Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

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

Date:
Thursday, 27th March, 2014
Time:
02.30pm
Place:
Jim Cooke Conference Suite, Stockton Central Library
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Derrick Brown (Vice-Chairman), Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr Robert Gibson, Cllr David Wilburn
Officers:
Jenna McDonald, Peter Mennear (LDS) Julie Higgins, Julie Nixon (DNS)
In Attendance:
Cllr Cook
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Julia Cherrett, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Mohammed Javed
Item Description Decision
Public
HCS
72/13
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
HCS
73/13
MINUTES FOR SIGNATURE - 23 JANUARY 2014
AGREED that the minutes were signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
HCS
74/13
SCRUTINY REVIEW OF WELFARE REFORM AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION
AGREED that the Committee's final report be agreed subject to the amendments outlined above.
HCS
75/13
WORK PROGRAMME
AGREED that the work programme be noted.

Preamble

ItemPreamble
HCS
72/13
There were no declarations of interest.
HCS
73/13
The minutes of the meeting held on held on 23rd January 2014 were signed by Chairman as a correct record.
HCS
74/13
The Committee considered the draft final report outlining the conclusions of the review.

Members of the Committee agreed that due to Credit Unions being supported in the borough, the Credit Union should be specifically referenced in the Stockton Stop Loan Sharks Charter that was included in the final report, together with contact details for the Illegal Money Lending Team.

It was highlighted that the National Money Lending Team supported those who had encountered problems with Loan Sharks. Members heard that The National Money Lending Team had carried out work in schools around the borough in order to raise awareness of the dangers and risks of illegal money lending and loan sharks.

Members agreed that with regards to sanctioning, many people who were being sanctioned did not fully understand the reason as to why they had been sanctioned or what the sanction meant.

It was commented that the Government should undertake a review of the outcomes and effectiveness of the sanction regime before any more sanctions were applied.


A Member of the Committee informed other Members that they had been helping a resident from their ward that had recently had their benefits cut for 9 weeks due to an internal administration error. Members agreed that this appeared to not be the fault of the individual claimant and therefore they should not have had their benefits suspended.

The Committee heard that the Local Government had no powers to move matters when it came to sanctioning and therefore changes would need to be made by DWP and the Secretary of State.

Members heard that when claimants were being sanctioned, hardship payments were available for those that qualified however this would only be 40% of their benefit.

The Head of Housing was in attendance of the meeting and informed the Committee that a coordinated response to the independent national review of the operation of sanctions had been carried out with advice provided from Stockton Information Centre and Welfare Rights. It was highlighted that the Leader had received acknowledgement. Issues regarding sanctions in the borough were to be raised at a Health and Wellbeing Board meeting. and it was highlighted that SBC were aiming to raise awareness of the impact of sanctions at every given opportunity.

The Committee were informed that the Head of Housing in attendance of the meeting had previously had a meeting with the Director of Public Health.

Discussion was held on the importance of receiving advice when challenging benefit sanctions and appeals on issues such as employment and support allowance (ESA). The report outlined that 88% of ESA appeals supported by Welfare Rights had been successful, compared to the national rate of 32%.

Members asked whether there was information available to the public which highlighted the importance of advice. The Committee agreed that if such information was available, that guidance for the public should be developed as part of the outcome of the review. .

Members heard that although the DWP had stated that there were no targets for sanctions Job Centres were monitored to assess the numbers of sanctions which they had or had not made previous to the interview.

Head of Housing informed Members that work was being carried out to determine a sustainable future for the remaining ‘Social Fund' money, and an event was held with the 3rd sector to look at interventions for the future which would have been cost effective.

The Committee heard that Housing Benefits had carried out positive work around fraud. Members asked whether it would have been possible to have access to information based on the numbers of people that had been successfully investigated for benefit fraud. Head of Housing informed Members that this information could be circulated.
HCS
75/13
Members heard that the meeting held on the 27th March 2014 was the last Housing and Community Safety Select Committee meeting to have been held in the municipal year.

It was highlighted that in the next municipal year, the Committee would focus on Welfare Reform and Neighbourhood Policing.

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