Agenda item

Update on the Building Financial Resilience Project

To consider the progress achieved by the Building Financial Resilience Partnership Group.

Minutes:

Councillor Philip Dixon, Health and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder, presented a report which highlighted the work carried out to date by the South Lakeland District Council (SLDC)-led Building Financial Resilience (BFR) partnership group following the Council’s first Tackling Poverty Workshop which had been held in 2016.  That workshop had sought to raise ideas for reducing poverty in South Lakeland through the work of both the Council and partner organisations.  At the workshop, three clear areas of work had been identified:-

 

·         understanding the nature and extent of poverty in South Lakeland;

·         helping those in immediate need; and

·         focussing the work of the Council and partners in the long-term to help to address the root causes of poverty in the area.

 

A Position Statement had subsequently been created which set out the broad aims for the BFR group in tackling poverty.  This Statement had evolved and now stated, “Ensuring that no-one in South Lakeland is excluded from an acceptable standard of living.”

 

An SLDC BFR officer group had developed an initial analysis/mapping exercise of poverty in South Lakeland and had drafted an action plan through meetings with partner agencies to take on their issues, concerns and recommendations.  The action plan was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The full BFR partner group had now met five times, with a future meeting set for March 2019.  Partners had expressed the desire to continue meeting as they valued the creative collaborative networking opportunity where new initiatives and link-ups were taken forward to support people suffering financial hardship.

 

The report included details of the key actions achieved by the group to date:-

 

·         The creation of five task groups which had met to work on the actions.

·         A fuel poverty and money advice scheme (LEAP) had been launched, providing free energy saving household improvements and advice on switching and budgeting to all fuel poor households in South Lakeland.

·         South Lakes News was including articles in each issue to give practical advice/signposting to raise awareness of helpful schemes and promote the work of partners.

·         The creation of a BFR page on the SLDC website, with useful resources and information.

·         SLDC was providing ‘Assisted digital support’ to assist customers in making and maintaining claims for Universal Credit and referred customers having difficulty with payments to the Citizens Advice Bureau for ‘Personal Budgeting Support’ courses.

·         The SLDC Revenues and Benefits Department managed alternative payments arrangements of housing benefit, or Universal Credit (not rent), to pay direct to landlords in certain circumstances.

·         The number of organisations using MARS (Multi Agency Referral System from Gateway) had increased from 60 to 90 (as of September) - Age UK had used the partner meetings to promote this system and was committed to its promotion to more small charities.  This would help direct the service user to the right support at the right time.

·         General Practitioners could now signpost and refer clients to the third sector via MARS, and the Integrated Care Communities (ICC) had promoted MARS with ICC groups to encourage social prescribing.

·         SLDC was working with My Cumbria Card to increase the local discounts available and to promote these more widely.

·         The Environment agency had completed various actions to increase uptake of the flood warning service to help prevent future loss and hardship through flooding.

 

Looking forward over the next six months, the BFR group was to launch three media/promotional campaigns aimed at building financial resilience.  These would be:-

 

·         LEAP (fuel poverty support) scheme;

·         My Cumbria Card; and

·         skills and education opportunities

 

The group had also linked in with the Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission which was carrying out some innovative work in Lancaster and Morecambe with people affected by poverty.  The BFR group was monitoring the work closely with a view to a future collaboration.

 

In presenting the report, Councillor Dixon advised Members that, following the meeting of Council on 18 December 2018 at which his motion of notice in relation to the issue of poverty had been debated and carried, the Chairman of the Council had written to the Local Government Minister regarding the provision of additional funding to local authorities to help those most disadvantaged.  He commended the partnership work being carried out by the BFR group and expressed thanks to the Principal Partnerships and Communities Officer and other officers in the team for their involvement, to the Council for its support and to the Leader of the Council for his personal commitment to addressing the issue of poverty in South Lakeland.  Councillor Dixon stressed the fact that, although not a statutory duty, the Council took seriously the issue of poverty.

 

Councillor Dyan Jones, Environment Portfolio Holder and former Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, had chaired the initial workshop on poverty, and expressed her satisfaction in seeing the outcomes being initiated.  She also thanked all involved.

 

Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee echoed their thanks.

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the progress achieved by the Building Financial Resilience Group be noted; and

 

(2)        the information be used to inform and educate colleagues and members of the public to enable them to take positive steps to build financial resilience.

Supporting documents: