Agenda and draft minutes

Virtual consultative meeting, Poverty Working Panel - Monday, 21st March, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Online via Zoom app

Contact: Sarah James  01395 519978; email  sjames@eastdevon.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

27.

Public speaking

Minutes:

There were no members of the public registered to speak.

28.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

29.

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 31 January 2022 pdf icon PDF 217 KB

Minutes:

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 31 January 2022 had been circulated in advance and were noted as a true and accurate record.

30.

Update on loan sharks - Libby Jarrett - Service Lead - Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud pdf icon PDF 136 KB

Minutes:

The Service Lead – Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud provided an update on loan sharks, which highlighted the following:

·        The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) had confirmed that there are no active investigations on loan sharks in the district at this time; this did not mean that they are not active in the area, but they are not being reported.

·        Key staff had attended IMLT training on how to recognise loan sharks and how to help residents to overcome barriers that prevent them from reporting.  The training would be offered to more staff going forward and resources put in place to facilitate identification of residents at risk or those who are using loan sharks.

·        Content would be put out in the residents’ newsletter and in social media campaigns, using literature from the IMLT.

·        The website had been updated to include information about loan sharks and illegal money lending.

·        The Benefits Manager was updating the ILMT on the work that EDDC is doing on poverty and exploring how the Council and ILMT could work together moving forward.

 

The Strategic Lead – Housing, Health & Environment commented on the good work undertaken in connection with illegal money lending and asked whether there were any credit unions to which the team could signpost residents in need of borrowing.  Following discussion, it was agreed as an action point that the Service Lead – Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud would explore this in detail and provide a report to the next meeting.

 

Comments and questions from Members included the following points:

·        A Member asked if there were videos that could help to educate people to ensure they did not get themselves into unfortunate circumstances where they were desperate to use loan sharks.  She added that some people might find a video shared on social media more accessible than reports on the EDDC website.  The Benefits Manager responded the EDDC website points to the Illegal Money Lending website where there are videos advising people of what not to do.

 

31.

Energy Briefing Update from: pdf icon PDF 299 KB

Sharon Church – Benefits Manager

Martin Prew – Technical Officer for Environmental Health & Car Parks

Jody Harding – Principal Environmental Health Officer – Private Housing

Libby Jarrett – Service Lead – Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed Sharon Church – Benefits Manager; Martin Prew – Technical Officer for Environmental Health & Car Parks; and Jody Harding – Principal Environmental Health Officer – Private Housing, to the meeting, and invited them and the Service Lead – Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud to present their updates, a report having been circulated prior to the meeting.

 

The presentations detailed at length the challenges that it was identified residents were facing with household budgets, what was being done to support them, and the wider role of Environmental Health Public Sector Housing in helping to address housing-related forms of poverty. 

 

The following points were highlighted as key considerations:

·        There was significant concern around the disproportionate impact of the rising energy bills on certain groups, particularly:

o   Those on lower incomes, who spend a higher proportion of their income on energy bills.

o   Residents in rural areas who do not have access to gas and are therefore reliant on oil and are not protected by the energy price cap.  There is a real risk that some will struggle to afford the minimum 500L as this is now circa £750.

·        Pressure is likely to get worse, with rising costs across all household bills, and there was concern that some households will struggle to afford day-to-day essentials, including food.

·        Whilst helpful, the Energy Bills Rebate and the £200 energy bill loan scheme, announced by the government on 3rd February 2022 to help households with rising energy bills, are not going to be sufficient.

·        The Household Support Fund ends on 31st March 2022 and support thereafter would be drawn from the Council’s own hardship fund.

·        Opportunities were being explored with Devon County Council, Exeter Community Energy and Lendology for providing a scheme for funding oil/off mains gas top-ups, and how residents can move to renewables, for those who are financially struggling.

·        Some very positive collaborative working was happening and this was critical in being able to achieve better outcomes for residents.

·        There were plans to:

o   Continue to develop the Financial Support Hub on the website to make it easier for residents to know what support is available with household bills.

o   Deliver more proactive communications including via social media, the residents newsletter, and the EDDC app.

o   Include in the Poverty Dashboard data on households with oil, energy ratings, rented and low-income households, to help inform future interventions and targeted support, and to bring about energy efficiency improvements in properties with a low energy efficiency rating.

·        Citizens Advice would like to see the government expand its Warm Home Discount and make it more generous for people on low incomes.

 

It was suggested that Members might wish to consider recommending to Council:

·        To lobby government for more support with energy costs, including for a price cap on heating oil so that users are provided the same protections as consumers with electricity and gas. 

·        To lobby government on further emergency funding to continue to help people to eat, now that the HSF  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.

32.

Poverty Dashboard presentation from:

George Whitlock - Information and Data Analysis Officer

Sharon Church – Benefits Manager

Libby Jarrett – Service Lead – Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed George Whitlock – Information and Data Analysis Officer, to present the Poverty Dashboard together with the Benefits Manager and the Service Lead – Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud.

 

The presentation included:

·        The dashboard brings together a wealth of data and outcomes, updated on a monthly basis, to enable the team to identify at a glance what is going on in the district, across areas of financial, housing, health and employment.

·        The officers demonstrated the interactive functionality of the dashboard and explained that the Benefits and Financial Resilience teams can run reports of the data to inform future interventions, strategies, and the work of the Working Panel.

·        The dashboard remains a work in progress and it is intended that additional data sets will be added over time.

·        The full dashboard will not be publicly available for reasons of data protection but a version will be published with sensitive data extracted.

 

Questions and comments following the presentation included:

·        It was felt that this is a very impressive piece of work and a very useful tool in the quest to tackle poverty in the district. 

·        The approach could be sold and used as an income stream; it is very well designed for proactive work.

·        It would be helpful for key headlines and trends to be communicated to Council and Cabinet to help inform policy.

·        One Member suggested that information is shared with members on a ward by ward basis so they can ensure targeted supported is available.  The Benefits Manager expressed that high level data could be provided for certain wards but it would not be appropriate to share detailed information for reasons of data protection.

 

Subsequent to the discussion, the Service Lead – Revenues, Benefits, Customer Services & Corporate Fraud stated that the Poverty Dashboard would be brought to the Working Panel again with updated feedback on trends, following the addition of more data sets.

 

 

 

 

33.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 218 KB

Minutes:

The Forward Plan, as discussed at the previous meeting, had been circulated to Members in advance of the meeting.  The Chair invited Members and Officers to suggest any further items for the Plan, and to prioritise in what order the items should be discussed at future meetings. 

 

In discussion, it was agreed to add the following items to the Forward Plan:

·        Consideration of rural poverty issues.

·        Consideration of disability-related poverty issues including whether the Disabled Facilities Grant could be extended to heating and a range of other equipment. 

·        To receive an update from the Community Safety Partnership on domestic abuse which may have increased as the rising cost of living puts a lot of families under pressure.

·        To receive an update report on digital inclusion.

·        To receive an update on the new business plan for council housing, after it has been through Housing Review Board.

·        To consider wider cost of living issues.

 

The Chair indicated that she would liaise with officers outside of the meeting with a view to prioritising the items in the Forward Plan.

34.

Date of the next meeting

Minutes:

It was confirmed that the next meeting will be held on Monday 30 May 2022, and Members were reminded that Working Panel meetings will start at 10.00am.

 

Further dates for the rest of 2022 will be arranged following the annual Council meeting.