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There were no members of the public registered to speak.
Declarations of interest
44. Presentation by the Housing Service.
Councillor Bruce De Saram, Personal, Designated Person for EDDC tenants.
46. Updated Draft Poverty Strategy Action Plan
Councillor Mike Allen, Personal, Involved in local church which runs a food bank.
The minutes of the meeting held on 15 February 2021 were agreed as a correct record.
Presentation by the Housing Service
Ø Jo Garfoot – Acting Housing Service Lead
Ø Andrew Mitchell – Housing Solutions Manager – Housing Options ‘The Magic Garage’
Ø Graham Baker – Housing Property & Asset Manager – Green Homes Grant, work and fuel poverty
Ø Sue Bewes – Housing Services Manager – Estate Management – financial resilience and budgeting tips
The Chair welcomed Jo Garfoot - Acting Housing Service Lead; Andrew Mitchell - Housing Solutions Manager; Sophie Davies – Housing Business and Customer Improvement Manager, and Sue Bewes – Housing Services Manager, to the meeting.
Jo Garfoot gave an overall introduction to the Housing Service and the work of various officers and stated that;
· Upgrading properties to be carbon neutral was likely to have the biggest impact on costs for tenants in terms of reducing the potential for fuel poverty.
· Upgrading properties was also likely to be the biggest expenditure that the Council had ever made.
Andrew Mitchell gave a presentation about Homelessness and this included the following points:
· Homelessness and poverty go hand in hand and the Council had a number of initiatives to address these inter-related issues.
· There was a clear increase in demand for temporary accommodation in 2019 and 2020, and when the COVID pandemic started to make its impact felt several months later. This had given rise to initiatives such as ‘Everybody In’, increases in Domestic Violence, and the inability for people to ‘sofa-surf’.
· EDDC had responded with schemes including the Rent Deposit and Bond scheme to assist people into the private sector, and the Homemaker Financial Advice and Assistance scheme which were working well and assisting an increasing number of people.
· Housing First was a scheme to provide accommodation for rough sleepers who had no other options. Accommodation was provided by the Local Authority with support provided by others and funded by monies from the Rough Sleeper Initiative. EDDC has 3 properties in 2020-21, but is hoping to apply to MHCLG to double that to 6 over the coming months.
· The Furniture Project is set up to assist people moving from temporary accommodation into more settled housing, but have no means of furnishing it. The project ensures that people have what they need when they move into a property and uses recycled furniture which may have been donated.
· This links to a number of Council strategies in tackling homelessness, climate change and poverty.
· There are a number of challenges facing officers in this work in relation to how far the Council can go to assist on top of its statutory duties, including storage, transport, and lifting of items amongst others.
Debate following the presentation included the following comments:
· There were currently about 25 residents in B&Bs presently which had a big financial impact on the Council and those concerned, and was not ideal for families or single people.
· It was harder to move people on at present due to the COVID situation.
· Domestic Violence victims originated from both urban and rural areas and the Housing Service just needed to respond as fast as they could.
· In the current circumstances EDDC were allocating 60% of accommodation to temporary needs and was actively looking for 3 or 4 bedroom properties in order to bring more properties into EDDC stock.
· After the eviction moratorium, there will be an expected influx of people who will need rehousing.
· Temporary ... view the full minutes text for item 44.
Ø Helen Wharam – Public Health Project Officer
Helen Wharam gave a brief summary of her Review of Council poverty related activities during 2020-21. She stated that this was compiled from readily available documents supporting Service Plans across the Council. The last year was the year of the pandemic and not a typical year, but the review gave an indication of the huge range and volume of activities undertaken by services under the five headings of the Poverty Strategy Action Plan;
1. Helping people on low incomes
2. Strengthening families and communities
3. Inclusive economy
5. Improving health outcomes
It was clear that a staggering amount of work had been done across the Council, made more difficult because of the COVID pandemic which had made life worse for many people.
The Chair thanked Helen for presenting her report.
John Golding presented the latest iteration of a developing Poverty Strategy Action Plan which had been circulated prior to the meeting. Some elements had been updated to reflect different themes covered and issues such as digital inclusion.
He hoped to conclude work on the document at the April meeting of the Panel and then implement the actions, all of which needed to be aligned with all the updated Service Plans over the next few weeks.
He referred to predictable problems which could not be resolved by EDDC alone, such as poverty amongst older people, or the disparity in pay between men and women which would impact on pensions, but that the Council would need to lobby Government on such issues. He also confirmed the need for financial resilience and how the Council could promote positive messages and information.
The Chair thanked John for this latest draft of the Action Plan.
Date of the next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Monday 12th April when a final draft of the Poverty Strategy should be available.
The Chair said that the work done by Jamie Buckley on community engagement and with the Community and Voluntary sector will be a topic for the next meeting. Libby Jarrett – Service Lead for Revenues and Benefits, suggested briefing members of the Panel in April, on the new ‘Breathing Space’ regulations which would be introduced in May, and which would put all debts on hold for 60 days. The Chair agreed.
The Panel would also discuss a report for Cabinet about how it would evolve into more of a monitoring group over the coming months, reviewing how the Action Plan is being progressed.
Future meetings will be held on 10th May, 14th June, 19th July, 20th September and 22nd November 2021.