100 new jobs for Birmingham as city welcomes innovative charity project

Sense, the national charity that supports people with sensory impairments, deafblind and complex needs, has chosen Selly Oak as the site for England’s first TouchBase centre, bringing 100 new jobs to the city.

Sense cited the city’s state-of-the-art life sciences sector – with the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham located nearby – and its ambitious regeneration plans as the main reasons for picking Selly Oak for its very first TouchBase centre in England. Headquartered in London, the charity decided to expand in Birmingham rather than grow its base in the capital.

The innovative new centre will be the first of its kind in England, pioneering specialist services for disabled adults and children. The entrepreneurial project aims to demonstrate how integration and inclusion of deafblind people in the wider community can work in the rest of the UK. The centre will also serve as a resource for the local community, offering residents use of its nursery, crèche facilities, and community cafe. It will be designed in collaboration with the disabled community in the West Midlands and the local community in Selly Oak.

On its decision to build the new TouchBase centre in Selly Oak, Gill Morbey, chief executive of Sense, said:“The new TouchBase centre represents a substantial investment by Sense in Birmingham. It will be a truly inclusive resource benefitting both people with disabilities and the wider community. Birmingham is the ideal location for our new site. Its central location will make the facility easily accessible for our staff across the UK, and the city is home to a range of pioneering healthcare organisations that we hope to work with. Sense will be recruiting 100 new roles in Birmingham for Touchbase, and I have no doubt that we will find a wealth of highly talented people here.”

Birmingham City Council and Marketing Birmingham have worked closely with Sense to support the project. Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, commented: “Sense’s TouchBase Centre will be a fantastic facility for deafblind people in the West Midlands, and a superb resource for the local community in Selly Oak. That Birmingham has been chosen for this pioneering centre highlights the importance of growing our life sciences industry as a way to attract more investment and jobs into the city.”

Sense has picked Birmingham-based architects firm Glenn Howells Architects to draw up the plans for the community hub. The news comes as another boost to the regeneration of Selly Oak, which is already being revamped with a canal-side square, and is set to benefit from the life sciences campus in Edgbaston.

Construction will begin in 2015, with TouchBase Birmingham due to open in late 2016. The 100 new jobs at Touchbase – which will include roles such as finance and administration – will be complemented by a further 100 relocating from across the West Midlands into the new centre. Wouter Schuitemaker, investment director for Marketing Birmingham, added: “We have been working hard to promote Birmingham as an ideal location for London-based organisations that want to expand, but are starting to look outside the Capital. Sense is the latest example of an organisation headquartered in London that has recognised the value of expanding its presence here; it follows the news that Deutsche Bank is creating 1,000 more jobs in Birmingham. We hope to see more companies follow suit, as Birmingham offers a large, skilled workforce, a wide range of affordable, flexible space, and easy access to the Capital.”