

There was huge support expressed for a campaign to save Charles House by the parents. Several Labour (current and potential) Councillors were there to offer support. And so were Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts, who pointed out the lessons of the Merrishaw closure and offered a few ideas on how to win this time.
The “consultation”period ends on 6th January 2012. There is now a large breathing space to build up such a campaign, that this vital resource will be left alone.

by Bob Whitehead and Chris Hughes

There will be a “Save Charles House” group meeting. Next Thursday at 10.30am, 10th November, At Charles House.

There are two petitions we would ask everyone to sign:
here

and here

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