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Citizens UK: Birmingham: Celebrates Six Year Anniversary

This month our Citizens UK: Birmingham Alliance celebrated six years of community organising in the city. The chapter marked the milestone with special event kindly hosted by Canon Gerry Breen at St Chad’s Cathedral.

After a successful six years of community organising in the city - from Living Wage campaigning to refugee resettlement – the chapter has gone from strength to strength. Citizens UK: Birmingham has grown to an independent civil society alliance made up of faith, education, trade union and community institutions.


At the event, 54 leaders from across the city celebrated and reflected on the success of Citizens UK: Birmingham. Given special mention was the hugely successful Community Sponsorship work in the city and efforts to resettle refugees. Councillors Tristan Chatfield, Waseem Zaffar, Alex Yip and Claire Spencer were given special recognition for their leadership and support.

Our member schools also took part in the anniversary celebrations. Pupils from St Francis’ Catholic Primary School in Lozells shared their personal testimonies on being part of a “refugee welcome school”. Students from the CORE Education Trust also presented a brilliant new city project called Echo Eternal remembering the survivors of the Holocaust and the reflections they have for us. As well as this, a host of other Citizens UK leaders shared news on current projects: Community sponsorship, the Business leaders project and the Islam & Public Life Commission.

Finally, three moving personal stories were read out to introduce a new campaign by Safe Passage: 80 years on. (https://80yearson.org.uk/) The campaign recently received the backing of Cllr Tristan Chatfield at Birmingham City Council to take in 80 child refugees on first instance dependent on securing funding from Government. If you would like to get involved or find out more please email Saidul.haque@citizensuk.org


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Join our call on the Chancellor to ensure that all workers employed on public money earn the real Living Wage

There are tens of thousands of workers employed through government contracts who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s bad enough when any hard-working person isn't paid enough to live on, but it’s even worse when Government departments responsible for health, welfare and work don’t pay the real Living Wage.

In just a week’s time, the government will make a big announcement – the so-called ‘Autumn Statement’ – to reveal its newest spending plans.

Sign the letter here 

It’s vital that Chancellor Philip Hammond MP takes this opportunity to commit to a real Living Wage for all workers employed on public money. Click here to learn more and to write to your MP about this.

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Community Land Trust and affordable homes win in Waltham Forest

On Sunday 21 October 2018, church and mosque leaders, school children and local campaigners walked between the Lea Bridge and The Score housing development sites, meeting Cllr Simon Miller at St Marys Church in Leyton. Cllr Miller committed to ensuring that 50% of the homes built on these 2 sites will be classified as affordable. In particular, Cllr Miller announced that a Community Land Trust proposal has been written into the developer brief for the Lea Bridge site. This would be the first CLT in Waltham Forest. [see below for additional information on CLTs]

These announcements follow a year of campaigning by Waltham Forest Citizens (WFC), an alliance of 10 education and faith organisations in Waltham Forest. Before the 2018 local election, WFC listened to 1200 local people and built a People’s Agenda that included asking for 50% of all homes built on public land to be classified as affordable, starting with the Lea Bridge Road, The Score and Whipps Cross Hospital sites. In addition, WFC called on the next administration to build 1200 new social rent homes and 600 CLT homes. At the pre-election Accountability Assembly in April 2018, Cllr Coghill agreed to these asks and has subsequently confirmed her commitment to them in 2 follow-up meetings we have had with her in May and September 2018.

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Raising mental health awareness in Harrow

Members of Harrow Citizens hit the streets in their local area to raise awareness about local mental health services among the wider public. Read more to find out more about this important public action. 

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London Citizens announce Accountability Assembly with Sadiq Khan

Two years after the Mayoral Assembly held by London Citizens in 2016 at the Copperbox with the then candidates for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, we announce our London Citizens Accountability Assembly.

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Sponsor Refugee award winners recognised for welcoming refugees

The first Community Sponsorship of refugees awards last week recognised the quiet British heroes who have responded to the refugee crisis, welcoming Syrian families into their communities. Awards will be given for a diverse range of community champions who have helped refugees settle via the Home Office approved Community Sponsorship scheme in villages, towns and cities across the UK, finding them housing, helping them access services, schools and employment and through other acts of kindness.

Read on for the full list of winners.

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Children perform poems on British citizenship at the Home Office

On National Poetry Day, 4th October, over 140 children from schools part of London Citizens came together outside the Home Office to perform poems about their experiences of struggling to become British citizens and hand an anthology of their work to Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes MP.

These young people were either born or raised in the UK and are directly affected by the £1012 Home Office child citizenship fee. Though they may feel as British as their peers, they are often blocked from becoming citizens due to the prohibitive costs involved. Even when their families can save enough to pay the fee, their parents are often forced into risky and expensive debt. 

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A London Living Wage can help end child poverty

Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking writes why the Living Wage is so important to East London boroughs like Newham and Barking (originally published in the Newham Recorder in September)

As the new term starts, too many children will go back to school hungry because their families’ incomes don’t cover the essentials needed to live in Newham. The absence of free school meals over the recent six-week summer break means extra costs families can ill afford.

Even for people in work, life can be tough because of the high cost of London living, with rent and travel cost taking up a huge proportion of monthly income. The latest figures from KPMG and Living Wage Foundation show that nearly 1 in 5 (19%) of all Londoners are earning below the London Living Wage – these figures don’t account for self-employed people who are often earning below the government minimum.

Ending in work poverty is a huge challenge but if we have the heart and the will to get together we can make a change. When people recognise need and get organised, we can transform our communities for the better.

Every day, Christians in parishes across East London are living out their faith in a wide range of ways: running community projects, teaching, working with young people, organising winter night shelters and caring for the vulnerable. We also work in alliance with other faith and non-faith community groups within community organising charity Citizens UK to look at ways to address failures in the system that harm the community. Efforts to tackle poverty are growing in scale and sophistication and now include debt advice centres, foodbanks and advice services.

One big contribution to diminishing poverty came about thanks to community leaders right here in East London: The London Living Wage, the amount calculated as the minimum needed to survive in the capital. Back in 2001, members from the East London branch of Citizens UK brought together churches, mosques, schools and other local institutions to talk about the issues affecting their communities. People were working two or three minimum wage jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. They had no time for family life. Back then the government’s minimum wage was just £3.70 an hour.

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Mental Health training for Merton

It's World Mental Health Day on 10th October and Merton Citizens are encouraging members t o promote this within their organisations, either during worship, school assemblies or team meetings. This can be done at any point during the month of October. We are doing this to raise awareness of the issues around mental health and to lessen the stigma which is often attached to it.

Merton Citizens are encouraging members to appoint someone in their community to become a mental health champion. This means: 

  • Signing up to do training in how to signpost people, how to have helpful conversations with people struggling with mental health issues, and how to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. 
  • Being a point person in your community who can direct people to the right services.
  • Being proactive in finding things your community can do to promote positive mental health.  This could be hosting a yoga course, encouraging people to use the headspace app , starting a weekly football team etc…

Listen to why Catherine at Mitcham Parish Church is becoming a mental health champion. Click here 



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TELCO Citizens celebrate 50% affordable housing news for the former London Olympic Site and seek living wage and community-led housing legacy

Community leaders from Newham Citizens, part of community alliance London Citizens, today thanked Mayor Sadiq Khan after he made a commitment to 50% affordable housing on future developments on the Olympic site and asked that the Mayor work with LLDC and the local community to ensure 100 Community Land Trust homes[1] and more social housing is part of the mix.

Newham Citizens is keen to bring the same energy and enthusiasm which brought Community Land Trust homes to the first ever location in London, St Clements, to the Eastwick and Sweetwater developments on the Olympic Site. Community Land Trust homes are priced according to local earnings, ensuring that people are no longer priced out of the area.

Newham Citizens call for affordable housing and living wage Olympic commitment

To combat many of Newham’s housing problems, campaigners are encouraging higher proportions of living rent, social housing and Community Land Trust homes in the housing mix. 60 Newham Citizens residents attended a tour with senior executives of LLDC (London Legacy Development Corporation) after holding a community meeting to hear concerns on housing and wages.

East London still has some of the highest levels of housing deprivation in the country and this has worsened since the Olympic Games were held, with many families forced to leave the borough because of the lack of housing and London Living Wage jobs. The hope from campaigners is that a Living Wage and genuinely affordable housing boost could help more struggling families with a lifeline of affordable homes and better paid jobs.


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