Walsall for All, the Walsall Council team which brings local communities together, is celebrating after being shortlisted for a prestigious Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) award for collaborative working.
A rapid change in the diversity of Walsall’s population saw community tensions rising. Walsall’s solution has seen deep and frank community consultations shape its cohesion and integration strategy with investment leading to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) pilot status for the ground-breaking Walsall for All initiative. Staffed by council officers, but led by a community partnership, this investment has reaped rewards in bringing communities together and improving internal working practices.
Launched in 2019 as one of the Government’s five pilot ‘Integration Areas’, Walsall For All quickly became a ground-breaking programme, used by MHCLG as a showcase for other local authorities across the UK. This strong cross sector partnership has overseen a range of successful interventions all with cohesion at the core.
The networks put in place through Walsall for All enabled Walsall’s rapid response to the coronavirus outbreak; public, private and voluntary and faith groups came together as never before. The partnership was vital in ensuring that food hubs offered culturally appropriate menus, government guidance was translated in 17 languages and a door to door service supported our deaf community. When the African variant was confirmed in the area, Walsall for All co-opted 2 churches, a mosque, Hindu and Sikh temples as Covid-19 test points.
Councillor Garry Perry, Portfolio Holder for Resilient Communities, said:
“The benefits of Walsall for All are showing through. Academic research found that COVID impacts were lessened in the pilot Integration Areas with social activism remarkably 62% higher, along with a greater trust in local government, a stronger sense of connection and a more positive attitude to immigrants.
“We are confident that a better integrated Walsall will allow our communities across the borough to flourish, overcoming the divisions caused by prejudice, discrimination and segregation and empowering residents to fulfil their potential and contribute to the growth of Walsall.
The partnership’s success is such that plans are in place to develop into a charitable organisation to continue building capability and embedding and mainstreaming integration into our vision for an even better Walsall.
Councillor Perry added:
“I’m incredibly proud of the Walsall for All team and all that they have achieved during the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and will be rooting for them on 9 September when the awards ceremony takes place in Birmingham. They’re already winners in my eyes.”
Canon David Primrose, Chair of Walsall for All, added:
“In the context of additional pressures on individuals, families and communities, it’s been inspiring to see people working together to overcome the common challenges and discover a new sense of purpose and connectedness.”
Note to Editor
In 2017 Walsall Council consulted widely on a new Cohesion & Integration Strategy 2017-2020. The strength of the strategy came from the depth and frankness of the community consultation with individuals which shaped it. In over 500 community café style conversations, potential solutions were identified for a more integrated and inclusive Walsall.
Just two weeks after publication of the strategy, MHCLG approached Walsall Council to be a pilot for the Government’s newly created Integrated Area Programme, providing £1.9m funding for 2019-22. The mandate was clear — test and try out innovative new ways of reducing barriers and bringing communities together through the ‘Walsall for All’ partnership.
Walsall for All’s 20-strong partnership includes social housing and education providers, NHS, police, cultural and faith groups. Work is guided and driven forward by a newly created partnership board, whose members have wide ranging expertise and a good understanding of the needs of Walsall’s diverse communities.
Just 12 months into delivery, COVID-19 threatened to derail this project centred on social mixing.
The incredible dedication and hard work of the Walsall for All team successfully tackled challenges head on:
- supporting 12 English language provisions to continue online with over 400 participants and growing.
- Moving to virtual events and celebrations – Walsall for All’s 2020 Black History Month event was attended by 170 people and the website has seen a 207% increase in users.
With the agreement of MHCLG, within a week of the first lockdown Walsall for All:
- mobilised volunteer support and set up food hubs offering culturally appropriate menus.
- worked closely with public health colleagues, community associations and faith groups, to convey government guidance, offering translated and accessible publications and videos in 17 languages.
- supported Walsall’s deaf community, providing a door to door service interpreting government guidance.
- led on a partnership for African variant surge testing, co-opting two churches, a mosque and Hindu and Sikh temples as COVID-19 test centres.