Date: 30/10/2018

Fortem’s Trainee Challenge sees management trainees from across the business split into three regional teams - North, Midlands and South. All are set the task of undertaking a community challenge project which improves the lives of local people and communities.

Fortem’s Midlands Trainee team decided to focus on Charles House, a young people’s home that provides a service for children throughout Birmingham who have a statement of special educational needs. The team provided renovation work to Charles House in order to create a safer, more enjoyable environment for the children there.

The project was delivered in joint partnership with Birmingham Children’s Trust, who deliver services from West Heath based Charles House. Situated in South West Birmingham Charles House provides respite care services for children with disabilities.

In 2017, proposals to relocate staff and facilities meant Charles House was facing the possibility of closure, but the home was saved and now operates under Birmingham Children’s Trust.

The works completed by the Midlands Trainees included renovating the garden space and creating an independent living facility to replace a room solely used for storage. The project saw 68 volunteers take part, with 1,671 total hours donated by everyone involved. This included 239 hours donated by apprentices who were mainly responsible for installing the decking area.

Jake Hughes, the Fortem project lead for the trainees said, “The number of challenges we have faced does not compare to the impact this project is going to have on not just the children at Charles House, but staff too. I couldn’t think of a better project to lead on!”

Julie Clark, Home Manager at Charles House explained: “The garden had been completely off limits for the past two years because it was too dangerous for the children to enjoy, and the activity room was merely used for storage. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received by Fortem who have been sensitive to the fact we continued to deliver our services during the build project.”

The works included new fencing around the perimeter, the fitting of new paving slabs, installation of a decking area which incorporates a ramp for any wheelchair access needs and renewed raised flower beds with brightly coloured sleepers. The decking will also have artificial grass laid over the top at the request of the children.

An independent living facility was also created to replace a storage room where a lounge area and a kitchen were fitted with interactive QR codes to help the children learn how to live independently.

Andy Couldrick, Chief Executive of Birmingham Children’s Trust said; “This is a shining example of the positive impact that can be made when there is true partnership working taking place. Partnerships like this one with Fortem enable us to make that difference.”

In summary, a total of 11 Fortem partners have been generous enough to donate time, skills and materials towards the Charles House Trainee Challenge to the value of £8,285.54, all in addition to the staff hours donated.

Charles House officially launched on Thursday 13th September and was opened by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, with representatives from Fortem and Birmingham Children’s Trust also in attendance.