The Benefits and Financial Resilience Manager introduced this item which provided an overview of how the Council supports the district’s more vulnerable residents through collaborative partnership working both internally and with external partners.
Members saw presentations from the following departments and agencies, detailing at length how they work holistically to support residents with examples of outcomes and residents feedback, and an outline of the shared work going forward:
· Millie Harris, Financial Resilience Team, EDDC
· Jody Harding, Private Sector Housing, EDDC
· Tara Bowers, Exeter Community Energy
· Lorraine Whiting, South West Water
· Dean Stewart, Citizens Advice East Devon
The Benefits and Financial Resilience Manager thanked all partners for their contribution to the meeting and for their continuing work with the Council.
Discussion and clarification included the following points:
· Private landlords are expected to inspect and maintain their properties but Private Sector Housing have wide-ranging powers to intervene in the event that the properties are not adequately maintained.
· The Private Sector Housing team currently has a full complement of Officers, and resources are managed to deal with damp and mould issues during the winter season, and project works in the spring and summer. There have been fewer referrals for damp and mould issues than would be expected for the time of year however, suggesting that residents may be reluctant to report their landlords for fear of potentially losing their homes.
· A Cranbrook Ward Member raised that there are Cranbrook residents with heat provision from Eon Heat who are potentially in fuel poverty, and she would like to explore what more can be done to raise awareness in Cranbrook of the help that is available. It was confirmed that the Financial Resilience Team have referral links with the food bank in Cranbrook, and Eon Heat does come up in discussions with residents.
· Citizens Advice ran a campaign last year about loan sharks. Going forward, they are looking to set up a Preventative Debt team, to be proactive in the community about how to manage a budget and avoid pitfalls.
· Citizens Advice advisors carry out deep-dive work with specific vulnerable people who are not good at managing their finances, in instances where a visit to the office is not enough, to carry out more detailed and significant work with those who most need it. This can include practical assistance with setting up online banking and direct debits.
· The Revenues and Benefits team hope to be in a position to bring data to a future Working Panel meeting around the percentage of people who no longer need help, due to the success of the work that has been done to support them.
· Information is available on the Council’s website concerning financial help, and providing links to other websites and resources. Available support is also promoted via social media posts, and by way of press releases to reach residents who are digitally excluded.
· Project Food, funded by Devon County Council, supports people with learning cooking skills and how to prepare nutritious meals on a budget.
The Chair thanked all speakers for their presentations, which highlighted the valuable work being carried out.