Published on April 23rd, 2018 | by John OMeara



The Council’s Wellbeing Service has made a successful bid for a share of £100m from Sport England which will go to 12 areas of the country over the next 3 years. Within Birmingham and Solihull the money will be spread across 6 areas ranging from 39,000 pop. to 96,000, and one of these will be the Handsworth, Lozells and Aston area (93,700). ‘Handsworth’ means the whole area covered by the 5 new wards: Handsworth, Handsworth Wood, Holyhead, Lozells and Birchfield, but no one will be excluded for being slightly the wrong side of a boundary.

Part of the Sport England’s current thinking is that to achieve the overall benefits of increased physical activity in the population it is important to look beyond existing sports clubs and their members and to engage with the ‘unusual suspects’ – those for whom barriers of income, time, social isolation, lack of confidence, language or culture, amongst potentially many other factors, provide what seem like insurmountable obstacles to being physically active (for more background on this click on ‘BlazingTrail)’. The classic success story is of the woman who joined a coffee morning to combat isolation, having never done a piece of ‘exercise’ in her life, and ended up teaching others how to ride a bike.

The Wellbeing Service has recently been ‘spun off’ from the Council into a ‘community benefit society’ called The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS), but in terms of overall responsibility and accountability they are no different in their relationship to local residents than any other part of the Council – it is still our service. They are starting the new approach in our area, and recently contacted around 100 relevant local groups for initial discussions about how the people they work with, and might potentially work with, could benefit. This then progressed to a meeting with about half of the groups at Handsworth Wellbeing Centre on 18th April which focused on how they could best co-ordinate what they do in order to increase their impact, and their benefits to each other. Central to the discussions was the creation of an easily accessed data base of who they are, what they do and what resources they can share. On show were the range of activities so far provided under the Active Parks, Active Streets, Be Active, Run Birmingham, Birmingham Big Bikes and This Girl Can schemes.

In the next 2 weeks TAWS will tell Sport England what they need funding for, and they will come back to a public meeting at the Handsworth Wellbeing Centre on Monday 14th May at 9.30am to engage with local activity providers, volunteers and residents to work out what the nature and scale of the future work can therefore be; they will seek feedback on whether they have judged the priorities correctly. At that point it will become clearer what type of support can be given to the local community: how much resource will go to fund new opportunities for activity, and how much to the role of TAWS in supporting existing groups to try and improve what they already do. Anyone who is interested can attend that meeting – we will put details of date/venue on this site as soon as we know it, and also on our Facebook page. If you are a group or institution who hasn’t yet been contacted about the project, and you think you may have a part to play, please contact Val Donaldson at uk or phone 0121 464 0197. Don’t underestimate your role: if you work with people, even if they never get off a computer chair, you could provide a vital link for this piece of work.

There are important questions we will need to keep track of: how will the networking and co-ordinating activity (and data base) for this project relate to that for the Neighbourhood Networks in Older People’s Services, and potentially other Service areas, and that within the new political wards – all these with their differing boundaries? What happens at the end of the 3 years – who will take the overview which will enable new provision to be developed when existing initiatives fall away? Will the Council manage to be integrated enough in the way it interacts with local communities to avoid the kind of duplication of activity which would run local groups ragged? Some will be keen to clarify whether this initiative is a ‘rebranding’ which represents an overall reduction in resources while encouraging local communities to plug the gaps.

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑