This goes to show that a good campaign can succeed, even when it seems to have failed. We are also proud to have actively supported this campaign, and helped to save a great service for parents and children of West Heath
Tag Archives: West Heath
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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:
After months of campaigning over the future of Merrishaw Community Day Nursery, and after obtaining the support of local Councillors Reg Corns and Randal Brew and Richard Burden MP, two Council officials met several of the parents on Monday 5th September.
After explaining the move to Integrated Family Support by the Council, they listened to the powerful defence of the service that Merrishaw provided and the wish for it to continue. While there was a disagreement over what was possible, they did say that the consultation was not a closed book, and that they would see if they could develop something in the area. They also promised to look into some individual outstanding case problems that were identified.
On Tuesday 6th September, several parents were interviewed on Radio WM, followed by Richard Burden. Then, the man responsible for the closure of Merrishaw, the elusive local Councillor Les Lawrence, at last made contact, over the air waves.
You can listen to Radio West Midlands programme here:
He stated that take up of nursery places is poor. However in West Heath and surrounding nurseries there is a massive demand for nursery places. There is a 2 year waiting list at Wychall Nursery and Albert Bradbeer is similarly oversubscribed. Also, because of a job freeze, staff left through fear of redundancy and so they could not take more children in.He also farcically stated the Merrishaw closure was like the BBC move! But the BBC has moved buildings! It does not come around to all our individual houses and ask to broadcast from there! Merrishaw has closed and the services have shifted to a peripatetic system of service delivery! This is NOT the same as moving a service from one building to another!
Cllr. Lawrence claimed that “all 14 parents at Merrishaw have been placed into a better service”. This is not true! The Council’s ‘Integrated Services’ rely heavily on private child minders and private nurseries. And we know that not ALL parents have a suitable place yet!
He also claims that they have been moved onto “council run facilities”. The children who have been offered council run child care refers to education nursery provision which all 3 year olds are entitled to, and it is term time only. How is that a better service?
Not all staff have moved onto new jobs; there have been redundancies. All staff had to be interviewed for the Integrated Family Support jobs and if they were not successful then they would be either redeployed elsewhere in the department or have to take voluntary redundancy.
The consultation Lawrence refers to we also know is virtually NON- EXISTENT! Cllr Lawrence is either highly incompetent and/or he is a liar! The consultation process for the parents who met the officials this week was seven days, back in June.
The campaign to re-open the Merrishaw centre will continue! Its closure is just one effect of the huge cuts to services that the Council recently voted for. We cannot accept this.
Report from Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts
On Monday 5th September, at the meeting with Chrissie Garrett, parents and supporters of Merrishaw will be attending to demand the re-opening of this nursery. The consultation was totally flawed (7 days)and brought discredit on the council, according to one of the Tory Councillors. This area of West Heath needs a thorough wide-ranging local service, including day care, and we will not rest until it is re-established. The Council, and prospective Labour candidates must commit themselves to its re-opening at the earliest opportunity.
You can job the protest outside the lobby at 10am, Hamstead House, Fairfax Road, West Heath, B31 3QY.
UPDATE: Merrishaw Nursery is to re-open, following continued pressure on the Council. Parents and staff have been told it will re-open in April 2012. This is a great success for the campaign, and shows that sometimes even when something seems over, it really isn’t. We will of course cover the re-opening when it happens.
Despite a campaign by parents and Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts, Merrishaw Day Nursery has closed, along with 7 other nurseries around Birmingham.
A last minute push to save the nursery from closure did not succeed, with parents and supporters gathering at the Nursery for what looks to be the final open day. Although all three councillors had been invited, only Cllr Reg Corns turned up to hear parents concerns. You can hear what he had to say on the B31 Blog post.Cllr Ian Cruise, Labour councillor for neighbouring Longbridge ward took the photo of Merrishaw being boarded up and said this on Twitter:
A sad day as workmen board up Merrishaw Community Day Nursery in West Heath. A relic of the cuts
Marrishaw achieved the highest grade possible (Outstanding) in it’s last Ofsted inspection. It has served the community for 26 years, and done so very well. Now parents are being moved to private nurseries, some of which are up to two miles away in Stirchley, as nursery provision is oversubscribed locally.
Quite what logic is used to decide to close a high performing nursery, in an area which does not have overcapacity is hard to discern.
Our hope for the nursery, and for the parents, is that Labour take control of the council next year and reopen the nurseries that have closed around the city, restoring excellent state provided provision, and ensuring that the youngest residents of our city have access to the best facilities in a nearby location.
With more time, this service could have been saved, but in June, parents were told it would stay open – only to find out a week later that it would close. Since then they have been working tirelessly to try to keep it open.
If we are to stop these cuts, we must continue to resist them at the local level as well as the national level.
Have a look at our Local Groups page to see if there is a group in your area, and if there is not, then we can help you to create one, by putting you in contact with activists in your area and supporting events that you run.
Regionally, we are holding a meeting, called jointly with Right to Work, on the 8th September at 7pm, at the Birmingham Midland Institute. Build the alternative, Broaden the Struggle. Speakers: Jack Dromey MP, Bob Crow, Jody McIntyre and more talking about the cuts, resistance and alternatives. Please attend our facebook event and invite your friends.
Nationally the party conference season is almost upon us, with the Liberal Democrats holding their conference here in Birmingham, and a demonstration on Sunday 18th September, whilst the Conservatives are in Manchester and the demonstration there is on Sat 2nd October.
Join with us to fight these cuts, and prevent more services like Merrishaw Day Nursery closing.