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Celebrating Walsall Community Recognition Awards winners - Access to Services

Guest blog post by The Faith and Belief Forum.

‘Access to services’ category award winners come together for an online community conversation.

Covid has challenged us to find new ways to connect, network and learn from each other. As part of the Walsall Community Recognition Awards, we bought together award winners to share their wealth of knowledge and experience in providing accessible services across Walsall. With the aim of celebrating the achievements of local individuals and organisations, we took conversations online and shared stories from the past six months and beyond.

The flexibility of local organisations in supporting communities throughout lockdown was truly inspirational. From delivering food parcels to setting up online groups, everybody shared their experience of trying to navigate the continuously changing landscape. Inevitably, this bought with its highs and lows, both personally and professionally. It has been a time of “all hands to the pump,” as one winner expressed it, with organisations such as Darlaston All Active seeing more people than ever using services provided by the Darlaston Town Hall.

As one winner expressed, ‘‘I can’t believe how the community has knitted, it’s never happened before,” a feeling shared by many. This collaborative, one goal approach saw organisations coming together (sometimes for the first time), to offer new services, or share resources. Afghan Community Welfare Centre joined forces with two other community groups to create a production line for the delivery of food parcels to local people.

The year has also emphasised the importance of schemes like the Pheasey Book Borrowers in providing space for people to meet and socialise. There was a general concern for the impact of lockdown on people’s confidence and self-esteem, and the partial opening of the library has been hugely meaningful for local people in re-engaging with old friends. The impact of Covid has demonstrated the value of community groups in not only providing accessible services but also for facilitating social integration and inclusion.

Building a future with accessible services for all

There was a shared sense that it was more important than ever for community groups to adopt a more flexible approach in supporting the needs of their service users. This flexibility was seen as a challenge (as with all new approaches!) but also an opportunity to play a more pro-active role in the community, tailoring work to what local people need and require at a particular time.

Supporting this new approach, the last six months have provided an opportunity for local groups to work in a different way, bidding for money in collaboration with each other, rather than competing for funds. It was agreed by all that this approach was benefitting more people across Walsall compared to supporting local areas in isolation. Therefore, the continuation of this approach was welcomed, and award winners were excited for future partnerships to grow.

And lastly, despite working across diverse communities and areas in Walsall, there was a common consensus about the emerging areas requiring support. Providing services to support children and adults affected by mental health was central to this discussion. There was also a call to help adults re-build confidence and self-esteem, helping them to re-engage with their local area and attend the activities that supported their active participation in the community. The lockdown has forced many people to self-isolate without access to technology, and it was felt that it was important that services reach out to people in this situation, giving them the confidence to socialise and reconnect with others.

A massive thank you to those involved in our community conversation

  • Sue - Ablewell Advice

  • Mohammad - Afghan Community Welfare Centre

  • Vicki and Chris - Pheasey Book Borrowers

  • Allan - Black Country Food Bank

  • Sharon - Darlaston All Active

  • Asma - Walsall Speakers, Toastmasters

  • Margaret - Pleck Methodist Church


Get involved with our Online Community Conversations too

Are you a resident living in Walsall and interested in meeting new people from across the borough? This may be just the project for you. Across three online dialogue sessions, facilitated by us, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Share your experiences and stories with others.

  • Talk about the things that are important to you about living in Walsall.

  • Meet people from different backgrounds.

If you are interested in getting involved as a participant or you would like a group that you are currently involved with to be part of the project, please register your interest here and we will be in touch. If you are having trouble accessing the form, or want to learn more, please get in contact with Daisy King: daisy@faithbelieffourm.org or Jaishree Patel: jaishree@faithbeliefforum.org

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