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

Thursday, 27th February, 2014
Jim Cooke Suite, Stockton Central Library, Church Road, Stockton-on-Tees, TS18 1AU
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Cllr Julia Cherrett(Chairman), Cllr Derrick Brown(Vice-Chairman), Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr David Wilburn
Peter Mennear, Jenna McDonald(LDS) Julie Nixon, Julie Higgins(DNS), Ruby Poppleton, Kerry Anderson(PH), Billy Park(CESC)
In Attendance:
Mike Robinson, Marie Kerr(SDAIS)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Tina Large
Item Description Decision
AGREED that the minutes were signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
AGREED that the minutes be approved.
AGREED that the assessments of progress be agreed and further updates be provided.
AGREED that the information be noted and a draft report with recommendations be prepared and brought the next meeting for agreement.
AGREED that the information be noted.


The evacuation procedure was noted.
Cllr David Wilburn, Cllr Michael Clark and Cllr Derrick Brown declared an interest to the Teesside Pension Fund as they were all Members of the Teesside Pension Fund.
The minutes of the meeting held on 5th December were 2013 were signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

Consideration was given to the draft minutes of the meeting held on 23rd January 2014.
Members were asked to give consideration and make comment on the progress of the Tobacco Control Review.

Members heard from the Health Improvement Specialist who was in attendance at the meeting and explained to the Committee that there had been 21 recommendations within the action plan, 11 of which were complete. Any outstanding recommendations would be followed up and reported on at a future meeting.

The Committee were informed that the Public Health Team were investigating further the erection of smoke free signs in children's play areas. It was highlighted that it would have been extremely beneficial to receive support from the public and raise awareness of the effects which passive smoking could have on children and to give the public a clear understanding of why the campaign was in place. Members were informed that Action 3 of the Action Plan focussed on involving schools to develop signs based on a FRESH design. There was to public consultation in May 2014 to gain an understanding of public opinion and to also raise awareness.

Action 8 of the action plan was to be included in the workplace health proposal, the workplace health access to Stop Smoking Service.

Members learned that Stockton Borough Council was to discuss whether to enable members of staff to use the Stop Smoking Service during working hours. The Committee agreed that advertising the Stop Smoking Service in hospitals was a good way to promote the campaign.

In relation to recommendation 7 which stated that the questionnaire was ready to use, Members asked whether there were any plans to circulate it soon. Members were informed that the Public Health Team were planning on including the questionnaire in Stockton Borough Councils 'Keeping You In Touch'(KYIT)

Members asked whether any action had been taken in relation to E-Cigarettes and whether or not it was appropriate to use the E-Cigarettes in places such as Committee meetings and/or during work time. In response, Members were informed discussions had taken place previously which had considered that E-Cigarettes were only used in designated smoking areas. The Modernisation Manager informed Members that there were mixed views on the topic of E-Cigarettes and highlighted that the long term effects of the vapour used was not known. The Committee were informed that there had been an article which showed that long term use of an E-Cigarette had caused a build-up of oils in the body. The Modernisation Manager said that until the effects of E-Cigarettes were established their advice would be that they were not to be used. Members then raised concerns, that although the E-Cigarettes were aimed at helping people to stop smoking, some people may start with E-Cigarettes and build up to smoking normal cigarettes. As this was an issue that had developed since the end of the Committee’ review, the chair would request an update on SBC policy from the Director of Public Health and Head of HR.

Members expressed opinion that recommendation 19 which related to the Teesside Pension Fund and seeking views on disinvestment from tobacco, should have been made a local action as opposed to being looked at, at Regional and National levels. The Committee were reminded that during the review the Pension Fund had declined to canvass its membership on the grounds that the whole area would have required canvassing. and so this was why a regional approach had been taken.

The Committee discussed the Governance of the Pension Fund and highlighted that a review of governance may be needed in order to review what control members had, and how local authorities could influence the investment decision making process.
The Committee were presented with a presentation from an officer representing Stockton and District Advice and Information Service. The officer informed the Committee that reports were generated on a quarterly basis. Members heard that enquiries about budgeting loans and food banks were continuing to rise, although there were fewer enquiries about crisis and settlement support.

It was explained to Members that monthly meetings took place within Stockton and District Advice and Information Service to assess cases and issues. It was highlighted that the biggest problem was the financial settlement after 2014/15 when there would be no national funding for crisis support. The Committee were informed that a report on the continuing need for Crisis Support would be available from March 2014.

Discussion took place surrounding sanctions, as these had continued to rise in the North East. The Committee heard that it was a concern that job seekers agreements were often not reflecting fully the claimant’s circumstances. 93% of people seeking help from SDAIS on sanctions were individuals who claimed Job Seekers Allowance. It was highlighted that one quarter of these people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) where sanctions had been imposed had health or disability problems and 12% of sanctions were raised were within the age range 50-59 years.

Members heard that Personal Independence Payments (PIP) enquiries were starting to come through. It was highlighted that in the last quarter the number of PIP queries had increased by 20% to the extent that the number of PIP and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) enquiries were at 92% of the level that DLA enquiries were at in the 3rd quarter of 2013. Members were informed that SDAIS’s first PIP appeal hearing was to be held on Friday 28th February 2014.

The Welfare Rights Team Manager informed the Committee that by December 2013 there were 220,300 PIP Claims made, but there had only been 34,200 decisions made which was approximately 15.5%.

The Committee heard that Health and Community Care Issues increased 49% between Quarter 2012 and Quarter 3 2013, Financial Capability Issues rose from 6 to 112 and Fuel enquiries rose by 323%.

Members were informed that Stockton and District Advice and Information Service were currently targeting a Super Output area in Billingham South Ward as part of their Warmer Homes Healthy People funding. It was highlighted that they were piloting an online advice service, and work was being continued with the Alma Street outreach.

Members asked what was the increase of mortgage arrears enquiries and were informed that numbers increased from 54 to 101 The Head of Housing highlighted that a request had been included within the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for Stockton Borough Council to continue to provide the Struggling Homeowner Officer role. Members expressed to Officers that the service they provided was excellent and made a significant difference not only to the cost benefits of home owners but also to Stockton Borough Council as providing a service to prevent re-possessing homes was much more cost effective than putting families into costly Bed and Breakfasts.

Members requested a breakdown of the number of enquiries to SDAIS by resident’s ward.

The Welfare Rights Team Manager provided an update on their work. It was highlighted how representation could make a difference in ESA claims. Nationally 32% of appeals had been overturned on appeal, but with Welfare Rights support the figure was 88%.

Members requested a breakdown of welfare reform related queries to Welfare Rights by ward.

The Committee were presented with a presentation providing an update on Stockton Welfare Advice Network (SWAN) which was being developed to bring together local advice agencies to improve co-ordination. It was heard that SWAN had 9 partners including Thrive, Tristar Homes and Catalyst. The Manager of SWAN informed Members of the work which had been carried out since 1st October 2013, this included the following:

- Agreeing the Partnership Terms of Reference.
- 2 project board meetings which were to be held on 3rd March 2014
- that 53 advice agencies attended the launch of SWAN at the consultation event.
- that a questionnaire was circulated to residents which had in turn received 236 responses.
- 3 working parties were created.
- agreements were made on Membership Criteria, Website Content and data sharing and referral systems.

Members heard that one section of the questionnaire which was sent out to residents included the question 'What area of advice had you sought and how difficult was it?' It was highlighted that in response to this question residents raised concerns that knowing where to go for budgeting advice appeared to be a problem.

The Committee heard that SWAN was building a website as an information source to the public. It was highlighted that the website would include the following:

- a directory of local services
- links to national organisations e.g. Money Advice Services
- Self Help links such as blogs
- information of events and training programmes
- announcements of new services and changes within services
- volunteer requests
- details about SWAN as a whole

Head of Housing informed the Committee that there would be no ongoing funding after 2014/15 for Back on Track crisis support. It was highlighted that Housing Officers had met up with a range of 3rd sector front line organisations on 26th February 2014 in order to discuss the way forward and options for use of the remaining funding. As a follow up from the meeting, the Committee heard gave the initial feedback was that:

- advice services had been located good customer service had been received.
- there would be a need for some form of crisis support ongoing
- Many people were finding it hard to supply themselves with white goods. One scheme by Tristar Homes and credit union sought to provide their tenants with loans for white goods.

The Committee heard that there had been discussions on how alternatives could be offered to rent to buy companies.

The outcomes of this work on crisis support would be reported back to the Committee.

The Committee considered the summary of evidence for the review and agreed that draft recommendations be formulated based on the information contained within.

Members requested that the Work Programme providers should be included in the next piece of work on welfare reform.

The Committee heard that the draft report for the current phase of work would be provided at the next Housing and Community Safety Committee Meeting.
There was no Chairs Update.

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