Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Housing & Community Safety Select Committee (ceased to operate 03/06/2015) Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 18th September, 2014
Time:
2.30pm
Place:
Jim Cooke Conference Suite, Stockton Central Library, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1TU
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Julia Cherrett (Chair); Cllr Derrick Brown, Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr Robert Gibson and Cllr Mohammed Javed.
Officers:
J Higgins, J Nixon, R Todd (DNS); P J Mennear, P K Bell (LD); D Welsh (R).
In Attendance:
P Henderson (Ingeus); M Beard (Avanta); J Stubbs (Job Centre Plus)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Tina Large and Cllr David Wilburn.
Item Description Decision
Public
HCS
16/14
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations of interests.
HCS
17/14
MINUTES FOR SIGNATURE - 12TH JUNE 2014
AGREED that the minutes be signed as a correct record.
HCS
18/14
DRAFT MINUTES - 24TH JULY 2014
AGREED that the minutes be approved.
HCS
19/14
SCRUTINY REVIEW OF WELFARE REFORM AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION
AGREED that the presentations be received and Members comments be noted, and information requested be provided.
HCS
20/14
SOCIAL FUND LOCALISATION - FUTURE OF THE BACK ON TRACK SCHEME
AGREED that:-

1. The report be noted.

2. The Committee supports a recommendation to Cabinet for a package of support, as follows:-

Recommended that:-

a. Cabinet approve the holistic package of support set out at paragraph 27 which aims to make the available funding last through to 2019.

b. A progress report is presented to Cabinet six months after the agreed implementation period and that the progress report is also presented to the Housing and Community Safety Select Committee as part of its ongoing monitoring of the action plan for the Welfare Reform Scrutiny review.

c. An annual evaluation report on the package of support be submitted to Cabinet.
HCS
21/14
SCRUTINY REVIEW OF NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING
AGREED that the Scope be approved subject to the changes outlined.
HCS
22/14
WORK PROGRAMME
AGREED that the information be noted.
HCS
23/14
CHAIR'S UPDATE
 
2.30 pm - 4.30 pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
HCS
17/14
The minutes of the meeting held on 12th June 2014 were signed by the Chair as correct record.
HCS
18/14
Consideration was given to the draft minutes of the meeting held on 24th July 2014.
HCS
19/14
Members were presented with a report that outlined that following the Committee's last review on welfare reform and financial inclusion, there were a number of issues Members wished to examine further. The meeting provided the opportunity for the Committee to discuss the Work Programme with the local providers.

Members were provided with the following information:-

- Joint Overview Presentation - Work Programme

- Overview of Avanta's Service

- Overview of Triage/Ingeus' Service

- Triage Client Case Studies

Representatives of Ingeus, Avanta, and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were in attendance at the meeting to provide further information.

The following key points / questions were raised by Members:-

- Does the number of clients in paid employment include people doing voluntary work?
- What is the percentage of clients in employment at the end of their 2 years on the Programme?
- Do Ingeus receive the same amount of money if they put a client on a zero hours contract?
- If a client refuses a zero hours contract would they be sanctioned?
- When does a client get ‘signed off' and classed as being in employment?
- Do employers get a financial incentive to take clients on?
- Do you give support to clients that travel, for example, to London for interviews?

The representatives from Avanta Service and Ingeus responded to some of the points that had been raised as follows:-

- 100% is the figure for clients in paid employment as voluntary work is not reported. Clients need to be undertaking at least 16 hours paid work per week to be counted in the employment figures. Voluntary placements are available through the Work Programme.
- The representatives did not have the figures for clients in employment after 2 years but they outlined they would investigate whether they could be provided and forward the figures to the Scrutiny Officer
- Businesses use zero contract as a stepping stone for employees although there have been issues but clients are always fully supported.
- Clients are not sanctioned if they refuse a zero contract job
- A client gets signed off when they are off relevant benefits and in employment of over 16 hours per week.
- Employers do not get financial incentives to take clients. There is a need to engage with employers and persuade them of the benefits of taking clients.
- Train fares and hotel bills have been paid to clients that go to interviews outside the Borough

The Work Programme was increasingly providing services to clients on Employment and Support Allowance and this led to the need to adapt their services accordingly.

The providers are audited by the DWP against the commitments that the providers have made. There is an independent complaints process that can be accessed by clients.

Janet Stobbs (Job Centre Plus) reported that she was very keen to work with Avanta Service and Ingeus and that job shadowing already takes place.

Roland Todd (Labour Market Co-Ordinator) reported that he had a good working relationship with Avanta Service and Ingeus and that they share job vacancies.

An offer was made for Members to visit the Work Programme providers and speak with staff and clients.
HCS
20/14
Consideration was given to a report that outlined that in the local government settlement announcement made in December 2013, Central Government effectively withdrew funding for local welfare assistance arrangements post March 2015. The Government had previously transferred this funding to local authorities to provide, at a local level, alternative provision to replace some of the discretionary Social Fund support that had been administered by the Department Of Work and Pensions (DWP) prior to the Welfare Reform Act 2012. In Stockton this was the Back on Track scheme delivered by Five Lamps on behalf of the Council. The Government had since announced that the money allocated to local welfare support would not be available from 2015-16.

The Housing and Community Safety Select Committee undertook a scrutiny review of Welfare Reform and presented its final report to Cabinet on 24th April 2014, which included a recommendation that "a sustainable future for the ‘Back on Track' funding and alternative methods of delivering ‘crisis/short term' support be identified, and this be considered as part of the future scrutiny work on welfare reform".

The report outlined the arrangements relating to Back on Track, analysis of the pilot year and a proposed approach going forward which would take the scheme forward to 2019.

The Committee supported the recommendations and welcomed the proposals as a way forward for the Back on Track scheme. These will contribute towards the Council's response to the anti-poverty/welfare reform agenda, and will go some way towards addressing the recommendations the Committee made in its review of Welfare Reform and Financial Inclusion.
Members queried and received reassurance surrounding the value for money of bringing the scheme in house, and whether the service should stay in the third sector.

The Head of Housing and Community Safety reported that they had discussions with the current provider around taking some of the staff that were currently doing the work. Savings would be realised as there would be no need for management costs as the work would be done within existing management arrangements. A financial appraisal had been done for the work and there should be efficiencies for the Council and clients. Member commented that they had an excellent Housing Service that would do a good job.

The Committee noted that in certain circumstances residents on low income but not qualifying benefits, and who were facing a crisis or needed short term support to assist their situation, may not qualify for the scheme, and would therefore request that eligibility be kept under review over the life of the scheme.
HCS
21/14
Members were presented the Scope for the Scrutiny Review of Neighbourhood Policing.

Members felt that the Committee should seek the views of:-

- the local community
- PCSOs and Police Officers
- Enforcement Officers
HCS
22/14
It was noted that the following items would be presented at the next meeting on 16th October 2014:-

Review of Neighbourhood Policing
Smoking Cessation Update
HCS
23/14
The Chair provided no update.

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