Sustrans is helping volunteers to tackle social isolation in Birmingham

Castle Vale resident John Shearer standing beside a roadside

Castle Vale resident and volunteer, John Shearer, is helping to create an age-friendly environment in Tyburn, Birmingham.

28 March 2019

Since last June, over 30 volunteers in Birmingham have signed up to our community-led project to tackle social isolation by improving accessibility and creating an age-friendly environment.

For many people aged 50 and over, the urban environment can be inaccessible, which can deter them from leading a healthy, active lifestyle. That, in turn, can affect their wellbeing and lead to social isolation.

The volunteers have focused their efforts in Castle Vale, Pype Hayes and Birches Green. They’ve been busy assessing the street scene to identify problem areas with a bespoke toolkit developed especially for the project.

With the audit now complete, the next stage of the project is beginning to get underway. During this phase, we are looking at what changes the community would like to see and work with them to develop their ideas. These ideas will then be trialled with the findings of the project brought together into a community plan in May 2020. This will contain a set of proposals for lasting change which could be implemented over a 5-10 year period.

As the project is community-led, it’s not yet known what ideas will emerge. However, the group has already identified a range of low cost and short term measures which could be trialled. These include changes to short timings on crossing points and the addition of seating for resting. They’re also keen to make better use of local public spaces and address difficult links between neighbourhoods.

Castle Vale resident, John Shearer, was keen to have his say after noticing problems caused by inconsiderate with parking. Commenting on the project he said; “I am fairly mobile, but some of my friends are in mobility scooters and struggle to get around due to vehicle obstacles, main road crossings etc. Also, my grandsons (aged 5 and 3) and I often walk through Castle Vale to the shopping centre and have problems. It made sense to me that Sustrans asked for local involvement to try and make things better and improve safety and access. It is nice to have someone take an interest in local problems and to date, I have personally enjoyed being a part of the process.”

Commenting on the project Sustrans Community Engagement Officer, Ridhi Kalaria, said; “Since last June we’ve engaged over 90 people through pop-up events in food stores, at mapping workshops and other community events. Many of them were surprised to learn that the layout of our local street scene can have a big impact on wellbeing and social isolation. So far people have been keen to get involved in this exciting community-led project and I’m really pleased with the response! Although it’s focused specifically on Tyburn there’s a lot that we can learn which could have a big impact for a much wider audience.”

We're delivering the project as part of the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme to tackle social isolation. Along with other projects across the city, it’s been commissioned by Birmingham Voluntary Services Council with a £6 million grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Please visit or contact [email protected] for more information about the project.