Category Archives: Campaigns

Business leaders meet to promote employee cycling

On 25th November, 18 people attended MK’s first Business Cycling Breakfast to promote employee cycling and a cycling competition for businesses during Winter Wheelers 1st-25th December. The event was hosted by Willen Hospice in CMK.

After an introduction by chair Deborah Cooper of MK Cycle Forum, Tony Nelson, Principal of The Hazeley Academy, talked about his school’s ambition to see 90% of students walking or cycling to school.

Jonathan Stone of Trek Bikes talked about using a heated clothes rack as a practical alternative to the more expensive installation of showers.

Richard Scott, chair of the Employee Forum at Volkswagen Financial Services explained how his team had undertaken an exercise of postcode mapping to discover that 230 of its 1200 staff lived less than 8 minutes away from work by bicycle. He talked about VWFS had registered with Cycle to Work schemes, relaxed staff dress codes, helped inexperienced cyclists practice riding in the company car park and lent e-bikes for journeys to business meetings.

Leigh Richards of Nextbike said “mobility as a human right” and explained how Nextbike offers cycle use across MK at £5 per day and supports Cycle Day At Work initiatives.

Martin Swift of Cycle Saviours talked about how to reduce bicycle waste, saying “there’s no such thing as a write-off bike” and old bikes are welcome at Cycle Saviours’ education-funded refurbishment operation in Stacey Bushes.

Ellie Williamson of MK Council talked about various support services offered by the Council, including Bikeability Training, Sustainable Travel grants, quarterly cycling competitions and the Gear Change unit on Witan Gate. Colleague Raeesa Chowdury outlined details of the Winter Wheelers competition 1st-25th December.

MK Mayor Mohammed Khan talked about the Council’s vision of a healthy and low-carbon community and Ian Revell, CEO of MK Community Foundation, encouraged attendees to join and bring other cyclists to the Cycling Santas MK world record attempt on 16th December.

Finally Phil Murphy and Clive Faine of MK Cycle Forum expressed their positive outlook on the future of cycling in MK.

Following a post-event evaluation, organisers agreed to run a similar event, inviting other business leaders, in three months.

Deborah Cooper said: “This meeting highlighted what a lot of valuable work is going on to encourage people to use the great infrastructure we already have in the borough. There is a lot more to do to improve infrastructure we have, to ensure new developments make cycling easy, and to ensure even more people are encouraged to travel sustainably.”

Winter Wheelers is underway

Following big increases in cycling during Bike Month June and Cycling September, Cycling CitizensMK is running two more competitions in December, one for businesses and one for schools, and an attempt to assemble the biggest number of Cycling Santas ever seen in MK (an unofficial attempt at the world record!) on Station Square at 5pm on Thursday 16th December. All are welcome to join.

Following free Dr Bike services from Cycle Saviours 4-5pm, the Mayor will give un update on the Winter Wheelers competition results so far (businesses and schools) and draw from a raffle (prizes donated by Trek Bikes, Rutland Cycling, John Lewis, MK Council and others).

Free Santa costumes available for 40 people who are registered with Winter Wheelers and first in line from 4.30pm.

Draft agenda

  • 4pm – Free Dr. Bike repairs and bike frame registrations
  • 5pm – MC Dave Lovesy
  • 5.05 – MK Mayor Mohammed Khan speaks about why cycling is important to Milton Keynes, then presents update on results of business and schools competitions so far
  • 5.10 – Raffle prize draw
  • 5.30 – Briefing on CMK Cycleround ride and Risk Assessment
  • 5.35 – Group photo
  • 5.40 – Short ride through CMK to Campbell Park Light Pyramid, including photo at MK Rose, and back
  • 6.15 – Return to Station Square for hot drinks and snack

For the CMK Cycleround ride, guide riders will position themselves at front, rear and outside edge of of the cycle group, maintaining a suitable speed to keep the group together. Guide riders will lead riders in groups of approximately 30, the estimated number of cycles that can pass a green traffic light, so as not to disrupt other traffic flow, and will take front position at red traffic light stops. All riders must follow the Highway Code at all times. Teachers will attend in a personal capacity and hold no responsibility for the safety of students cycling. All riders above the age of 12 are individually responsible for their safety and any injuries through unsafe cycling. The risk assessment below is intended to assist.

Ride Risk Assessment

RiskControl
Rider loses wayFollow guide riders (wearing pink bibs)
Rider collides with another cyclist or vehicleFollow Highway Code, ride slowly, stay together, parents take responsibility for child riders. If large number of riders, guide riders take up position at front of each cycle group (up to 30).
Rider slips in wet or icy conditionsExtra attentive observation and avoidance of sudden steering actions

Additional advice

  • Clothing – wear bright, warm and waterproof clothing
  • Lights – fit functioning front and bike lights
  • Weather – be aware of forecast weather conditions and beware black ice.

Covid restrictions: Latest government advice will be followed.

Registration: To take part in the competitions, register with Love To Ride.

For more information, contact Tom Bulman, cyclingmk@citizensuk.org, tel 07962 838685.

Fishermead residents help clear walking route to school

Residents from Frank Howe Court and leaders of the new Fishermead Community Alliance joined school staff and pupils on Saturday morning to clear bushes and weeds from the walkway between Porthleven Place and Willows First School.

“It was fantastic to get the help of residents on a weekend,” said headteacher Jo Orbell. “The children who came that way on Monday morning were amazed how wide the walkway felt without the litter and overgrown bushes.”

Huge win for Citizens:MK Climate Campaign – Bishop of Oxford Steven Croft pitches Carbon Fee and Dividend to House of Lords

The Citizens ACE team (Action on the Climate Emergency) have had a great win this week.  We have been working on getting support for an exciting redistributive approach to carbon pricing called Carbon Fee and Dividend.  In this model a charge is levied on fossil fuels at source, and these “carbon fees” are used to fund a “climate dividend” which is given equally and directly to all adults in the UK.

At a recent event run in honour of Bishop Steven Croft’s visit to Milton Keynes for a series of climate meetings, we pitched him the idea.  The Bishop sits on the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, and we asked that he might be vocal about the model in that forum.  He promised to look into it, and was clearly impressed by it because on 11th October 2021 he pitched it to the House:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=233438862151709

We hope this will be the start of a powerful relationship with Bishop Steven to work together on a national approach to climate work.

MK cyclists pedal 38,000 miles for Mayor’s Cycle September awards

During ‘Cycle September’, MK businesses and schools rode 38,046 miles with 317 riders going out for 3,123 rides (a 170% increase since June). 25 cyclists rallied in Station Square for an awards presentation with MK Mayor Mohammed Khan for the MK Businesses and MK Schools competitions organised by Cycling CitizensMK (see winners and photos below).

Following free Dr Bike services from Cycle Saviours 4-5pm, and tasty hot snacks from Namji, certificates were awarded to institutions and prizes to individuals (sponsored by Trek Bikes, John Lewis and Cycle Saviours) cycling most during September.

Then cyclists participated in a short CMK Cycleround ride through CMK to Campbell Park Light Pyramid and back.

“One of my aims as Mayor is to help MK in its bid for city status,” said Mayor Khan.  “We all know we must develop greener daily habits, and cycling to work and school is something more of us can do.”

Elaine Wales, Community Liaison Coordinator for prize sponsor John Lewis, said: “Congratulations to the winners and well done to everyone who took part in the competition. John Lewis and Partners are once again proud to support Cycling CitizensMK”

Business Cycling Competition Awards

Top Company – most trips, 1st placeThe Open University711
Top Company – most trips, 2nd placeVolkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) – Milton Keynes410
Top Company – most trips, 3rd placeNetwork Rail – Milton Keynes201
Top Company – increase in riders since Sept 2020ICAEW – Milton Keynes10
Top Rider – most trips, 1st place (prize: Trek cycle helmet)Phill Elvidge, Red Bull Technology54
Top Rider – most trips, 2nd placeMarina Cantarutti, The Open University50
Top Rider – most trips, 3rd placeOliwia Maszczynska, Network Rail41
Top Rider – most miles (prize Basic Bike Repair service)Chris Binch, Cranfield University764
Top Encourager (prize: John Lewis voucher)John Wilkinson, VWFS8

Schools Cycling Competition Awards

Top Cycling School (students and staff) – most trips, 1st placeThe Radcliffe School227
Top Cycling School (students and staff) – most trips, 2nd placeOusedale School212
Top Cycling School (students and staff) – most trips, 3rd placeWatling Academy203
Top Student Rider – most trips, 1st place (prize: Trek cycle helmet)Thomas Young, Watling Academy87
Top Student Rider – most trips, 2nd placeKeerthikan Jasydaran, Ousedale School38
Top Student Rider – most trips, 3rd placeAlex Mccarthy, St. Paul’s Catholic School30
Top Student Rider – most miles (prize: Trek cycle helmet)Elliott Pemberton, Ousedale School413
Top Staff Rider – most trips, 1st place (prize: Trek cycle helmet)Steve Truan, The Radcliffe School63
Top Staff Rider – most trips, 2nd placeTim Layden, Lord Grey Academy34
Top Staff Rider – most trips, 3rd placeDominic Keogh, Ousedale School26
Top Staff Rider – most miles (prize: Basic Bike Repair service)Steve Truan, The Radcliffe School539
Top Cycling School (staff) – average trips per staff memberOrchard Academy1.30
Top EncouragerJason Falkner, The Radcliffe School14

This event followed a similar awards rally for Bike Month in June.

Cyclists rally to Mayor and Council Leader

More than 30 cyclists rallied in Station Square and rode through Central Milton Keynes with Milton Keynes Mayor Mohammed Khan and Council Leader Peter Marland. This was to celebrate the success of June Bike Month, in which CitizensMK members cycled 10,808 miles and MK school students and staff cycled 4,365 miles

Following free Dr Bike services from Cycle Saviours, and tasty hot snacks from Namji, certificates were awarded to institutions and prizes to individuals (sponsored by Trek Bikes and John Lewis) cycling most during June (see gallery below).

Ian Revell, CEO of MK Community Foundation, called on cyclists to meet again every Thursday 5pm at Station Square to celebrate cycling in MK and help MK become a cycle city. All welcome to join.

(Special thanks to MK Council officer Ellie Williamson and Hazeley School student Sasha Snell for helping to organise this event.)

Join CMK Cycle Round, Thursdays 5pm

Meet others for a friendly and fun cycle ride from Station Square to Campbell Park Viewpoint and back. The on-road ride leaves Station Square at 5pm every Thursday (see photo gallery below). This is part of the Cycling CitizensMK project in partnership with MK Council and Love To Ride. Santander Cycles can be hired from Station Square.

Sometimes there are special guests – see MK Mayor Khan and Council Leader Marland in action with CitizensMK Members and schools at June Bike Month competition and Cycle September awards.

Cllr Alex Walker, Leader of MK Conservative Group, joined CMK Cycle Round on 17.6.21 and said: “We all need to start taking this more seriously and I congratulate Citizens MK for this campaign to kickstart a renewed effort to boost cycling in the city.”

Bike month – Members and Schools cycle-off!

As part of a project with MK Council, Citizens:mk members and schools are competing to cycle most times and most miles in June Bike Month. See the leader boards:

Prizes will be awarded by MK Mayor Khan in Station Square at 5pm on Thursday 1st July.

Can you contribute a ride or two of your own to help your organisation’s cycle group? It’s easy. Just register here and then join your group.

If you have any questions, contact info@citizensmk.org.uk, tel 07962 838685.

(Pictured above: Ms Jo-Anne Hoarty, Headteacher of St. Paul’s Catholic School.)

Citizens win pledges from PCC candidates and party leaders

212 citizens from 30 civil society institutions attended the Thames Valley Citizens Accountability Assembly on 29th April.

29 leaders from 15 institutions presented five campaigns with specific asks of Police & Crime Commissioner candidates, and leaders of the main political parties in Milton Keynes Council, ahead of elections on 6th May.

These powerholders made pledges for:

  • Acton on misogyny
  • Digital inclusion
  • Action on climate change
  • Deaths registration services
  • Police and young people.

See asks and pledges, with links to video recording, and summary of pledges by candidate.

Southwood Primary school pupils talked about their environment (see Stacey and Eliza videos) and the Rt Rev Bishop Olivia of Reading spoke powerfully about how the Diocese of Oxford, main sponsor of Thames Valley Citizens, is taking action on climate change (min 52-54).

The assembly ended with a Ramadan blessing from Imam Ahmed Hilal.

“The content of the evening was brilliant, really engaging,” said Linda Kirk of MK Anglican Deanery. “The testimonies were convincing and the children’s were amazing…I felt proud to be part of it.”

“This was my first Citizens Assembly and it was incredibly inspiring and powerful,” said Emma Humphreys of The Oxford Academy. “I am just starting my journey with Citizens UK and this was a fantastic opportunity to see it in action.”

Following the election, leaders of Thames Valley Citizens will hold powerholders to account for their pledges.

Orchard Top of Cycling CitizensMK league table

Orchard Academy primary school has taken top spot in a new league table of CitizensMK members and partner organisations. At 21st March, three weeks into MK Council’s Ride It Out promotion month, Orchard has four of its staff in the top 7 riders who have cycled most miles.

One is Michelle Carter (pictured above), who for several years has been involved in promoting cycling among young children. As well as teaching full time, and having four children of her own at home, Michelle set up her own company, Biker Tots, to teach children from as young as two to cycle.

Jonathan Wilson, Deputy Headteacher at Orchard Academy (pictured below), is also in the top 7 riders of Cycling CitizensMK.

“I just love getting outdoors,” he said. “One good thing about lockdown has been seeing more families out on their bikes.

“At Orchard we want to get back to training our pupils to cycle as soon as possible. There’s so much to enjoy about being indoors rather than just computer gaming at home.”

Vicar Gill busy on a bike

Rev Gill Barrow-Jones, of St. George’s and Holy Trinity Churches in Wolverton, has been getting around on her bicycle. 22 trips in the last 18 days, as part of MK Council’s Ride It Out promotion in March (see her stats)!

“I cycle for lots of reasons,” she says. “Sometimes cycle It’s because I am late on the school run and it gets me there quickly! Other times because it’s a great way to get around in my parish. Whilst cycling I can see loads of people and stop to chat quite easily and hear what is going on in Wolverton.

“I did 8 miles last weekend delivering Mothering Sunday posies. Loved it!

“I like to cycle because it keeps me fit (especially with the gym and swimming pool closed). It’s good to get out and get active.

“I also cycle because it is good for the environment. God asks us to care for the world and turning on the car engine creates a lot of CO2. Getting on a bike is good for everyone.

“I especially like to cycle with my kids. It is such good fun and gets them off electronic devices for a while too!

“I’d love more people to cycle. The Redways in Milton Keynes make it super easy. Go get your bike out!”

Click here to see MK Mayor Cllr Geary on why he cycles.

Click here to find out about Ride It Out in March.

Click here join our Cycling CitizensMK club.

Muslim leaders want better bereavement services

18 Muslim leaders from 8 mosques heard testimony from three people who have recently experienced trauma through lack of death registration services at the weekend. Now they are researching the Council’s interest and planning action.

According to Islamic law (shariah), the body should be buried as soon as possible from the time of death, which means that funeral planning and preparations begin immediately (including administrative & religious obligations). Burial is usually within 24 hours of death to protect the living from any sanitary issues and to honour the dead. Not burying the dead in the prescribed time carries a religious dilemma about whether the person was righteous. The Prophet of Islam clearly commands Muslims to hasten the burial:

“Hasten (the burial), if he is righteous, you are hastening him to good. If not, then it is evil you are removing from your necks.” [Bukhari]

At the moment the MK Muslim community is struggling to fulfil this religious commandment for weekends as there are no provisions or policy from the MK Council for out of hours registrations or burials.

To join the action team, contact Salim Msallam.

MK leaders get on their bikes to ‘Ride It Out’

It is not often that a Bishop, Headteacher, Lawyer, Mayor and Police Chief, all decide to cycle on the same day.  But the days are getting longer, an end to Covid restrictions is in sight, and MK leaders are choosing to Ride It Out.

On Monday 1st March, 20 leaders of faith, education and business organisations, rode their bikes to promote a month of Ride It Out cycling in a partnership between MK Council and Citizens:mk.

See gallery of riders.

“I may be more of a walker than a cyclist,” said Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, “but it is vital we move to more sustainable modes of transport and I look forward to getting out more on my bike in March.”

“It’s a no brainer,” said Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham.  “I listen to children a lot during my visits to schools, and I know how important it is to them to see us doing what we can to reduce climate change.”

“This past year has been difficult for our pupils,” said Jo-Anne Hoarty, Headteacher of St. Paul’s Catholic School.  “Encouraging them to enjoy doing things outdoors is important for their wellbeing.”

“We know how important it is to be physically and mentally fit,” said Rukhsana Malik of MK Muslim Association (pictured).  “Cycling is a relatively cheap, exhilarating and easy way to get healthy while going places.”

“For years my political opponents have been telling me to ‘get on yer bike!’,” said MK Mayor Andrew Geary.  “Well now I’m pleased to be doing it to support this great initiative by Citizens:MK. Cycling is great fun and it’s good for us too!  Why not give it a try even if you haven’t done it for a while?” 

In Ride It Out there will be four themed weeks, each with a different reason to ride and enjoy all the benefits that biking can bring. From the physical and mental benefits through to the fun and adventurous, Ride it Out will help people to get healthier and happier whilst helping the planet too.

You can join Ride It Out by registering at www.lovetoride.net/uk and share your cycling photos and experiences on Twitter: @citizensMK @mkcouncil @lovetoride_ @GetSmarterMK #RideItOutTogether.

Get ready for a long summer of cycling! 

Leaders – get on your bike for ‘Ride It Out’ on Monday 1st March

Please help us show others that cycling is healthy and fun – a good thing for us all to do as we come to the end of Covid lockdown.

Ride a bike on Monday 1st March to help launch MK Council’s Ride It Out challenge, take a photo and say what was good about it for you:

  • either on Twitter @citizensMK @mkcouncil @lovetoride_ @GetSmarterMK #RideItOutTogether
  • or in an email to tom.bulman@citizensuk.org for our website.

This is not about pretending you’re a regular or committed cyclist (if you aren’t one), just that you think it’s a good thing to do at least sometimes.

See leaders participating.

See gallery of riders participating so far.

CAN CITIZENS:MK MEMBERS CYCLE MORE THAN ANY OTHER MK ORGANISATION?

To encourage members of your organisation to participate in Ride It Out in the month of March, please do the following:

That way we can see and celebrate their cycling as individuals, as members of your workplace, and as members and partners of Citizens:mk.

If you have any questions, please contact:

For information about all MK Council’s cycle activities, go to www.getcyclingmk.org.

White Ribbon call to action

Citizens:mk and Thames Valley Citizens leaders are asked to sign up to the White Ribbon Promise.

The action will complement the new MK Domestic Abuse Prevention Strategy, which only aims to work with school students or perpetrators. It has piloted a trial with female students at one school – but did not speak to the male students.

We believe that “Most men are not violent to women and role modelling positive examples of masculinity to other men is a valuable thing for society as a whole, making for a happier work/life balance, improved personal relationships, more productivity in the workplace and better customer/client interaction. “

MAKE THE PROMISE

White Ribbon encourage all men to wear a White Ribbon, and make the Promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. This is a serious declaration and requires thought and consideration before it is made.

They specifically ask men to make the Promise, however anyone over the age of 14 can take it.

You can order a White Ribbon lapel badge to wear, or just download the logo and send us that in your email. But this is not a tick box exercise, it is a promise to take action every day (see below for webinars that you could sign up for or promote).

White Ribbon Ambassadors are men, from all walks of life, who are working with White Ribbon to change the cultures that lead to violence against women.

Men are promising to be a positive male role model in their community, including within workplaces, leisure activities, online, and among friends.

Woman are promising to encourage men and boys, organisations, networks and communities to say ‘NO’ to violence against women.

Sign up and promote these two webinars by leaders in ending violence.

26 November – Exploring ways to prevent gendered violence and challenge masculine norms in a time of crisis. Sandy Ruxton and Dr Stephen Burrell will share the outcomes of their recently published Promundo report, Masculinities and COVID-19: Making the Connections, and offer practical ways that this understanding can be used to engage, and work with, young men.

8th December – Engaging men in preventing violence against women with Dr Michael Flood Dr Michael Flood will share his research and practical knowledge to address what men can do to prevent and reduce violence against women. Dr Flood is an Australian sociologist and an associate professor at the Queensland University of Technology School of Justice.

FURTHER INFORMATION

New lockdown regulations coming into force will mean that calls to domestic violence helplines will inevitably increase.  In June this year calls to the National helpline saw a 77% increase and in Milton Keynes one in five residents reported experiencing domestic violence.

November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and also marks White Ribbon Day.

White Ribbon UK is part of the global movement to end male violence against women by engaging with men and boys to individually and collectively take action and challenge behaviour. White Ribbon Ambassadors are men working to change the cultures that lead to male violence and White Ribbon Champions are women who encourage men to get involved.


We are asking you to inform yourselves about the White Ribbon campaign and to encourage members in your organisation to join up as ambassadors or champions.

We want to see at least two people in each of our supporter organisations signing up to Wear a White Ribbon and Make the Promise so that we can work towards Citizens:mk becoming a White Ribbon accredited organisation and invite other organisations around Milton Keynes to follow.

Sign up asap to receive a White Ribbon Badge in time for White Ribbon Day.

You can find out more about the kind of harassment and difficulty that women experience in their day-to-day lives by looking at the website of Laura Bates and the Everyday Sexism Project www.everydaysexism.com

Please let us know by November 24 how many of your members have signed up to the White Ribbon Promise, and we will share this with our followers in Milton Keynes.

Thanking you in anticipation,

Chloe Harding, MK Academy

Maggie Greaves, Church of Christ the Cornerstone

Jane Whild, The Open University

Police Area Commander listens to BAME voices

MK Police Area Commander Superintendent Marc Tarbit and Inspector James Ravenall met three Citizens:mk leaders representing BAME communities for one-to-one discussions about experiences of policing in MK.

Originally planned as a larger Weaving Trust event involving leaders from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities across Citizens:mk member institutions, substantially reduced by new Covid-19 restrictions, the event was intended to build relationships and identify BAME issues in relation to the Police as the start of a wider listening process.

Following the event, students Chloe Harding and Harvind Gill from MK Academy school will lead a listening campaign with other sixth form students, and Phil Shamamba of MK Congolese Community will lead a campaign within the wider African Diaspora.

“It was good to get the perspectives of high-ranking police officers,” said Chloe. “I think some of the tensions between young people and the police could be reduced if there were more BAME officers.”

Superintendent Tarbit said: “It’s good for us to hear voices we don’t normally hear. We look forward to talking further when the student survey is done.”

World Refugee Day Assembly celebrates unveiling of new pillar

38 people from a wide range of Citizens:mk member and non-member institutions attended a special online assembly to celebrate the unveiling of a World Refugee Day pillar at MK Rose (pictured above). The pillar reads: People from around the world have helped build this city – Milton Keynes welcomes refugees. See video of unveiling.

The assembly heard testimonies from Syrian refugees and the leaders of the Refugees Welcome MK charity (RWMK) which formed five years ago, at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, to support their settlement in MK.

Other powerful testimonies from refugees were read aloud (hear testimonies).

Cllr Peter Marland was thanked as the Leader of MK Council for its courageous decision to welcome people from Syria as part of the Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). (Earlier in the day he received thank you baklava prepared by one of the Syrian refugee families, pictured above). Also celebrated was the work of the British Red Cross, both the staff and the volunteers who worked tirelessly to resettle refugees and support those who vulnerable or disadvantaged. Cllr Marland pledged to facilitate 4-monthly meetings at Civic Offices of a new multi-agency forum to address issues that refugees face in accessing health services and digital poverty.

Marc Eisenstadt, Treasurer of RWMK,, explained action that had already been taken to address digital poverty: a Working Group on Digital Poverty in MK has been set up to address three key areas : laptop provision, internet broadband or mobile pay-as-you-go gadgets for connecting the laptops, and training to make best use of the technology.

In post-assembly evaluation with leaders who organised and attended the assembly, the event scored 9.5 out of 10.

RWMK plans to close down its operation as a facilitator of VPRS. Citizens:mk will continue to campaign on Refugee Welcome issues.

Weaving Trust Online for Refugees

Six members of British Red Cross hosted six visitors from five Citizens:mk member institutions in the second online Weaving Trust event, using Zoom as a platform. This is the second of a series of events organised by Citizens:mk in a new strategic partnership with MK Community Foundation to support its Vital Signs research.

Weaving Trust is a carousel of short one-to-one conversations between people who wouldn’t otherwise meet. The focus question for this event was: “What are the current issues facing refugees and asylum-seekers in relation to poverty and disadvantage?”

Written comments from participants at the end of the session were as follows:

  • Home schooling is a challenge due to lack of the right technology, such as laptops, computers, etc, and because of language
  • It is a real issue if you don’t have the right technology and good internet.
  • Home schooling, mental health and relationship breakdown, are the main issues.
  • Dependency- ESOL not the suitable method for teaching-access to mental health support-digital poverty- hidden discrimination- a need to liaise more with council, politicians (local MPs), decision makers etc.,
  • Digital poverty – exacerbating social isolation and mental health illness. Reduction in mental health services – especially for those with language barriers and those who do not have access to public funds and can therefore not access specialists services.
  • Access to mental health support especially for parents with mental health needs as well as children with complex needs.  Access to financial support to buy basic food essentials and health prescriptions.  Issues with inability to claim Universal Credit.  Issues around domestic violence and the need to leave the accommodation they are in.  Issues around Home Schooling: Parents levels of literacy and digital poverty.
  • For health services, access to interpreter services is patchy; GP receptionists are saying they are not allowed to call an interpreter to help with arranging appointments.  Letters from the NHS which give instructions for scans or tests, or letters reporting the outcomes are not understood.  It was suggested that patient records should have a flag on them which alerts the GP or Hospital to contact patients in order to communicate these and bring in an interpreter OR have standard instructions templates in a variety of languages which are provided centrally and adapted locally.
  • Access to a translator at the GPs – not all GPs knowing what they are allowed. Not understanding how the healthcare system works.
  • Closing of hotels so refugees being made homeless. Option of moving in with a family no longer available
  • Accessing mental health, stigma attached (culture), language barriers
  • Issues around stigma are huge.   Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants may have fear – fear of the unknown, not knowing who to trust, who to ask.  Fear of being judged. Mental Health issues carry stigma, and with many people refugees and asylum seekers live with MH issues and less access to support and interventions.  Lack of compassion and understanding in the general public is huge.  Negativity and judgement is rife. 
  • Weaving Trust events do help increase understanding when we talk!    Thank you for this opportunity.

In post-session evaluation, participants scored the event 8 out of 10.

Weaving Trust for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Eight members of St. Frideswide’s Church hosted eight visitors from five Citizens:mk member institutions in the first ever online Weaving Trust event, using Zoom as a platform. This is the first of a series of events organised by Citizens:mk in a new strategic partnership with MK Community Foundation to support its Vital Signs research.

Weaving Trust is a carousel of short one-to-one conversations between people who wouldn’t otherwise meet. The focus question for this event was: “Where do we see strength in our community and how can it be used to support mental health and wellbeing?”

Following the conversations, participants shared various reactions and suggestions (below).

Rev Catherine Butt, Vicar of St. Frideswide’s Church, said: “It went to prove that listening and learning can happen virtually in this way, despite the obvious compromises. At St Frideswide’s we are looking forward to working with our partner institutions as we emerge from these strange days, with hope for a fairer and more just society.”

Comments from participants at the end of the session were as follows:

  • What has struck me is that mental health issues can affect anyone at anytime to varying degrees – no one is immune
  • A minor stress for one person is unbearable for another
  • My own context would be very stressful for many people, whereas it’s not for me
  • We need to be aware of/sensitive to the mental stress of children
  • Community can be about social support too, for example, spot those who are lonely and bring them in.  How we do that in lockdown may be more of a challenge for communities.
  • Community can help by making people feel as if they belong.  People can feel very lonely and isolated in a whole slew of different contexts, but they have to feel they matter to someone, and feel valued, otherwise as humans we feel cut off even if we are in a crowd.
  • Aspects that came up in some of my chats:  the benefit of green spaces and nature, the sharing of cross generational experience for the support of young and old; smaller communities with hubs at the centre for meeting and activities.
  • This session has been great and I think communities need to be very aware of children and young people and their mental health going forward
  • Acknowledging we cannot make it right but are there in support of others, we all have skills and experience and can use these to encourage and share in getting alongside others
  • It’s been great to talk to five different people coming at the topic from such different perspectives.  Strengths in our community/ies that came up in our chats included green spaces in Mk, such as canals, lakes, parks; churches and faith groups a resource for community groups offering somewhere to meet, and volunteers to help community groups to build relationships, and talking to one another.  During lockdown, MH is being talked about more because of the detrimental effect staying indoors not seeing loved ones, and the worry about work, money, ill health, etc.  But it is good it is being talked about because we need to bring it out in the open, and break stigma.  People are reaching out to one another during lockdown at a new level, which is building relationships and this is good for our wellbeing, and so is having a bit more time for quality times with family, parents and children, spouses, etc, and to do less and be more.
  • Stability is important in uncertain times – how do we provide/help that when projects/funding comes and goes?
  • It would be good if the new found community spirit could be continued past the lockdown phase.  Checking in with a neighbour or group Whatsapps for example.
  • I wish we could come with other terms, something that carries less of the stigma and less of the medical baggage…wellbeing is a good start.
  • I was thinking about how we connect to the people who have any degree of mental health but are either coping or not coping behind closed doors.  We don’t know about them and they may no know that there are agencies to help them or feel unable to ask for help.  The only way seems to be building relationships within small communities.
  • We need to understand that whilst people’s physical needs can be met, anxiety and mental wellbeing is as important and being able to signpost people to help as well as talking is important.  There are a number of different community initiatives that can help.  Arts organisations, MIND, amongst others are all still working.
  • One key phrase that stood out was mutual aid.
  • How can community support those who are in acute need?  There is plenty of advice coming out from agencies and local services e.g. Arthur Ellis on MKFM on Sunday.
  • It’s a concern that people living with MH issues that belong to groups are not able to attend during lockdown.
  • There has certainly been a shift in the community around me towards talking when there is an opportunity – we can encourage this by responding even just by smiling/body language.

In post-session evaluation, participants scored the event 8 out of 10.

Dialogue Wins As Parliamentary Candidates Pledge Action

On 2nd December, 181 people from 19 diverse community organisations gathered at Church of Christ the Cornerstone to hear MK’s parliamentary candidates introduce themselves and respond to the campaign interests of Citizens:mk alliance.

The event aimed to promote respectful dialogue for more informed voting at the General Election on 12th December. All candidates were invited and co-chairs Kurshida Mirza of Truby’s Garden Tea Room and Neil Hutchinson of MK Academy (pictured above) expressed disappointment that the Conservative Party candidates for MK North and South, held by Conservative MPs since 2010, were unable to attend this Citizens:mk assembly because they were busy elsewhere.

A rap video was played, Planet Water by pupils from Orchard Academy primary school (see lyrics), and some attendees put on Greta Thunberg masks (pictured above) to show solidarity with the children and young people in MK and around the world who are campaigning for action on climate change.

After short welcome speeches from Rev George Mwaura and MK Mayor Sam Crooks (pictured below), the presentations from Citizens:mk’s campaign leaders (pictured below) got underway:

After everyone was asked to have a short one-to-one conversation with someone they didn’t know (pictured below) the six attending parliamentary candidates made their five-minute presentations, each strictly timed by Boyzie Morse of MK Quaker Meeting.

The candidates were asked to respond to the following questions:

  1. why are you standing for election? (one minute)
  2. response to one question selected by Citizens:mk Leadership Group from questions emailed in advance by registered attendees:  If elected, how would you make sure your priority is to Milton Keynes before your party, and how would you ensure the views of local residents aren’t ignored?  (one minute)
  3. response to Citizens:mk Asks below (two minutes).

The asks – If elected, will you…

  1. Attend and contribute to our Annual Assembly
  2. Convene meetings we arrange with local business and other leaders, in support of a local Campaign (one per year)
  3. Call for and support in Parliament measures conducive to our local  campaigns
  4. Meet with our Leadership Team twice a year for one hour, either in MK or Westminster.

These were the candidates and their responses:

  • Alan Francis, The Green Party (MK South) – see video
  • Stephen Fulton, Independent (MK South) – see video
  • Hannah O’Neill, Labour Party (MK South) – see video
  • Aisha Mir, Liberal Democrats (MK North) – see video
  • Charlynne Pullen, Labour Party (MK North) – see video
  • Catherine Rose, The Green Party (MK North) – see video

In the absence of the Conservative candidates, the Leader of the Conservative group on MK Council was given the opportunity to read statements from them (pictured below). He pledged to organise a meeting between any Conservative MP(s) elected and members of Citizens:mk Leadership Group within three months of the election.

Saleyha Ahsan, Liberal Democrat candidate for MK South, sent her apologies for absence due to ill health.

In a group Evaluation immediately after, the event was scored 8 out of 10, with points being dropped for lower than target turnout and insufficient audibility of all speakers. As Headteacher Neil Hutchinson later pointed out, “this would be a very high grade in GCSE or A level!”

Photos by Liam Hyatt. Filming by Chris Valentine.

Police & Crime Commissioner answers questions

On 26th November, Dr. Fidele Mutwarisibo, leader of Citizens:mk’s First Against Hate campaign, and Julie Upton, High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, welcomed Citizens:mk and other community leaders to a light lunch with Anthony Stansfeld, Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley, at Church of Christ the Cornerstone.

The purpose of the lunch was to find out more about the role and responsibilities of the PCC, and what it’s really like to do the job, from someone who’s done it for nearly 8 years and will be succeeded by a newly elected PCC in May.   Citizens:mk leaders want to be better informed, understand the issues and share their own views to inform and influence the PCC agenda.

This was part of Citizens:mk’s research towards negotiation with candidates for the post at a special assembly for Thames Valley Citizens in Milton Keynes on 29th April (click here for information and to book a place).

It follows the table-top workshop being hosted by MK Police Commander Tim Metcalfe on 17th October (see news story).

“it was a very valuable thing to create space for dialogue helping the Citizens:mk Alliance to work with a broad range of service providers,” said Citizens:mk Co-Chair Kurshida Mirza.

To find out more about how you can contribute to the agenda for PCC candidates at the 29th April Assembly, see this campaign briefing document and/or contact Community Organiser Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.

Two More schools pledge to become Refugee Welcome Schools

22 people from 11 institutions attended a Syrian lunch for Refugee Welcome Schools & Launch of Community Sponsorship.

After a delicious lunch prepared by the ladies of Syrian Kitchen, guests were welcomed by Ayser Al Jawad of Middle Eastern Cultural Group and Mayor Sam Crooks.

Syrian refugee Bassem Al Haj and his daughter Tasnim gave powerful testimonies of their experiences settling, as a parent and a teenager respectively, since arriving in Milton Keynes four years ago after four years in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Following presentation of a new ‘Ideas For Action’ resource pack by Jess Maddocks of Citizens UK and Steve Sondhi of NASUWT Birmingham (Refugees Welcome Partner), senior leaders Gill Molloy of Denbigh School and Debbie Gockelen of Milton Keynes Academy pledged their schools’ commitment to attaining Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation. This will take the total number of accredited schools in Milton Keynes to 10, including The Radcliffe School, most recently accredited.

Following presentations from Bekele Woyecha of Citizens UK, and Rev Gill Barrow-Jones of St. George’s & Holy Trinity Church (pictured), Azim and Shelina Maghji pledged commitment to helping their organisation, Building Bridges, to lead MK’s second Sponsor Refugee project.

Refill Poster Competition Winners Announced

Mayor Sam Crooks announced the winners of the Refill Poster Competition at a special event hosted by Central Milton Keynes Library. click here to see winners 

The bit.do/refillposter webpage also provides you with access to the event slides and a PDF documenting the final group reflections about ideas for where we can take the campaign next. These suggestions will be discussed further with the children and other members of Citizens:MK for us to decide together what we prioritise for worthwhile and winnable action over the coming months.

“PLANET WATER” SONG

Here are the rap song lyrics which Orchard Academy pupils have produced and agreed to lead on singing at the Citizens:MK Parliamentary Assembly on 2nd December.

REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK

Please complete this short questionnaire to tell us what you think? (All results will be kept anonymous and no personal data will be shared with any other party.) 

Fair Work Round Table Wins pledges for action

30 people from six member and 4 non-member institutions attended the Fair Work Round Table at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Heelands.

The aim was to share issues of inequality at work, build relationships with parliamentary candidates for MK North and, through open dialogue, develop ideas for common goals to which candidates will be asked to pledge commitment at a Parliamentary Candidates Assembly on Monday 2nd December.

After a welcome from Debbie Wilson of MK Quakers and Fr Francis Higgins of St. Augustine’s, and special addresses from Mayor Sam Crooks (pictured) and Ian Revell of MK Community Foundation, who presented latest Vital Signs findings on work and the economy), various testimonies of unfair working practices were heard:

Hala Alify of Trubys Garden Tea Room talked about a lack of transparency of contract and termination processes when she was fired from a zero-hours contract, after more than two years of continuous service, by email.

Marion Cole of Works4Us talked about how her organisation supports workers in this situation.

Rukhsana Malik of MK Muslim Association announced the results of an online survey conducted by Citizens:mk between September and November.

Nick Peacock, Managing Director of Ascendant Recruitment, spoke from a recruitment employer’s perspective. He explained his feelings of discomfort at watching workers being unfairly treated in zero hours contracts.

Wider research on fair work policies was presented by Jane Whild of The Open University and Professor Susan Edwards of University of Buckingham.

Jess Goble of the national Living Wage Foundation talked about the Real Living Wage and a new national Living Hours campaign.

David  Chapman of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and Hala Afify of Truby’s Garden Tea Room asked for reactions from guest parliamentary candidates, Charlynne Pullen of the Labour Party and Aisha Mir of the Liberal Democrats (The Conservative Party was invited).

Each was asked to agree to include a statement of support for Fair Work in Milton Keynes. Aisha Mir, the Liberal Democrat candidate, agreed that she would include the Fair Work Team’s recommended statement in her maiden speech:

“Milton Keynes is proud to be a place with good employment opportunities for all, and I will be working with local employers, community groups and Citizens:MK to further strengthen fair work practices in the city. Milton Keynes is committed to ensuring that all workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and intends to lead the way with best practice fair employment contracts.”

Charlynne Pullen, the Labour Party candidate also agreed to include these words her maiden speech, with the proviso that she would add ‘trade unions’ to the list of people she would work with in order to strengthen fair work practices,

Other parliamentary candidates will be asked to make a similar Fair Work pledge, as well as pledges for action on other Citizens:mk campaigns, at the Parliamentary Candidates Assembly on 2nd December.

10 leaders attend Police Commander’s Workshop

10 leaders from six member institutions attended a workshop led by Supt Tim Metcalfe, supported by four police officers, at MK Police Station.

The aim was for leaders of Citizens:mk to understand better the aims, operations and constraints of MK Police, to help their research in planning an agenda for the election of the Police & Crime Commissioner in May 2020; also to help MK Police understand better the experiences of diverse MK community groups and get feedback on ways MK Police can improve its service.

As part of this process, five Citizens:mk leaders signed up to  ‘ride-along’ with MK Police on duty, experiencing it from the back of a police car. 

The workshop centred on a ‘table-top’ experience reflecting ‘a day in the life of’ from the perspective of Supt Metcalfe and some of the day to day operational decisions that have to be made regarding professional standards and the deployment of limited resources against assessments of threat, harm and risk. 

This included anonymised details from a typical daily management meeting where decisions have to be made regarding missing persons and the prioritisation of activity in response to the previous 24hrs’ events. Also a discussion about use of taser guns.

The workshop ended with ideas for improvement and initial discussion about ways Citizens:mk leaders can involve their institutions in supporting the Police effort.

In closing feedback, participants said they found the workshop illuminating and helpful, they’d have liked it to be longer. Supt Metcalfe said he would be happy to welcome a wide range of citizens to attend a similar worksho to help more people understand how the Police operate.

Fair Work campaigners disappointed not to see MP in Westminster

Hala Afify’s team of Fair Work campaigners were disappointed not to see their MP, Rt Hon Mark Lancaster, at the end of their day with Citizens UK in London.

Mark’s PA had explained he was too busy with work at the Ministry of Defence, but campaigners hoped their gift of fresh cookies would give him a break for a few minutes!

In the end Hala and the cookies didn’t get past Reception.

David Chapman of Church of Christ the Cornerstone said: “I know MPs are busy but it is disappointing that my MP seems so hard to get to speak to. We are quite a friendly bunch and would have enjoyed sharing our cookies with him! But it was an enjoyable outing all the same, and hopefully we’ll get to speak to Mark back in Milton Keynes sooner rather than later.”

The team is determined to see Mr. Lancaster, to ask him for advice and support in their campaign to address the issus of unfair dismissal from zero hours contracts and termination of contract by email, and look forward to meeting with him soon.

In photos below, Hala and the team with the cookies and a card outside the MoD. (Note in the photo above BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg also out and about in Westminster at that time – yes that’s her!)

Of the Citizens UK Delegates Assembly which the team attended during the day, Rob Paton of MK Quaker Meeting said: “It was another uplifting day with Citizens. The agenda we all came up with is quite distinctive. Its politics, Jim, but not as we know it…’

MK School Pupils Plan Action on Climate Change

50 students from 5 schools attended a one-day training in Community Organising for Action on Climate Change.

The focus for the day was a research action on thecentre:mk shopping centre, which welcomes each year 25 million shoppers -and £750m of shoppers’ spending – in the context of MK Council’s lead in pledging to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

School councillors from the following schools attended:  Jubilee Wood Primary, Orchard Primary, St. Monica’s Primary, St. Paul’s Secondary and Southwood  Primary, who hosted the initial training at the start of the day.

Following a welcome from Southwood Headteacher Kate Mathews, the pupils talked in a series of 1-2-1s about their individual and institutions’ actions on climate change, then saw Greta’s video

Three leaders of MK Green Alliance – Kirsty Forshaw ( Research Fellow for DeMontfort University on ‘POWER’ project & Refill Champion for MK ), Craign Broadbent (MK Cycle Forum) and Sharon Ghouila (Green Steps Consulting), presented testimonies on the impact of  single use water bottles, cycling and recycling in/around thecentre:mk shopping centre.

The pupils then moved into three mixed groups to focus on one of the three issues, created SMART research questions and designed a questionnaire for their listening campaign in thecentre:mk:

After a break, students set off for the research action in thecentre:mk, splitting into four zones for thecentremk research), then moving to the Council Chamber in Civic Offices for squash, biscuits and packed lunch.

After lunching and crunching the data

pupils presented their research findings by school group and heard from Cllr Jennifer Marklew, Cabinet Member for Sustainability and Climate Action, about MK Council’s pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

Students then prioritised the issues for action, identifying power holders, and created the following SMART campaign goals:

  • 75% of businesses in thecentre:mk sign up for the Refill scheme by 1st April 2020.
  • At least three new Refill stations are created in big anchor stores (M&S, John Lewis or Intu) by July 2020.
  • Clean and accessible public water fountains are created (up to 8) by July 2020.

Some schools also created goals for action on themselves:

  • Halve food wasted at Jubilee Wood Primary School by July 2020.
  • Reduce plastic water bottle use at Orchard Primary Academy by 85% by Easter 2020.
  • Provide Year 7 pupils at St. Paul’s Catholic School with school-branded water bottles by December 2019.

Pupils then took the five-minute walk to Church of Christ the Cornerstone – the fourth and last institution they visited during the day – to present their campaign goals to members of Citizens:’mk’s Leadership Group.

David Chapman, a member of Cornerstone Church, welcomed the pupils and talked about his own campaign to persuade the church to require its room hirers to complete a short environmental audit.

The pupils presented their campaign goals to eight leaders of Citizens:mk member institutions , including co-chair Kurshida Mirza, and received their formal consent.

In post-event evaluation, pupils gave this internal action – which was intended to create in pupils a positive reaction to opportunities for action on climate change – a score of 8 out of 10.

One pupil said: “I feel proud of what I did today.” Another said: “I’ve never spoken to a group like that before.”

Jo Cayley, Assistant Headteacher of Jubilee Wood Primary School, said: “The children were really inspired by the day. They have come back to school and shared information about the refill scheme and the school’s mission to reduce food waste at lunchtimes!”

Now teachers will meet on 22nd October to plan next schools’ action.

student strike for CLIMATE CHANGE

National 30-minute Student Strike, 20th September 2019

Headteachers, your students may wish to join a national 30-minute strike for action on climate change on Friday 20th September. Below are three ways you can support them (with opportunity for follow-up training here):

  1. Assembly before or after the strike – inform students about likely costs and benefits of different types of action, e.g. strikes, petitions, relational power-building for negotiation with power-holders. Your Citizens:mk Community Organiser and leaders of member institutions can lead an assembly presentation.
  2. Conversations– each student could have a one-to-one conversation with three other students – within or between year groups, indoors or outside – to discuss global warming. They could talk about:
    • Your global warming habits
      • what you do that contributes most to it?
      • what do you do that contributes most to reducing it?
      • what more would you like to do to reduce it?
    • Who has most power to reduce global warming?
      • who are the main power holders?
      • which of these are most accessible to you?
      • what can you do to help him/her/them?
    • Your family and friends
      • what’s the worst habit of someone you know
      • realistically, what could s/he do differently?
      • what would you say to them?
  3. Survey Action – students could collect data to answer some or all of the questions below, and feed the results back to Citizens:mk who will collate the data from all MK schools and produce a report which you can present back to all participants:
    • Why are you taking part in this survey?
      • I care passionately about reducing global warming and feed driven to take action
      • I think it’s important and want to play my part
      • I like getting out of normal lessons
      • I didn’t want to take part, but was forced to.
    • If you think global warming is an importan issue, which power holders do you think have most power to reduce it (rank them 1-8 where 1=most powerful and 8=least powerful)
      • United Nations
      • UK government
      • Milton Keynes Council
      • My neighbourhood
      • My school
      • My family
      • Me
      • Other (please state).

For further information, or to express interest in taking part, contact Tom Bulman, Community Organiser, tel 07962 838685.

Leave Meets Remain at City Church

Citizens:mk hosted the first of a new series of ‘Weaving Trust’ events aimed at bringing Leave and Remain voters together.

The event was attended by representatives of the City Church, MK Muslim Association, MK Peace & Justice Network and three political parties, including Cllr Walker, Leader of MK Conservative Party.

The event involved a carousel of short one-to-one conversations between people who voted opposite in the EU Referendum of 2016.

“We wanted to listen to each other,” said Fidele Mutwarisibo, Leader of Citizens:mk’s Fight Against Hate campaign, “and build relationships at a time of division and conflict.”

“It is so easy to live in an echo chamber and to not challenge our views,” said Cllr Walker. “We all have a responsibility to challenge our positions on Brexit, otherwise there will never be a consensus or a way forward.”

“It was useful to be able to hear from Leave voters because there are so many different views,” said Hilarie Bowman of MK Green Alliance. “and the press and TV are rather stereotypical.”

“As a Leave voter, it has been so important for me to have a safe space to debate opinions, challenge existing stereotypes and understand how we have similar views as well as different ones,” said Jennifer Parsons of MK Muslim Association. “Deep questions here have left me thinking more about the issues, motivating me to compromise and work toward our future.”

“Leave/Remain is closer to Labour/Tory than I had thought,” said Malcolm Harper.

If you would like to take part in a similar event, contact Citizens:mk Community Organiser, tel 07962 838685.

St. George’s Church Wolverton launches MK’s first Sponsor refugees initiative

30 members of St. George’s Church and the wider Wolverton community turned out to hear about a proposed Sponsor Refugees initiative. This has grown from a local resident’s offer of a house specifically to be a home for a family fleeing war-torn Syria and would be the first of its kind in Milton Keynes, following other successful initiatives in Canada and elsewhere in the UK.

The initiative follows a Citizens:mk campaign which began in 2015 and, having secured pledges from MK Council, became an independent charity, Refugees Welcome, in 2016.

The meeting was co-chaired by Michael and Tori Snell and heard from a Syrian family who have lived in Wolverton for more than two years following settlement under the government’s Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme (supported by a previous Citizens:mk campaign).

Rev Gill Barrow-Jones gave background to the initiative and researcher Sarah Dolphin gave the results of a recent survey of Wolverton people which showed 75% were in favour of the initiative. Rev Tim Norwood, co-chair of Citizens:mk, talked about how the scheme has worked elsewhere, the challenges – including the need to raise £9,000 for a two-parent refugee family – and the personal and community benefits of sponsoring a family in this way. Local social entrepreneur Marie Osborne also spoke about what it takes go make social initiatives successful.

It was decided to go ahead with a Sponsor Refugees initiative in Wolverton.

The evening ended with individuals signing up to provide active support, e.g. help a refugee family learn English, access schools, etc.

Rev Barrow-Jones said: “I was really pleased with how it went, how engaged everyone was, and how everyone was hanging around at the end chatting!  It was also very powerful to hear from the Syrian family who already live within our parish too.”

If you are interested to know more about MK’s first Sponsor Refugees initiative, and/or explore ways you can help, contact wolverton@citizensmk.org.uk.

Researching ‘fair work’ at stadium:mk

On the night of freezing 29th January, a small team of Citizens:mk leaders ventured to Stadium:mk, the home of MK Dons FC, for their game against Oldham Athletic.

The purpose of this research action was to find out from workers at Stadium:mk, including both security and catering staff, how they perceived their experiences of working there.

The action began at IKEA nearby, where workers there were asked about their experiences of working at IKEA. Three staff members were approached and all three said they were happy working for IKEA, highlighting the benefits of permanent contracts, flexible hours and progression opportunities. They felt cared for by the management team.

At Stadium:mk, seven workers were asked, and the responses were more mixed. Most felt loyal to the club, but raised a range of including free parking facilities and promotion opportunities, both of which seemed very limited. One security supervisor had been in role for seven years with no pay increase or progression.

One young security attendant was wearing just a fluorescent bib over her own clothes said the flourescent coats had run out. Others said that the 50p subsidy on hot drinks (sale price £2.20) was too low.

This first ‘Fair Work’ research action was deemed successful in terms testing the questions which can now be used in similar research actions with workers from other companies in MK.

Fortunately, because it was really cold, Dons won 2-1, though it was a bit of a scrape!

First Refugee Welcome School in NASUWT MK Campaign

Jubilee Wood Primary School is the first school in MK to join a campaign being championed by teachers union NASUWT and community organising charity Citizens UK.  Following a breakfast launch hosted by Grant Thornton and Dentons solicitors at the end of November, six schools pledged commitment and three have already completed their accreditation booklet.  The other two are Brooklands Farm Primary School and Lord Grey Secondary School.

“It’s important to our members that we engage in community campaigns which act on their concerns,” said Craig Warne, NASUWT Branch Representative for Milton Keynes.  “To serve one of our fundamental values, inclusiveness, our members want as many MK schools as possible to signup to this standard of welcome for refugee children and young people”

For our school, this is a good initiative,” said Tony Berwick, Headteacher of Jubilee Wood.  “We have already developed various ways of welcoming children and families from a great many cultural backgrounds,and the Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation helps us to remain explicit and focused and how we embed this in our own school culture.  It helps to strengthen our community.”

“Filling in the booklet wasn’t too difficult,” said Anesh Ramlugan, NASUWT member who teaches Year 3 with STEM specialism at Jubilee Wood.  “We just had to think about what we are already doing and come up with some exciting ways of involving more of our community in welcoming refugee children and their families.”“It’s exciting to see how quickly the pupils in various MK schools have reacted to the training session we ran for them in early October,” said Tom Bulman, Community Organiser for Citizens:mk.  “Several other primary and secondary schools are taking interest and securing commitments at senior management level.”F

Six MK schools sign up to become Refugee Welcome Schools

At a breakfast launch of the Refugee Welcome Schools initiative on Thursday 29th November, hosted by Grant Thornton LLP and Dentons LLP UKMEA, six MK schools committed themselves to achieving Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation.   These included two mainstream secondary schools, two mainstream primary schools and two supplementary schools.

This initiative promotes and supports a new standard for the awareness, welcome and action, which a school pledges to undertake in support of refugee and other new students in their school.

40 people from 18 institutions attended the event, which was organised by Citizens:mk, in partnership with NASUWT, and co-chaired by Kurshida Mirza and Hala Afify, members of the Citizens:mk Leadership Group.

Cllr Martin Petchey, Mayor of Milton Keynes Council (pictured above), which has welcomed 16 Syrian refugee families to MK under the government’s VPRS scheme since 2015, opened the proceedings by referring to recent news of serious bullying of refugee pupils at a school outside Milton Keynes (read full story).

Testimonies were then heard (through volunteer interpreter Jamila Kaouri) from three Syrian mothers and one teenage daughter, who have recently settled in MK, about the traumatic conditions of school provision in Syria compared with the warm welcome and access to services provided by Milton Keynes.This was followed by three students from St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured above) talking about why they feel compelled to campaign for a warm welcome from their school community.

Support worker Kerri Chana of British Red Cross (pictured above), and Hasnain Datoo and Shelina Meghji of Building Bridges MK (pictured below),  then spoke about the importance of supporting refugees and asylum-seekers with English language translation and teaching.

Kerri said:  “Our volunteers have a range of different roles.  There are caseworkers, administrators, orientation project workers and English language teachers.  They are all community members who are using the British Red Cross volunteering role to make a positive difference to the experience of newly arrived families.”

Fred Grindrod, Principal Official of NASUWT, a Refugees Welcome Partner (pictured above),  spoke of the international movement to support refugee children and the importance to NASUWT of its partnership with Citizens UK.

Jess Maddocks of Citizens UK explained that the Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation process was straightforward, quoting from the experience of Saint Gabriel’s College in south London, and said she could be contacted for further information about it.

Then pledges were received from MK schools (main picture above) as follows:

  1. commitment Refugees Welcome Schools accreditation – Brooklands Farm Primary School (pledge received before the event), Jubilee Wood Primary School, St. Paul’s Catholic School, The Radcliffe School, Al Ajyad Supplementary School, Middle Eastern Language School (pledge received at the event of the event).
  2. commitment to discuss this at Senior Leadership Team meeting – Lord Grey School, MK College, Shenley Brook End School, Southwood Primary School (pledge received before the event).

Finally Tim Finch (pictured above), Director of the Sponsor Refugees project created by Citizens UK, and Paul Eedle (pictured below), Community Sponsorship Ambassador of Muswell Hill Methodist Church in North London, talked about the benefits of Community Sponsorship and how a school community might embrace this opportunity.

In post-action evaluation, the event was given a score 8/10, with praise for the turnout and criticism of directions about parking arrangements and lack of working microphone.

Leaders Forum launches research teams

Citizens:mk’s annual Leaders Forum, this year hosted by St. Paul’s Catholic School, attracted 40 people including leaders from 16 member institutions and some external guests.  Each member institution presented one or two priority social problems arising from their listening campaigns, powerful testimonies were heard and the following research teams (with named leaders and institutions) pledged to work over the winter months with the goal of reporting to Delegates Assembly on 5th February:

  • Cycle Safety – Craig Broadbent, Deborah Cooper and Phil Ashbourne of Green Alliance, Leo Nicholas of St. Paul’s Catholic School; The Open University.
  • Fair Deal/Work – Hala Afify and Linda McComie of Truby’s Garden Tea Room, William Appaih of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church; Middle East Cultural Group.
  • Housing & Homelessness – Lawrence Morgan and Carol Barac of Green Alliance, Ayser Al jawad of Middle East Cultural Group.
  • Mental Health – Saira Sajid of MK Academy; Gabi and Tom Navin of St. Paul’s Catholic School, William Appaih of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.
  • Police at Primary Level – Tony Berwick of Jubilee Wood Primary School, Kate Matthews of Southwood Primary School; St. Paul’s Catholic School.
  • Refugees Welcome Schools – Elysia Roach of St. Paul’s Catholic School, Craig Warne of NASUWT, Susie Hancock of The Open University.
  • Youth for Elderly – Richard Lyons of St. Frideswide’s Church, Sofia Hassan of Middle East Cultural Group, Rachel Redford of The Open University.

The goal of each team is to create SMART campaign goals to propose to the Delegates Assembly on 5th February 2019, where three campaigns will be selected for action with power holders at the Accountability Assembly on 25th April 2019.

Research team leaders were asked to contact Community Organiser Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685,  asking him to attend their first research team meeting and deliver training to the team.

An alliance-wide training workshop has been arranged for Saturday 1st December 2018, 9.30am-1.30pm at St. Frideswide’s Church, where leaders from all teams/institutions will receive Action Research training from Tom and Jonathan Cox of Citizens UK.

In post-event evaluation, this internal action was scored 8/10.

Below are pictures from Leaders Forum 2018.

 

‘Love Not Hate’ action broadcast on BBC TV News

On Tuesday 13th November, pupils from Summerfield Primary School took part in a public action to raise awareness of hate crime in MK.  While pupil councillors met and got pledges from a range of local power-holders, the school choir sung an original song, ‘Love Is Stronger Than Hate’ (music and words by teacher Nikki Elgar), to attract attention.  The action, which took place at the Arriva Buses booth opposite The Point in CMK,  was organised as part of Citizens:mk’s Fight Against Hate campaign, and filmed by BBC TV Look East.

Campaign leader Fidele Mutwarisibo of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and The Open University first introduced Richard Solly and Sgt Catherine Story of Thames Valley for an update on statistics which show a recent increase in hate crime in MK.  Then Summerfield School councillors Harry and Maureen explained why kindness is important in their school and why they are taking action to reduce hate in the community, and personal testimonies of shocking hate incidents witnessed were heard from teacher Mrs Elgar and pupil Sofia.

Jennifer Parsons of MK Muslim Association spoke of her own direct experience of a painful hate incident on a public bus and Johnson, a bus driver from Arriva Buses, spoke of his own experiences of receiving hate abuse while on the job in MK.

The Summerfield pupils then gave thanks and a gift of sweet biscuits to the Arriva bus drivers for sharing with their colleagues at the bus depot as a small token of thanks for Arriva’s work in publicising their campaign with posters on the buses recently.

Towards the end of the action, the following pledges were made:

  • Cllr Sam Crooks,  Deputy-Mayor of MK (pictured above), pledged to include in his mayoral speeches whenever relevant that MK’s young people want to promote love not hate.
  • Greg Burnet of MKFM pledged to promote their campaign on the radio.
  • Arriva Buses pledged to organise for a group of bus drivers to be interviewed by Summerfield pupils about their experiences of hate.
  • Sgt Catherine Story of Thames Valley Police (pictured below) pledged that Thames Valley Police would do all they could to reduce hate crime in MK.

In a powerful finale, pupils and power-holders held hands in a ring and walked around the Arriva booth chanting ‘Love not hate, Together we can do it, Love not hate, Together we can do it!”

Click here for video.

“Today’s young people have a deep sense of injustice,” said Fidele Mutwarisibo.  “This is their way of telling adults about the kind of community they want to live in.”

“It’s important to us that all passengers and drivers feel safe on our buses,” said Arriva Buses Manager Kieran Lawson in a statement made earlier (as he couldn’t attend on the day).  “Not only have we displayed posters showing who to call if you experience hate crime, Arriva Buses have also pledged to train all our drivers in ways to react safely and effectively to hate crime.”

“The children have reminded us how important it is to stand up for what is right,” said Fidele.  “Being hateful is simply wrong and helping others away from hateful behaviour is something we can all play a part in. “

Civic and Business Leaders Pledge Action Against Hate Crime

At the start of national Hate Crime Awareness Week, more than 100 people – including school pupils, academics and MK’s civic and business leaders – gathered at The Open University for Citizens:mk’s ‘Fight Against Hate’ day of action on 15th October 2018.

After a welcome from The OU’s Josie Fraser, and a series of powerful testimonies about racial, trans and religious hatred, the audience heard songs from the students of four schools – Great Linford Primary, Jubilee Wood Primary (pictured below), Summerfield Primary and St. Paul’s Catholic Schools.

Then power-holders –  including Arriva Buses, MK Council, MK Dons and Thames Valley Police – were asked to make pledges (see pledges below).

In post-event evaluation, the action was scored 8/10.

Afterwards lead organiser Jiten Patel, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at The OU, said:  “I’m delighted to see so many coming to support our aspiration for a safer community in MK”.

Campaign leader Fidele Mutwarisibo, of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and also at The OU, said: “It’s great to see our campaign getting stronger and stronger”.

Dr Fidele Mutwarisibo recorded the event at http://www.open.ac.uk/research/news/mygration-ou-marks-launch-national-hate-crime-awareness-week.

Pledges made

Arriva Buses

We pledge to:

  1. Work with Citizens:mk Fight Hate Crime campaign leaders to develop and deliver a 12 month communications plan, sending out monthly messages encouraging our staff to be more aware of hate incidents/crime and to report the same, either internally or directly to the Thames Valley Police Service (This will also include bullying and harassment which often lead to poor productivity, high stress, and related sickness absence).
  2. Invite Thames Valley Police to deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our staff, students, and our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
  3. Come and report progress achieved in terms of the messages communicated and numbers of incidents reported, at the citizens:mk accountability assembly in Spring 2019.

The Open University

We pledge to:

  1. Invite Thames Valley Police to deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff and students of The Open University in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our staff and our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.

MK Council

We pledge to:

  1. Work with Citizens:mk Fight Hate Campaign leaders to develop and deliver a 12 month communications plan, sending out monthly messages encouraging our staff to be more aware of hate incidents/crime and to report the same, either internally or directly to the Thames Valley Police Service (This will also include bullying and harassment which often lead to poor productivity, high stress, and related sickness absence).
  2. To negotiate with Council staff to invite Thames Valley Police to deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected council staff in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that your staff and our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
  3. Come and report progress achieved in terms of the messages communicated and numbers of incidents reported, at the Citizens:mk accountability assembly in Spring 2019?

Thames Valley Police

We pledge to:

  1. (With their agreement) Deliver one-hour training sessions to at least 4 schools in Milton Keynes during the next 12 months to up-skill school council members and school playground supervisors (where permitted by schools) in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our future leaders can feel safe in their places of study.
  2. Deliver 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff and volunteers of MK DONS in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our future leaders can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
  3. Negotiate with the Leader / Deputy Leader of MK Council to deliver training sessions to selected staff at the MK Council in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our future leaders can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
  4. Deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff and students of The Open University in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
  5. Come and report progress achieved in terms of the messages communicated, numbers of incidents reported, and number of training sessions agreed/delivered at the Citizens:mk accountability assembly in Spring 2019.

MK DONS

We pledge to:

  1. Invite all schools who participated in the Harmonies 4 Harmony Music Festival to take part in the MK Dons Parade Day on 4th May 2019 and to promote the ‘Fight Against Hate’ Campaign.
  2. Provide an allocation of spaces to MK Council, Thames Valley Police, Arriva Buses, Network Rail and the Open University to promote the ‘Fight Against Hate Campaign’ on 4th May 2019.
  3. Display banners and posters, and to provide space in front of the MK DONS Stadium for an Arriva Bus displaying the’ Fight against Hate Poster’ on 4th May 2019.
  4. Select one school from those who have prepared and presented songs the Open University’s Harmonies 4 Harmony festival on 15th October, 2018, to perform their song at the DONS on parade day 4th May 2019.
  5. Promote the ‘Fight Against Hate Campaign’ by agreeing for Thames Valley Police to deliver 3 x 1 hour sessions in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents to our staff and stewards so that our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.

63 pupils complete One-Day School Councillor Training

On Friday 5th October, 63 pupils from five member schools completed Citizens:mk’s annual One-Day School Councillor Training, this year hosted by St. Paul’s Catholic School.  The other schools were Jubilee Wood, St. Monica’s, Southwood and Summerfield primary schools.

The theme for the Training was Refugees Welcome.  The pupils heard testimonies from two Syrian teenagers who were welcomed in Milton Keynes two years ago; also from British Red Cross, who facilitated their settlement and Ian Fraser, Head Teacher of Summerfield School, who was involved in welcoming refugees in his previous MK primary school.

Representatives from MK Council, Thames Valley Police, NASUWT Teachers Union and Citizens UK presented ideas of campaign goals which the pupils might adopt, relating to hate crime awareness.

The pupils discussed and voted to campaign for the following:

The pupils prioritised the number one shared goal of ‘becoming a Refugees Welcome School’ with the aim being to persuade their number one power-holder, i.e. head teacher and/or chair of governors, to formally agree it.

They then drew up power analysis maps to identify the key power-holders, and discussed ideas for acting on their interests to achieve the campaign goals.

The day ended with role play negotiations with power holders followed by a run-around game involving the key terms in community organising:  power, interest, stick person, relationship, negotiation.

Click here for the programme of the day.  Pictured is Bekele Woyecha of Citizens UK and Sponsor Refugees.

Hala’s testimony

Driving on the M1 to attend the 6-Day leadership training course organised by Citizens UK, I could not help but thinking how I got involved with this organisation and what am I going to benefit from this course.

Only six weeks before, I was working as an Arabic Language tutor with the Ministry of Defence (MOD), I loved my job and the rapport that I built with my students over the two and half years that I worked there was great. I was looking forward to the summer holidays, a time in which my family and I go back to Cairo to see our relatives. Then the bomb shell fell, I received a notice of termination of contract with immediate effect.

I was devastated, considering this decision came only after ten days from the renewal of my contract.

I realised that as a contractor I did not have any rights under zero-hour contracts, unlike employees who could go to a tribunal for unfair dismissal, nor did I have the right to appeal. I was, in every sense of the word, stuck and the overwhelming feeling of injustice and shock engulfed me to the point of despair.

Then I bumped into a dear friend of mine, Kurshida Mirza, at the door step of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Milton Keynes. I told her about my ordeal and she suggested that I speak to the community organiser of Citizens:mk, Tom Bulman. Tom and I met and he mentioned the 6-Day training course.

Driving back home after finishing the course, my head was full of ideas, plans, questions, answers, good memories, but above all, a sense of relief due to the skills I acquired during the course.

On the first day of training, we were engaged in the most interesting yet provocative role play; The Athenian/Melian Dialogue. At the beginning of the task, I had so many detestable stereotypical views about power holders, and very favourable opinions about ordinary people whose only power is to take the moral high-ground. To my utter surprise, at the end of the task I appreciated the Athenians, the power holders, and wanted to emulate their tactics and vision. The lesson I learnt is that power is good and it is a force to be embraced, not shunned. Relational power is the ultimate power to be sought and this can be achieved by conducting 121s, establishing self- interest, acquiring leadership role, and actively building core teams to serve the goal of the group or the campaign.

The other crucial concept is that of bringing about change to achieve social justice. The experience I had with the termination of my contract left me feeling isolated and helpless. However, when I started thinking that I would not want anyone to feel what I felt, I realised that the change I am seeking is not only to benefit myself but every contractor who may experience such treatment under the terms of such contracts, and this emboldened me with a sense of purpose.

I went to a course in leadership, however there is no real leader without followers; followers who share the vision, feel the same pain, are power hungry in the wider sense of the word.
So, I need to hear from people who have been in the same unfortunate position, people whose contracts have been terminated abruptly, people who want to see changes in the terms of self-employment and zero-hour contracts, people who want to follow me in my campaign against these contracts.

Future of community-led housing in MK – come to discussion 25th June

You are invited to attend a free film and discussion event hosted by Transition Town MK (TTMK) in partnership with MK CLT and a number of other community groups in Milton Keynes.  The event is on Monday 25th June 2018, 7.30pm, at the CentreCom community centre in Central MK.   This will include discussions on the variety of community-led housing models. (6 short films, approx 6-10 minutes long on successful schemes in UK).  Click here to attend.

At the  Accountability Assembly on 24th April, Citizens:mk obtained pledges from all MK Council party leaders pre-election to support the principle of setting up a ‘Community Land Trust’ (CLT) in Milton Keynes.   This is a goal of the Citizens:mk  House The Homeless campaign.

The steering group of the fledgling CLT meet every three week (all are welcome to attend the next meeting on 4th July – contact Lawrence.morgan@chamk.org.uk).

Lawrence Morgan, of Transition MK is leader of the House the Homeless campaign.  He is also a member of The Big Local Conniburrow partnership and works for ‘Community Housing Action:MK’ (CHAMK), a start-up social enterprise which has been lobbying the council to adopt community-led housing since start of 2017.

In the recent elections, MK Labour Party included community-led housing in their manifesto, as follows:

  • Use MKDP land to deliver more truly affordable housing, requiring at least 36% affordable housing on development sites.
  • Develop a new housing co-operative, by working with local people on proposals for a Community Land Trust to provide and maintain truly affordable housing.
  • Bring disused and empty housing back into use, by using all powers available to the council including use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.
  • 75,000 new truly affordable homes by 2050, as part of any additional future growth.

Lawrence Morgan said, “It’s been a long journey, when I arrived back in England in 2016 at the high of the Brexit referendum campaigns, after having been in the southern hemisphere for 3 years. I moved to Milton Keynes as have some families ties here, my first 8 months were sleeping on my grandmother’s conservatory floor and an unreliable job on zero hours for Tesco distribution centre in Fenny Lock.  Everything seems to of changed in my home country, I had serious case of post travelling blues borderline mild depression.

“Given all that I’m really glad I did come to MK. So much happening in the way of grassroot community action here. It took me a good solid year of trying to recruit other people to help me, with not much luck in mobilising those who said were interested. After meeting my co-founder and friend Andy Coaton at a People’s assembly conference in Wolverton CHAMK was born. I joined TTMK and eventually got involved with Citizens:mk. That is where things really took off”

“This movement is nothing new, Milton Keynes has a history of co-operative housing models in the form of Rainbow housing Co-op in New Bradwell and Giffard Park Housing Co-operative in Giffard Park. It’s been steadily growing across the UK and backed by central government in the form of the “community housing fund” and other powers through devolution and the Localism Act 2011. We are seeing elements of David Cameron’s’Big society’ coming through.

“We do not have to look far to see further examples of community-led housing. In our other two neighbouring cities along the growth corridor, Cambridge and Oxford there are great examples of community groups working in partnership with their local community foundation, community action organisations and supported by the City Councils.

“Given that Milton Keynes has a heritage of innovation from its very inception by the MK Development Corporation, we are in a prime position to leverage the resources that are being pumped into the growth corridor by central government. If this is going to be sustainable growth in the area we have to look outside the box of commercial developers who use a broken house market for profits, do not provide anywhere near actually genuine affordable homes compared to earnings.

“The planMK master plans states, the Council will strongly support community groups which to use custom and self-build. In order to achieve this, you can list yourself on the self build register, Self-Build & Custom Housebuilding Act 2015,   MK Council is obliged to maintain a register of individuals seeking to acquire land in the Borough for a self-build or custom-build home.  Local authorities have to legally allocate self serviced plots on a 3 year circle. The register can be found here: https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/property/self-build-register

“Community Housing Action:MK is preparing itself to become a non-profit developer of genuinely affordable co-operative homes with the aid of the MK Community Land Trust which has the ability to hold assets for the benefit of the community in perpetuity.

“30% of the price of a house being high, is because the buildings are connected to the high values of the land which they sit in, by working with the MK CLT, we can separate that land value from the cost of building new homes, which are co-designed with those that will live in them and provide highly energy and heating efficient homes with low running costs. Also aiding in fighting fuel poverty when you also take the living environment around the homes into account and include communal food gardens you are also then lower people’s dependency on rising food costs from corporate suppliers and creating further benefit on health and wellbeing, the social impact has great potential. We are in discussions with some key senior officers and Councillors who support this aim.”

All those wishes to support the work being carried out by CHAMK and MK CLT can link and share their facebook page www.facebook.com/CommunityHousingAction

 

 

 

 

 

Power holders pledge to support Citizens:mk campaign goals

The leaders of MK’s main political parties have pledged to support all the goals of all four current Citizens:mk campaigns.  Their pledges were made at Citizens:mk’s seventh annual Accountability Assembly, which took place at Cornerstone Church in Central Milton Keynes on 24th April.

225 people attended, including representatives from 17 member institutions and 24 other MK institutions.

After a members’ roll call, and the power-holders being led in by school children, the audience enjoyed a presentation of campaign successes over the past year.   

Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council (pictured above), was thanked for his role in delivering 130 Redway improvements – more than double the target of the Redways Relaunch campaign for MK’s 50th birthday year.

Then goals for the year ahead were presented by each campaign team (Fight Against Hate, Life Skills & Young People, Mental Health and House the Homeless) and pledges of support  were received.

Powerful testimonies were given from the victims of hate crime.  Jennifer Parsons of MK Muslim Association (pictured above), related how she had been verbally abused for wearing a hijab.

Supt Yvette Hitch, Area Commander for Thames Valley Police Milton Keynes (pictured below), stated her aim to deliver a police service for the whole community including marginalised communities.

In a one-to-one conversation during the break with Philip Shamamba, leader of MK Congolese Community, she agreed to attend an special meeting with that group.

Arriva Buses and Network Rail pledged to support the Fight Against Hate campaign with a poster display action during national Hate Crime Awareness Week in October.

The Mental Health campaign team won a pledge from the Deputy-director of MK Mental Health Service for further partnership in the campaign.

The students of St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured above) won a pledge from their head teacher to include more finance skills education in the school curriculum.

Following a request from the House the Homeless campaign team, many members of the audience agreed an action to contribute to MK Council’s current consultation on affordable housing.

Each of the three political party leaders responded ‘Yes’ to each of Citizens:mk’s campaign asks and spoke briefly about their own party manifestos for the upcoming Council elections.  Cllr Alex Walker (Conservative), attending his first Accountability Assembly (pictured below), said he was impressed by the diversity of the Citizens:mk alliance and looked forward to working with the alliance.

See pledges from all party leaders in short video:

The event ended with a rousing rendition of ‘We Built This City’ led by the choir of Summerfield Primary School (pictured below). 

See short video of choir singing below:

Mayor David Hopkins (pictured below) gave a final vote of thanks to all campaign team members and power-holders before the seventh annual Accountability Assembly was closed.

In a short evaluation by 25 participants immediately afterwards, the Assembly was scored 8/10.

Photos by Liam Hyatt.

Thanks to our grant funders in 2017-18:tudor-trust       and Master CMYK large

 

Citizens’ action on Affordable Housing consultation

Following the request by Lawrence Morgan, leader of our House the Homeless campaign team at the Accountability Assembly (centre in picture), here’s an action you can take to help create “genuinely” affordable homes in MK today.

We urge you to email a comment to MK Council’s Affordable Housing consultation by this Friday 27th April.

Below is our recommended comment, but please use your own words as you wish…

To: development.plans@milton-keynes.gov.uk

Subject line:  Affordable Housing SPD

Email Body: 

Greetings Council officer, I am writing today after attending the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly and being made aware of your current consultation. These are the amendments I feel you should make:

Units under affordable housing rent model or LHA (whichever is lower) to be increased by a further 10% to what is already in the SPD. Social rent increased by another 5% in the document. With additional points:

  • Need for more diverse variety of housing tenure (include community-led housing models, CLTs,, co-op housing, coliving, cohousing etc) and include this into your affordable housing percentage to create “genuinely affordable” housing.
  • Priority of land allocation to be made available for community-led housing groups & self-build in support of Plan:MK section 7.43 (policy HN5).

Small scale IAPT Survey shows most don’t know meaning of ‘IAPT’

In Spring 2018, Citizens:mk’s Mental Health campaign team conducted a survey to find out about experiences of Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (‘IAPT’) among Muslim and LGBT+  communities in Milton Keynes.

This research was supported by Tyrone Blackford-Swarries, Director of MK Mental Health Services (pictured at the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly last year), who is interested to know why some communities are less likely to undertake IAPT assessments than others.

Responses were received from 14 Muslims and 19 LGBT+ people, with combined results as follows:

  • 73% said that, if they needed a Mental Health assessment, they would use the IAPT service (12% knew the meaning of ‘IAPT’).
  • Two respondents (6%) gave ‘fear of bullying/prejudice/racism/sexism’ as a reason for not using the service.  Two said they were unable to face a phone assessment.
  • 88% said they were more likely to request and attend a face-to-face appointment if offered one in a location of their choice – 78% expressed home as a preference, 42% the Hospital, 30% Q:alliance meeting place).
  • 76% would take up the offer of a psychological therapy service.
  • Contact details were provided by 36% of respondents from Muslim communities and 3% of respondents from LGBT+.

These results will be discussed with the IAPT Team to explore policy implications.

 

Accountability Assembly 24th April 2018

Members of the local community are coming together in their hundreds at a Citizens:mk election assembly event to voice their concerns to would-be decision makers in order to improve the lives of poor and disadvantaged households including children and their families across the borough.

You are invited to attend our seventh annual

ACCOUNTABILITY ASSEMBLY 

Strengthening Our City

  • Citizens:mk hosts its Accountability Assembly on 24th April 2018 at Church of Christ the Cornerstone to address election candidates and ask that they pledge actions a range of social issues
  • Lawrence Morgan of Transition MK will lead a call for action to create a Community Land Trust in MK and a Citizens Guide advising pedestrians how to react to rough-sleepers, working closely with MK Homelessness Partnership
  • Fidele Mutwarisibo of The Open University will call for Restorative justice for the victims of hate crime and more action on removal of hate graffiti.
  • Others will call for action on Life Skills for Young People and Mental Health.
  • The leaders of MK’s main political parties will respond, also the Police Area Commander and other power-holders.

Powerful stories will be heard on stage from individuals who are directly affected by a shortage of housing in the city, difficult access to mental health services, lack of finance education in schools and hate crime on the streets of MK.  A school choir will sing about the city they want to grow up in.

 Book places here

Rev Tim Norwood, Area Dean and Co-Chair of Citizens:mk said: “We have planned this assembly to highlight the issues that matter most to people living in the borough ahead of the local elections with urgent asks on homelessness and hate crime.

“One of the benefits of being a non-political broad-based network of community leaders at Citizens:mk means we research broadly and listen carefully to what all corners of our neighbourhoods tell us they need and expect from their elected representatives.  We hope our asks will be accepted by candidates in the spirit we are sharing and put into action with promises.”

Arif Master of Zainabiya Islamic Centre, said: “Recently I experienced a series of hate incidents directed at me and my staff at my practice.  It was an unpleasant experience.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like going to work in the morning.  Thanks to the leaders of the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign, the Police and local politicians began to respond and the young people were caught and made to apologise.”

 Book places here or call 07962 838685 if you have any questions.

House the Homeless – Day of Action 16.3.18

Citizens:mk partnered with YMCA Milton Keynes for a day of action to promote awareness and support for the new strategy of MK Homelessness Partnership and MK Council in addressing homelessness in MK.  The aims of the Day were to:

  1. Educate MK residents including children about homelessness and what city organisations (MK Council, voluntary organisations and businesses) are doing about it
  2. Celebrate the achievement of MK Homelessness Partnership producing its first MKHP Strategic Review Dec 2017 and MK Council approving a new Rough Sleeping Reduction Strategy  to reduce the number of people sleeping rough to zero by 2021.
  3. Collaborate in building power to support MK Council and MK Homelessness Partnership in achieving their goals.

First, at lunch time, pupils from three local primary schools enjoyed a facilitated Q&A session with four people who have experienced rough sleeping.  Click here to see what happened.

At 7.30pm, guests had an opportunity to quiz those in positions of leadership in addressing homelessness:  Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of the Council; Gamiel Yafai, Chair of MK Homelessness Partnership; Simon Green, CEO of YMCA MK; Lawrence Morgan and Suzanna Raymond of the Citizens:mk House the Homelessness campaign.  Guests enjoyed asking questions about the recommendations in the Strategic Review and their personal experiences of developing and delivering them (Cllr Marland pictured below)

At 9pm, 55 guests attended a House the Homeless Assembly at which Gamiel Yafai received a Citizens:mk Gold Award for MK Homelessness Partnership (pictured below) for developing a strategy with the goal of ending homelessness in MK.

Towards the end of the Assembly, a film was shown of Summerfield School Choir singing a song about homelessness, ‘We Will Fix You’.

After the Assembly, Ian Roberts and band played live music to entertain Sleep Easy volunteers as they prepared to bed down in the cold to raise money for YMCA.  Although the temperature didn’t get below freezing until 6am, the one-night volunteer ‘rough sleepers’ felt the chill and discomfort of sleeping rough in winter.   Click here if you would like to contribute to their fund-raising.

Truby’s Garden Tea Room, sponsored by Meals by Malik – a local Muslim Woman caterer) and the owner of a small Muslim led printing company Good Response, provided meals for those sleeping out and refreshments for those attending the Assembly.

Click here for link to recent MKFM radio interview with campaign leaders.

Children question homeless people at YMCA

At lunchtime on Friday 16th March, 16 pupils from three member primary schools visited YMCA MK to meet and interview four people who have direct experience of sleeping rough.

The aim of the event was to give the pupils a chance to get answers to some of the questions they had in researching for the House the Homelessness campaign, launched by Citizens:mk in February.

Pupil Rhianna Milne of Summerfield Primary School wrote afterwards:  “I have learned that homeless people don’t tell people because they’re embarrassed of people looking down on them.”

Another pupil, Olivia of St Monica’s Catholic Primary School, wrote:  “I liked that we got to talk to other people and get to know the experience they had.”

Another pupil, Nawaal of Jubilee Wood Primary School, wrote:  “It is hard to believe how people cope with homelessness.  I am grateful.”

Tom Davis (pictured), who had spent the previous night sleeping rough, said:  “Their questions were so intelligent and compassionate.  It was inspiring to hear how the young people have taken action to address homelessness.  I think we have potential campaigners!”

“This will inform our fundraising and awareness raising efforts,” said Rob O’Malley, Head teacher of St. Monica’s Primary School.

“We watched as our children demonstrated such compassion and care when speaking with our hosts,” wrote Ms Frost, teacher at Jubilee Wood Primary School.  “We were amazed as our children’s hearts melted as they listened and empathised with the experiences of others.”

To find out more about the Day of Action on Homelessness 16th March, click here.

Campaign leaders meet Leader of Council at Civic Offices

On Tuesday 13th March, campaign leaders met Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, in his office.

First the pupils of three member schools – Jubilee Wood Primary, Summerfield Primary and MK Academy – presented evidence of their frustration that MK Council has still not provided a list dates for the scheduling of improvements to the Redways as part of his commitment to the Redways Relaunch campaign.  Cllr Marland agreed to arrange a meeting with the acting Head of Highways and report to the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly on 24th April.

Then the pupils of Jubilee Wood Primary School shared their feelings about seeing rough sleepers in MK, stating that it made them feel “sad”, “guilty” and “disappointed”.  Lawrence Morgan, leader of the House the Homeless campaign, secured a pledge from Cllr Marland to attend the upcoming House the Homeless Assembly on 16th March and formally agree there to partnership in this important campaign (pictured below).

Police host Restorative Justice workshop in Fight against Hate

At Acorn House on 12th March, 19 people (pictured) attended a Restorative Justice workshop hosted by Police Area Commander Yvette Hitch and led by Ann Jansen-East of  Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service.

The workshop focused on what works in restorative justice, featuring powerful testimony from two women with direct experience of the process following abusive relationships.

Testimonies were also provided by Arif Masters of Zainabiya Centre and Cory Bond, formerly of YMCA MK.

At the end of the workshop, Area Commander Hitch pledged to:

  • increase the number of cases in MK where a restorative justice approach will be used (where appropriate)
  • ensure all her officers and staff have input from Ann Jansen-East
  • meet with members of the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign team to discuss the costs and benefits of growing police use of restorative justice in MK, especially looking at what has not worked in restorative justice approaches elsewhere and what could be done differently in the MK context.
  • attend the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly on 24th April (if available).

Future discussions will include examination of what does not work in restorative justice and what could be one differently in the MK context?

Area Commander Hitch said:   “I felt the event was really useful in terms of highlighting  how victims can be empowered by the process and how offenders gain an insight into the effect of their behaviour on others.”

Action this Friday to support end to homelessness by 2021

As a first step towards the primary goal of our new House The Homeless campaign, Citizens:mk leaders have met with the Chair of MK Homelessness Partnership (MKHP) and agreed to work together.

At a special night-time assembly on Friday 16th March, Gamiel Yafai will receive a Citizens Gold Award for MKHP’s inspiring achievement in producing a Strategic Review to shift MK ‘from managing to ending homelessness’.  98 people from 13 Citizens:mk member institutions have pledged to attend.  Click here to come too.

MKHP is the Partnership through which MK Council has worked for 18 months with local homelessness organisations including Winter Night Shelter, Open Door, MK Bus Shelter and YMCA MK. Its mission is supported by all political parties on MK Council which, while managing the pressures of a greatly reduced budget, has agreed substantial funding to address the issue and end homelessness by 2021 (see recent BBC report).

Citizens:mk co-chair Kurshida Mirza said:  “We are delighted to be working with MK Homeless Partnership and look forward to supporting Gamiel and his team to help end homelessness in MK.  They deserve this award.”

Campaign leader Lawrence Morgan  said: “We are keen to support the MKHP in communicating its strategy through our campaign goals and network.  After talking with Gamiel, we recognise how the language in some of our goals needs adapting to reflect fully this supportive role.”