A West Heath care home for children with disabilities has benefited from over 1600 hours of voluntary work organised by management trainees from Birmingham City Council repairs and maintenance provider, Fortem – a real boost for Charles House just 12 months after being saved from closure.
The work was part of Fortem’s Trainee Challenge which sees three regional teams of management trainees – North, Midlands and South – asked to undertake a community challenge project which improves the lives of local people and communities.
The Midlands trainee team decided to focus on Charles House, a home that provides respite care for children throughout Birmingham who have a statement of special needs.
Saved from closure – twice!
After being successfully saved from closure in 2012, Birmingham City Council again proposed the services the home provides were considered for relocation to the other side of the city in 2017. With Charles House again facing closure, a new campaign was initiated and the home was once again saved.
Charles House now operates under Birmingham Children’s Trust, who partnered with Fortem to enable the improvements.
Indoor & outdoor improvements
68 volunteers from Fortem donated 1,671 hours to renovate the garden space and turn a storage room into an independent living facility. 239 hours were donated by apprentices alone to install the decking area.
The works included new fencing around the perimeter and a new gate, the fitting of new paving slabs, installation of a decking area which incorporates a ramp for any wheelchair access needs and renewed raised flower beds with brightly coloured sleepers. The decking will also have artificial grass laid over the top at the request of the children.
An independent living facility was also created to replace a storage room where a lounge area and a kitchen were fitted with interactive QR codes to help the children learn how to live independently.
Jake Hughes, the Fortem project lead for the trainees said: “The number of challenges we have faced does not compare to the impact this project is going to have on not just the children at Charles House, but staff too. I couldn’t think of a better project to lead on!”
Julie Clark, home manager at Charles House explained: “The garden had been completely off limits for the past two years because it was too dangerous for the children to enjoy, and the activity room was merely used for storage. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received by Fortem who have been sensitive to the fact we continued to deliver our services during the build project.
“Thanks to Fortem we are now able to offer equality of opportunity for children with Autism and sensory overload to experience the same life-skills opportunities as those without any disabilities. Our children can now learn to budget and prepare meals and gain vital independent living skills in a safe and calm space both indoors and outdoors.”
‘Making a real difference’
Mick Williamson, managing director of Fortem said, “Leaving a legacy in the local communities we work in and working in collaboration with our partners is important to everyone at Fortem. The Trainee Challenge is set up for that exact reason and the Midlands Trainees have done a fantastic job of achieving this aim”.
Andy Couldrick, Chief Executive of Birmingham Children’s Trust said; “This is a shining example of the positive impact that can be made when there is true partnership working taking place. The Trust has been in existence for under six months, and we are committed to listening to our families and our staff and making a real difference to the quality of life for our children. Partnerships like this one with Fortem enable us to make that difference.”
Besides the dedication of the volunteers, the project has received support to the value of over £8000 from Fortem suppliers, subcontractors and organisations in the form of materials, time and skills.
These included Travis Perkins, who donated the majority of materials required, Mercian for skips and waste removal as well as Paint360, Midwest Electrical, ESM, Premier Contractors, Euroshowers, VPS, DJT, Shellforce and E Plan for the remainder of materials and work delivered.
Fortem has recently relocated to Birmingham, creating an extra 22 jobs in a variety of office and site based roles, including commercial and operations managers, framework and supply chain administrators, plus 17 apprentices who join this week to complement the 38 already learning their trade working on its BCC contract.
Fortem trainees are also trying to raise funds to purchase some white goods so the children who use the facility can experience independent living and perform basic day to day chores.
If you would like to make a donation please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/charles-house-trainee-challenge