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Refugee and asylum seeker ukulele band brings festive joy to people living with Dementia

A ukulele band formed from refugees and asylum seekers brought festive joy to people living with dementia, while helping boost their own English language skills.

The group of English language students, including people from:- Syria, Sudan and Iraq, were joined by members of the Neston Strummers, who have been teaching the instrument.

The event was the latest from the Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram and the Combined Authority's pioneering Test and Learn initiative to encourage innovate ways to improve adult education.

Mayor Rotheram launched the scheme over 3 years ago to tackle local market failures for skills and has supported innovation in learning, addressing gaps and enhancing adult learning with over £2m per year or 5% of the devolved adult education budget.

Wirral Met College has used the Test and Learn funding to create a unique curriculum of events, including crown green bowls, to help refugees integrate into British life while boosting language skills.

The students played and sang festive classics, including:- Jingle Bells, in English, Spanish and Arabic, and recited a poem for the residents at Meadowcroft Community Wellbeing Hub, in Bromborough, Wirral.

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, said:- "Bringing people from all walks of life together through the power of music is what our area does best. While we know the real challenges that face our new residents as they settle into their new life, we want to try and help make that transition as easy, and enjoyable, as possible for them. Having control over how our adult education funding is spent locally means that we're able to try out new and innovative ways of supporting people in their moment of need, and this pilot is a perfect example of that. We're empowering people to start afresh and build a better future for their families – and immerse themselves in the communities they're now a part of. Our Region has been a sanctuary to people seeking refuge for centuries and it's a legacy we're proud to continue today. Our message is clear:- the Liverpool City Region is open to all. We will give you the support you need to help you, and our area, grow."

During the 1st year, a total of 31 pilot projects were funded by Test and Learn, widening participation in particular to include disadvantaged groups.

Almost 1,800 learners took part, costing less than for mainstream adult education but generating much more in social value.

The care home class was designed in response to this year's Test and Learn theme of wellbeing.

It was created to help students learn through interaction whilst giving residents a boost with a live music singalong.

Sue Higginson, Principal of Wirral Met College said:- "It's initiatives like these that show what it is to be a community. I am so proud of our ESOL students who continue to inspire all around them through the challenges they have faced and overcome to be here, with their love of learning, and openness to finding out more about the local area and developing new skills like playing the ukulele! But it is so much more - it is partnerships like these that our help our students settle in their new home and that's why they are so valuable."

Jenny Paton, Deputy Chief Executive of Age UK Wirral, said:- "Our clients thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas Carols and listening to the students playing ukuleles. We have been working with Wirral Met this year to build connections with their students helping them to understand the impact of Dementia, so it is lovely to see students and clients meet together in person. Our clients love the opportunity to engage with new people and the students have definitely brought the Christmas spirit with them today!  Thank you for involving us in such a wonderful opportunity."

Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool and Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Education, Skills, Equality and Diversity, said:- "Test and Learn is producing some amazing results in adult education and this is a great example of what can be achieved when we think more creatively. Students who have come here from other countries are learning important language skills in real-life situations as well as integrating into the communities where they live."


Thousands of vulnerable people in North West protected from homelessness thanks to £41 million funding boost

VULNERABLE families and people in the North West will be protected from homelessness by £41,987,024 of funding, the Government has announced, on Friday, 23 December 2022.  
All Councils in England will receive funding from the £654 million Homelessness Prevention Grant, which they can use to provide vital support to those who need it the most in their local areas.  
Services include providing temporary accommodation for families, helping individuals pay deposits for new homes and mediation with landlords to avoid eviction.  
£2.6 million of this funding is to help the Council support homeless domestic abuse victims, ensuring no 1 has to stay with their abuser for fear of not having a roof over their head.  
Today's funding follows a £50 million top up to the grant, announced last month and forms part of the Government's £2 billion package of support to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, outlined earlier this year.  
Councils have a statutory duty to ensure no family is left without a roof over their heads and this funding will help them to carry this duty out.   
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: -"The Government is determined to end rough sleeping and tackle homelessness because for too many people, the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a warm and safe environment is beyond reach. We know that words alone are not enough. That is why Government is investing £2 billion over the next 3 years to give some of the most vulnerable people a roof over their heads, along with targeted support to rebuild their lives.Today's announcement will provide vital support to families who are at risk of rough sleeping, including by providing temporary accommodation and helping with deposits"

Minister for Housing and Homelessness, FeliCity Buchan said:-  "Everyone should have a safe and secure home. This Government is determined to prevent homelessness and to get vulnerable families and individuals the support they need. Whether it's emergency housing, support to pay a deposit, or mediation to prevent eviction, today's package will provide help to those who need it the most at the discretion of those who know them best."
Last year, 19,440 households in the North West have had their homelessness successfully prevented or relieved.  
Councils can use the money flexibly based on their knowledge of the local area and the local housing market. Many Councils use the funding to offer mediation services for landlords and tenants to prevent evictions or implement special programmes to identify root causes of homelessness. 
To ensure distribution of funding is reflective of current pressures and demand in areas across England, the department consulted Councils and other interested stakeholders on amending the funding arrangements for the grant earlier this year. Today's allocations reflect this new formula.

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