The Citizen’s Voice

Birmingham is the most diverse city in the UK – a great cause for celebration, but with this diversity comes the challenge of ensuring all sectors of Birmingham have an equal level of valued input into the City’s future.

Common Unity is recognised as a local leader when it comes down to engaging diverse communities on often difficult subjects through utilising social media platforms. Subject areas covered through URBRUM have included gender, race, age, stereotypes, prejudice, mental health, well-being, recovery and suicide, as well as wider general health topics.
Birmingham City Council’s Safeguarding Board (BSAB) has high priorities in respect of its responsibilities regarding community engagement on the matter of safeguarding. With the recognition that safeguarding is everybody’s business, yet not all communities understand their responsibilities, there is a clear need to realise an effective, community focussed approach in ensuring the issues of safeguarding are addressed effectively alongside communities as partners in this process.

The Safeguarding Team partnered up with Common Unity to develop a range of Vox Pop videos. The Vox Pop approach provided a platform by which the subject matter of safeguarding could be entered into in a way that enabled the voice of the people to become a key aspect of the decision-making process as well as an opportunity for community empowerment. Through careful and sensitive design, the development of ‘The Citizen’s Voice’ clearly went a long way in starting to meet the BSAB priorities in respect of hearing the voice of communities, promoting safer communities through debate and learning, empowering communities to contribute to safeguarding as everybody’s business and providing service provider agencies with assurances regarding services provided.

Who says Men don’t care?

ManMade, as part of the Connecting Community Networks programme in Birmingham, is a six-week programme that brings men together under one roof to discuss stuff that affects them and provide them with the chance to understand why they are the way they are and what changes they could make in their lives to make it better for them. Some of what is learnt comes from the information provided by the facilitators, but on the whole, most of the learning comes from the men themselves discussing their own lives in respect to identity, mental health, physical health, wellbeing, loss and even death.

ManMade leaders have worked with a range of organisations to work with men most vulnerable when it comes to mental health and poor wellbeing. This has included unemployed men, men in recovery, men experiencing loss, men in prison and most recently, men who are carers.

Caring is often seen by many in society as a ‘female’ issue but it is something that affects a large number of men too…in fact, the last census in 2011 found that in England and Wales nearly 2.5 million men were providing unpaid care for a friend or family member due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction. A more recent study by the Carers trust highlighted that 56% of the Carers they talked to provided 60 plus hours of care per week.

So, in 2018, ManMade facilitators teamed up with Home Group in Birmingham to work with some of the male carers who receive support from this specialist organisation supporting carers across the UK. Of the 10 men that attended throughout the programme, it was clear that male Carers definitely felt benefit from the ManMade approach in discussing subjects often avoided by men.

This is what some of the chaps told us about their ManMade experience:

“I enjoyed the course, it was easy to keep up with and was really interesting.”

“This is a great programme. A real eye opener into men’s lives and mental health.”

“A good experience. Very positive. A variety of subjects covered in a relaxed manner.”

“The ManMade approach allows conversations to flow without strictly sticking to an agenda.”

“I found listening to the point of views and different perspectives on such sensitive topics that do relate to me very useful.”

“We weren’t talked down to or just handed a lot of written material. Instead we were encouraged to talk and share our opinions on these topics.”

If your organisation is interested in hearing more about the ManMade programme then get in touch at

Tackling Suicide on the front line in Birmingham

With around 6000 people dying in the UK by suicide each year, it’s crucial that frontline professionals are trained in suicide prevention skills.

As part of the Connecting Community Networks Programme in Birmingham, which Urbrum is a part, 15 delegates from the Police, Probation and the Fire-Service recently took part in the two day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) delivered by Common Unity and Forward For Life.

As part of the suicide prevention training programme in Birmingham, The Waiting Room Resource (TWR) keys were distributed – These keys have been a fantastic success across health and social care services with endorsements from The West Midlands Fire Service.

TWR Resource Key – A Road To Somewhere

It’s a clever way of linking people with local support with the least amount of stress, hassle or disappointment

Back in the 80’s, there was a song called “Road To Nowhere” – pretty good as well – but when I think of online resource directories, or worse still, paper directories for health and social care services, they are often just like this song. They are, too often, a Road To Nowhere.

The telephone numbers are often wrong or discontinued; the organisation you are searching for has either moved, closed or changed the services they provide; the website links don’t work or the pages you are looking for don’t exist anymore – so we designed The Waiting Room in Birmingham (known as TWR) and the TWR Resource Key.

It’s a clever way of linking people with local support with the least amount of stress, hassle or disappointment – access to information is instant, information is current and making contact is do-able for both professionals and the public.

In December of last year we started testing the TWR Resource Key with 25 GP Surgeries to see how it went down with their staff and their patients. The results are astounding and demand for TWR both in Birmingham and wider is growing fast with both Professionals and the public realising that access to local services can be up-to-date and are quite literally at their finger-tips.

Please check out our Pilot Overview document by clicking on TWR below and tell us what you think of it.

We think it’s a road to somewhere.

West Midlands Fire Service endorses TWR in keeping people Safe and Well 

I know will-power plays a big part but the support we provided via The Waiting Room Resource Key has been priceless for him. Aston Fire Station recently shared TWR keys amongst their team leaders for further distribution across their patches.

One Team Leader told us

“I issued 27 keys in total to managers of the HMO’s owned by Midland Living” – their feedback was excellent.

The HMO’s are occupied by people who have serious support needs for various substance misuses and use of violence.

The managers have stated that the keys have been invaluable for signposting and they will continue to use them.

I have visited the HMO’s myself and chatted with some tenants about the Resource Keys – they tell me that a lot of the time it’s knowing where to get help, which the key has been invaluable for.

I have seen the effects of the key first-hand with a tenant who is now two months clean after using the key to access a range of support.

He is now doing voluntary work at the HMO to keep his mind occupied and maintain his well-being.

I know willpower plays a big part but the support we provided via The Waiting Room Resource Key has been priceless for him.

I truly believe that these keys have helped with the rehabilitation of some of our most vulnerable and will certainly continue using them.”

Click on the picture below to watch our most recent TWR Video.

For more information about The Waiting Room in Birmingham, or if you are interested in bringing it to your location then please get in touch with us as Common-Unity.



Welcome to our Common Unity Vanguard! our newsletters that looks to bring you up to speed with the work that Common Unity continues to deliver alongside and on behalf of often seldom heard communities. This first edition of Vanguard looks to provide you with a quick overview of the key areas of work we deliver across a range of settings alongside our Grassroots Associates. I would like to thank our partnering organisations and associates for their support in delivering some excellent projects and services.

Click image to view vanguard issue:

Common Unity Vanguard issue 5

Common Unity Vanguard issue 3

Common Unity Vanguard issue 3

Common Unity Vanguard issue 2

Common Unity Vanguard issue 1

So let’s face the facts as we know them….

3 out of every 4 deaths by suicide in England are by men.

Men are struggling. They find it hard to engage with existent mainstream health and social care services and often would prefer to suffer in silence than seek help. So it stands to reason, there is a need to ensure that where services make a greater impact through being man focussed in respect of suicide prevention, then such preventative services and awareness raising opportunities should be developed; and they are; Targeted approaches to preventing suicide amongst men are hot on the agenda across Health and Social Care as rightly they should be…right? But let’s look again because there is something being missed here… or not being highlighted…

If we look at the most recent suicide data for England supplied in September 2016, with a little bit of investigation, there appears to be a clear yet understated fact – the number of women attempting and dying by suicide in England is increasing and nobody seems to be really saying why that might be or what can be done, but it is there – in your face.

So what’s going on?

There are a number of potential reasons why this shift may be occurring, but whilst the time passes for the ‘facts’ to be outed further, we need action and maybe there is a simple way forward for this action. Whilst I accept that there is a need for targeted approaches in respect of suicide prevention for specific groups (such as ManMade), the fact that suicide knows no boundaries in respect of who it affects means that suicide prevention should hold no boundaries as to who engages with it.

Suicide is not an illness and it is not only people with a mental health need that are at risk; It’s not about age, class, gender or sex – but it is about crisis, it is about hopelessness and the person at risk not feeling able to find a way out of the situation other than by suicide. Suicide behaviour effects all walks of life and has a huge negative ripple effect across communities and it is only through a concerted effort across all sectors of our communities and all professions at all levels that we can start to make some headway in reducing the number of people that die by suicide.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide please call Samaritans free on 116 123

If you live in the Birmingham area and want to know what local support services are out there then why not check out The Waiting Room


#MyRecovery Campaign launched

The Mental Health Stakeholder Group in Birmingham asked Common Unity through URBRUM to support them in developing a social media campaign based on the concept of ‘recovery’ with the hashtag #MyRecovery. We jumped at the chance as Recovery means different things to different people. Check out our dedicated Youtube page to hear what people think recovery means to them.

representing worldwide cultures, click here to see the latest additions to HUMANS OF THE WEST MIDLANDS

Being Well Works Well

Our approach to improving wellbeing recognises that short term investment in individual wellbeing has huge benefits in the long term. That’s why people are at the heart of everything we do. So, all our programmes don’t start with illness, they start with building health and wellbeing – Through programmes that Educate, Protect, Intervene and Champion we support people to know what needs to be done to keep themselves as well as they can be.

Knowledge is power, and if people are educated to understand what makes them function in a healthy way, then people have the power to look after themselves.

Life often throws us a curveball. Our programmes support people to know what tools they can utilise to best cope with the challenges we often unexpectedly face.

Everyone needs someone to lean on from time to time. Much of the learning we promote is one that helps people help others. Being able to recognise and support others when they are struggling
has benefits for all.

To improve wellbeing, we must promote wellbeing through recognising and highlighting that wellbeing is not fixed, but is ever-changing and seen differently from one person to the next.

Modern Day Slavery-Fact or Fiction?

Although the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade was abolished some four hundred years ago, slavery is still alive and active in the UK. There are no shackles but thousands of men, women and children are chained by fear and forced labour.

The Facts

According to the Human Trafficking Foundation, between 2012 and September 2013, victims of human trafficking from 95 different countries were discovered in the UK ( Human trafficking is just another name for modern day slavery).

The exact figures are not known but it is believed that there are up to 20.000 victims hidden in the UK, 80% of which are from Europe. Figures show that between July 2011-December 2012, the UK Human Trafficking Centre/Serious Organized Crime Agency discovered   1,729 victims in the UK and 565 were children.

The body responsible for establishing who is a legitimate victim of trafficking is called the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). When someone is referred to the NRM they are provided with a minimum of 45 days shelter and support while the Police, or the UK Border Agency, decide if they are legitimate victims. In 2011, there were 946 victims registered through the NRM. But in reality, it is suspected that many victims are unknown to the NRM because they do not want to be referred to due to fear of arrest, deportation, or reprisals. As a result, it is believed that many victims remain hidden.

Although the rates of conviction of traffickers in the UK are relatively low compared to the rest of Europe, this is said to be no indication that slavery is not prevalent in Britain. For example,  according to the figures, the number of traffickers found guilty in the UK in 2009  was 16  compared to 80 in Romania, 128 in Italy, 174 Holland, 203 Spain and 107 Greece. It is argued that one explanation for the low rate of convictions in the UK of traffickers compared to the EU is that cases are harder to evidence in UK courts. Additionally, those who are arrested in the UK for human trafficking are more likely to be convicted for other crimes such as rape and GBH. It’s also believed that the convictions in the UK are only a fraction of what is actually happening.

Human trafficking has no age, or gender restrictions and the type of work victims are forced to do varies. The figures suggest that 33% of adult victims in the UK are” forced labour slaves.” The types of work they are forced to do are food processing, agriculture, construction, leaflet delivery, hotels, pavement laying. Many are forced into crime, drugs, benefit fraud and theft (HTF).

Home Office estimates in 2009 suggested that there were 4000 sex slaves in Britain. In 2010 the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) indicated that 30,000 women were engaged in “off-street prostitution; 17,000 were not UK citizens, 2.600 were trafficked and 9,600 possibly trafficked (HTF).

Personally, the most disturbing facts are those regarding child victims. The Human Trafficking Foundation claim that at least one child a day is trafficked in Britain ( MDS). Evidence shows that children are forced to work as sex workers, domestic slaves,and  in cannabis farms, or as street beggars.

Human trafficking is Global but the top countries of origin of victims are Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, Nigeria, Albania, Hungary, Czech Republic, South Central Asia, South East Asia, West Africa, Vietnam and the UK. In 2012,  22% UK nationals were victims of slave labour.

No detailed data exist regarding where victims are found within the UK. The government argues that disclosure of where victims are found would put the victims at risk. But campaigners argue that such data would provide a clear picture of regional  “hotspots and patterns”. Mapping trends would identify criminal networks and targeted areas resulting in more traffickers caught and more victims saved.

After being discovered, the plight of legitimate victims of trafficking is bemoaned by campaigners. It is claimed that many don’t receive ongoing support. If they are allowed to remain in the UK, they are left to cope on their own, there is no record of their condition, or what has happened to them.

The kind of help victims need if they are to remain in the UK has been identified: help to integrate, access training, work experience, employment, housing (HTF).

An 18 month investigation into modern day slavery in the UK  conducted by The Centre for Social Justice resulted in a report being published in March 2013. The report contains 80 recommendations. Two  key recommendations enacted by the Coalition government are:

  1. A Modern Slavery Act which received Royal Assent 26 March 2015. The Act is designed to address slavery in the UK.
  1. An Anti-slavery Commissioner to develop independent monitoring and reporting on the UK ‘s response to modern day slavery. In November 2014, the Home Secretary appointed Kevin Hyland as the first UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The Fiction

Though hard to believe, modern day slavery is indeed alive and active in the UK and throughout the world.

It is fictional to believe that if we ignore it it will disappear.


Modern Day Slavery: THE HIDDEN AGENDA- First Edition, September 2013, Human Trafficking Foundation, Keep Hidden: Property of HMG- September 2013, HTF, Human Cargo: Hidden Slaves in UK, September 2013, HTF

“So Let’s Talk About Recovery! ”

What is Recovery? When anyone mentions ‘recovery’, most people’s first thought is ‘from what?’ This is because recovery is usually about regaining something we have lost or our need to do so. Recovery, for us, could mean something physical such as recovering from a cold, virus or broken leg; or something emotional like a traumatic event, a relationship breakdown or the stress of moving house or changing jobs.

What we seem to find most difficult during the recovery process is accepting, at times, we can’t regain what we have lost in the full sense of the word and we have to find an alternative way of living without, or with a slightly different version of what we had before. For example, after a relationship breakdown, we may not be able to rebuild that relationship – but accepting that it is over; taking some responsibility for it and appreciating the positive aspects of being single may be a good way to move forward.

So Why Talk about Recovery? Each and every one of us will experience hardship during our lives and this is one thing that binds us together as a community. We will all struggle to find ways to manage life’s challenges and for each of us, this journey is unique.

For most, however, one thing that is most helpful is having a support network. Everyone needs someone to help them through tough times. Sharing stories of hardship and the recovery process can be helpful for the person that has been through difficult times.


It can be a great way to reflect on what helped and what didn’t which can be useful for the future. It can also be therapeutic. As readers, it can help us to realise we are not alone in our troubles and give us ideas for how we might better deal with the difficulties we face. So let’s celebrate the hard times we have had because what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger! How you can help? Help yourself and others by sharing your story. If you have fallen on hard times and thought the difficulties you faced were almost too much to bear – what helped?

What advice would you give to others to get through difficult times? If you have a story to share email You can either email your story or we can arrange an interview that could see your story featured in the recovery page in the next issue of URBRUM. If you run or work for a community based local service that supports people in Birmingham, get in touch by telling us how you support recovery. Your experiences and tips could be valuable to the readers of URBRUM across the city.

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