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Community partners say #TogetherWeCan

3 Oct 2022

Our community development team is keen to ensure that our work is rooted in the everyday lived experiences of the communities where we operate. So, we have set up a “Power to Change” partners group, where community partners share and identify areas where we can work in partnership, support each other, and bring about positive changes for the people and communities we work with.

At our latest meeting on Friday 16th September , the groups discussed, how we are all doing and there was a strong consensus that:

Lots of demand for services but resources are limited, and time bound. Many present, felt, working in partnership with city council was challenging and not always clear how decision making was made or where spending priorities came from. Participants felt neighbourhoods and communities were being overlooked in favour of city centre development.

We are keen to work in partnership with city council, but there is no real space in which you can participate, it is more of a case of random invites, where they decide , partly that is due to capacity and nature of government funding but surely a standing partnership forum could be established

In terms of demands on services, inflation and soaring energy costs hitting people hard, but also community organisations, who must heat buildings. Demand for food banks continue to grow as does demands on limited time, that meant staff had to prioritise , which is challenging when so much need.

Sadly, due to limited funding you have to make heart breaking decisions about who you will help and the demand for help keeps growing

Lack of funding for English language classes is excluding excluded families even more. It was noted newly arrived immigrants often exploited, do not know their rights and are vulnerable.

Leicester city attracts new immigrants, but sadly if they do not speak English or know their rights, they can be exploited and cuts in ESOL and community provision means they are very vulnerable to exploitation

Recent clashes between youth groups in the city raised many issues. Whilst those present could see, that there were radicle groups on social media encouraging division between Muslim and Hindu Groups, they also noted, many young people in poorer neighbourhoods feel left behind, and they cannot see how the city council or government is supporting them and often community groups and local politics dominated by older people. Sadly, this sense of neglect, of being ignored and lack of opportunity means these young people can be targeted by “extreme” groups who wish to promote division and violence. Those who worked with young people felt it was important their voices and lived experiences were heard and helped shape and drive local development agendas. Many working at a community level were aware of this but it seems to have caught the local leadership by surprise, which suggests they are out of touch. NB out of meeting comment further rioting broke out that weekend.

Those in positions of power be it in the council ,community or faith sector, need to listen to young people, not speak on their behalf”

All present felt the energy crisis is a huge concern and the recently announced cap, will still see poorer people’s bills doubling and tripling. The group were also aware that 80% of businesses in Leicester are SME’s and these energy rises might see many of the smaller ones going out of business which in turn will see people losing jobs. As community groups they could offer support and advice, but when it gets serious, they needed serious debt/energy advice of the type offered by Zinthiya trust. It might also be good if the city council could bid for/spend some of its capital grants helping to make community building greener/insulated/energy efficient .Participants also felt we might see a rise in poorer families/people wanting access to warm spaces and cheap/free food as they cannot afford to heat their homes or cook food.

We also discussed how Leicestershire Cares could improve how it supports the community sector.

Participants were appreciative of the support that Leicestershire cares (LC) offers to the community and in discussion felt it would be good if LC could continue and or start to:

- Enable business community continuing to offer practical support to community groups such as doing DIY projects.

- Enabling business community to share skills and knowledge with community sector, this could be for example group training on social media or coaching and mentoring at individual level on for example leadership or planning.

- Could LC include community groups in work tours?

- Great if LC could continue to get business community to support local initiatives such as “Holiday Hunger”. “ Bags of Hope” and sponsoring trips and sports activities.

- People also felt it was good for business and community to build a better understanding of each others needs through dialogue and shared activities.

- Sponsor an annual celebration. Showcase/learning event for our sector

It’s great you have such positive links with the business sector and the support they have already given us is really useful, lets build on that

All present, felt that the group should continue to meet, and focus should be on

- Coordination, sharing and seeking to support and add value to each others work

- Development and funding. As and when funding opportunities arrive, seek to develop and submit coalition bids

- Voice. Group speaks out with and on behalf of the people we work with, the sector and hold decision makers to account

Leicestershire Cares agreed to support such a partners’ forum and to ensure it ran smoothly and to take lead in the “secretariat function”.

This has been a really positive meeting and we are really keen to build on the grounded , grassroots knowledge, skills, and creativity of our many community partners, so we can tackle the many issues facing our communities, neighbourhoods, families and young people

Neetu Squire Head of Community Development Leicestershire Cares

For more information on our approach

Leicestershire cares rapid assessment of impact of cost of living rise on vulnerable young people

Thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund and the Nationwide Building society for supporting our work