One of the biggest issues we face in especially our Diverse Communities is Unity.
We have our problems, but, it is the ability of how we overcome them in order to engage effectively in the bigger picture which is the Governance of our City and indeed Country.
This week the Government finally voted to include Caste Discrimination in the Equality Act after a long Campaign, by some members of the Hindu Community. It showed the ability to invoke change if it is campaigned for with one united voice although there appeared to be stiff opposition for this legislation. However, is it no a question of Justice and Equality for all. But well done to all those involved. Despite many high profile Politicians remaining silent on the subject, both locally and nationally, which questioned real commitment to equality, despite it being 20 years since the of Stephen Lawrence.
The Black Churches are now getting on board with the need to assist in the engagement of not just the Black community, but, also the communities in which their Churches are based in order to get the message across, about, the need for Social and Political Engagement , along with taking up Civic Duty. Also to assist in helping the Community with the ever increasing issue of Poverty. Voter Registration is also important and we are now establishing Community Voter Registration Volunteers to maintain the Voter Registration drive.
St Basil's has always been doing great work in this City especially with Young Homeless People in terms of not just providing accomodation but also assisting them with personal development.
They also also as good example of reflective governance, which is basically reflecting the demographic make up of its service users.
People in this City are concerned with the ever widening poverty gap, however, alarmingly there are also people who believe that the devastating CUTS are not going to impact upon their lives. But with Council Tax Cuts and Bedroom Taxes we will undoubtably see an increase in evictions and an increase in Bed & Breakfast Accommodation along with increase in the reliance of Food banks in 2013 Britain.
What can we really do about this:
1. We have a Youth Forum Meeting for 14-24 Years Old's this Saturday 4th May 11am - 1pm at Goals Perry Barr visit www.b-e-f.org.uk/youth for more information.
2. We are working with BARAC in order to inform the Communities at Grass roots Level of the issues and impact the CUTS will be having upon their lives. The first Public Meeting will be in early June. Details shortly.
3. We have arrange a further 7 'Bring on the Vote' Family Community Gospel Concerts in the coming moths in order to engage our communities in the importance of Voter registration, Using their Vote and also Civic Participation.
4. Arranging further Community Meetings regarding Civic Duty Opportunities.
WE need to join up the dots by engaging with existing structures in order to be heard and then invoke the necessary change in order to move forward as a Community and not individuals.
Finally, for today when we talk about electing representatives we must now start looking at the individual person and not the Party. We need representatives that puts our Communities first and not the agenda of their Party, which does not really reflects the needs of the people of this City.
We've had the Mcpherson Report and Birmingham also Commissioned the Judge Singh, in addition to others also.
Despite various recommendations what has really changed. Britain's demographics are ever changing, but, is it being embraced, may be celebrate which is totally different.
The Equality Act is being watered down and only last week we saw Parliament vote against incorporating Caste Discrmination in the Equality Act.
We see the BME Community especially the African Caribbean community being subjected to excessive stop n search, we see high unemployment of African Caribbean Youth and an ever increasing Prison Population and Mental Health, coupled with the impact of the CUTS and an increase in POVERTY. How much of this is related to the lack of equality and justice.
Furthermore, when we ask why there is no reflective governance and Local & National level, we hear the phrase tokensim as if the BME Community are not good enough and needs a favour, this was highlighted last year during the protest when Birmingham City Council excluded the African Caribbean Members from their Cabinet, despite being more than qualified.
We have also seen the recent case of the Birmingham City Council BME Managers at Birmingham Employment Tribunal.
Really where are we today?
Have we been allowing Political Correctness and Window Dressing to dominate us?
Is Race Discrimination being taken seriously?
Is society prepared to embrace diversity and not just celebrate it?
Indeed who knows more about Multi-Cultural living than African Caribbean people, especially in the West Indies, where everyone irrespective of who they are sees themselves as being West Indian.
Its time for us to take responsibility for our own destiny and Unite in order to demand justice and equality for all and not just a small sector of Society. To do this we must engage the existing system and seek to elect representatives and not necessarily parties that will look after the interests of the population as a whole and not just sections.
It's time for Communities to stick together and adopt the principle that enough is enough. We see issues in football where BME players are being abused on the Pitch by colleagues and from the stands. We need positive action but we can invoke change if we unite and work together.
Our own Community divisions have been exposed especially during the recent Caste Discrimination debate and this has been played upon.
It is time to unite, a colleague was telling me this week that he remembered when Black & Asian People were United and used to work together. What has happened?
We must develop a Positive Mental Attitude for change, we can get Justice & Equality, only if we use our collective voices and demand it.
Remember engage take part in your civic duties and remember register to vote and importantly use it. The decision makers are in power owing to a minority going to the Ballot boxes. Time to send a message and demand changed.
Remember Positive Mental Attitude
Over the past few weeks at various Community Meetings many people have brought to my attention their concerns for relatives that are in Prison and Immigration Detention Centres.
Indeed some very hair raising concerns have been voiced and we have been seeking a way forward in order to monitor and scrutinise the Prison Service be it in public private control, such a HMP Birmingham more commonly known as Winson Green Prison.
The Department of Justice has an Independent Monitoring Board, which are members of the public that take on this free Civic Role and Meet monthly as a body with Prison Officials and they also have 24/7 access to the Prison in order to check on inmates in terms of their welbeing.
These post can be applied for by Members of the Public; who go through a selection process and training is given to successful appointees.
In the case of HMP BIrmingham there is only one Independent Monitoring Board Member from the BME Community and infact over 50% of the inmates are from the BME Community. Therefore, this represents an issues surrounding demographic's yet again.
Understanding the needs of individuals that are in Prison is quite important and with various anxieties from family members, this needs to be addressed. It isn't an issue or argument about guilt or innocence but one of welfare and humanity.
This in itself is an important civic role and I would urge those of you that are interested to visit the Department of Justice Website www.imb.gov.uk .
There appears to be a lack of publicity surrounding these Civic Roles, however, we are determined to ensure that the public are aware of these duties and it's a decision for you to apply should you wish to do so.
After another busy week. I have concluded that we must now let what is good about us shine.
There is always too much emphasis and indeed money thrown at negativity and not enough credit given to what is good about society.
Currently major emphasis is being placed on the issues surrounding the past but not the present and indeed the future.
I met this week with the Jamaican High Commissioner on some very positive notes to Nationally build on the legacy of the Olympics. Also met a Community Group in Brixton discussing various issues including the Slavery Compensation Scheme researched and presented at the meeting by the Historians from University college London (UCL). The most positive thing for me with this was the value placed upon our Community with the Government paying over £40 million in compensation in 1833, which represented 60% of the British Economy. Also the fact that we could build own multi million pound economy today if we unite.
It is really time to be positive and throw away the negativity, our young people need direction and we have arrange a follow up Youth Forum Meeting on Saturday 4th may 2013 at Goals Perry Barr, for 14-24 year olds. Time for our Young People to be shown the positive way forward. All are welcome please spread the word.
Believe it or not just this morning after an application made 6 months ago, I have been confirmed as a Local Authority School Governor for Glenmead Primary School in Great Barr. Now if I can do it you can also time to get involved and let what is good about us shine as it speaks volumes.
Remember we all have a contribution to make set get involved.
Following a hectic short week; this included dealing with the Flu. Friday I was privileged to speak to some youngsters at the Church of God of Prophecy at Aberdeen Street Winson Green along with Sgt Paul Street from Birmingham Community safety Partnership.
Friday Evening in a meeting concerning the Cuts with Barac at the ACMC Dudley Road Winson Green, with Alderman Phillip Murphy and Lee jasper and Chaired by Maxi Hayles.
A very Community involved Friday in preparation for the main event on Saturday Evening which was our first Community Family Gospel Concert which is called ‘Bring on the Vote’ at Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church, the first of a series on concerts in order to increase Political and civic Engagement of local Communities in Birmingham, driving home the specific message of Voter Registration and indeed the importance of using your right to vote.
A very successful night with nearly 400 people attending on the evening of a lovely Saturday, to experience to joys of singing, dancing and also listening to stimulating poetry from Young People and being reminded about their Political and Civic responsibilities in not only taking part in the process but also in encouraging other to take part including their family.
People were reminded that they do have a voice and the priceless value placed upon it by Politicians when seeking election gives you an example on the real power that is with the people of this City.
They were told about Civic responsibilities, School Governors, Magistrates, Custody Visitors, Councillors & MP’s etc.
The fact that Politicians are accountable to the public was also highlighted, however, it is a 2 way process, if your not registered to vote or don’t vote then can you really demand accountability when you refuse to participate in the process?
The Audience were reminded that after a successful and enjoyable night of Music and Worship that they must take the message home and spread the word.
The bottom line is this is just the beginning, our next concert will be towards the end of May and we intend to get the message across get involved, register to vote and use your vote.
When one asks what are the Churches doing, why not join in and help them do something as oppose to just asking.
No more time for talk; just get on with it. It’s that simple.
Thank you to everyone that attended and participated and Pastor Scott and his team at Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church for their cooperation in hosting this; the first of many. Also thanks to Perry Beeches Baptist Church, Dave Prince & Newstyle Radio, Sting FM, Pete Pennant CBLC, Sharon Thompson JP, Chosen, Sweet Harmony, Bobby Woods, Sax, Doctor Love, Lytie, Pastor Owen Uriah, Suriya, Liam Francis, Kadeem, Annette Bee & Peter Spence and our back of house team Devon, Jerome & Joshua.
Finally Many Thanks to The Voice Newspaper for their Support.
As part of the welfare reform programme, the Government has abolished the Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans elements of the Social Fund, which were administered centrally by DWP. From 1 April 2013, responsibility for this emergency welfare provision has been passed to local authorities.Birmingham’s Local Welfare Provision policy was agreed following extensive consultation, starting in autumn 2012. Using the Multi-Agency Welfare Reform Committee, we subjected the draft policy to vigorous scrutiny from voluntary organisations working on the front line of crisis support in the city, which resulted in further amendments.
In shaping the policy, we were determined to achieve two key objectives.
1. To avoid stigmatising those in crisis by providing ‘vouchers’ or other identifiable tokens that would mark an individual out as the recipient of a Crisis Grant.
2. We did not want to push vulnerable people further into debt by compelling them to take out a loan. It is worth noting that a sizeable part of the previous Social Fund was based upon the provision of individual loans.
You will find the Cabinet Report and the detailed document setting out the policy attached below, but to summarise, the key elements are:
These are designed to meet expenses that have arisen as a consequence of a disaster and cannot be met from any other source. These expenses must be the only way of preventing or mitigating serious risk to the health and safety of the applicant or their immediate family.
Payments would routinely cover the provision of food, nappies and other essential items such as bedding or crockery and will be facilitated via a pre-paid supermarket card. Other forms of support, for example pre-paid bus tickets, will be provided in exceptional circumstances. We are also working with partners to provide short-term assistance to those facing issues around fuel poverty as a result of a crisis situation.
Community Support Grants
These provide furniture and furnishing, white goods and other household goods required to enable people to continue to live independently. Items will be procured via the City Council and delivered direct to the applicant.
There have been suggestions that we have reached some kind of exclusive arrangement with ASDA stores for the Crisis Grants element of the scheme. This is simply not the case.
We are engaged in talks with a wide range of retailers in order to ensure that those in receipt of a Crisis Grant have both choice and easy access to a local outlet. A number of these retailers were unable to join the scheme in time for the 1 April start date. Negotiations with these other retailers are continuing with a view to engaging them in the scheme as soon as is possible.
Contrary to media reports, many other authorities are not providing cash grants. The other Core Cities are all making use of pre-payment cards. Several are taking a loan-based approach, which we in Birmingham have firmly ruled out for the reasons outlined above. Some councils are imposing very stringent long-term residency tests for applicants or making explicit use of vouchers or stamps.
Several welfare changes come into effect this week, including the new Under Occupancy Rules dubbed the ‘Bedroom Tax’. Whilst we cannot as yet fully quantify the impact of these changes, we can safely assume that they will generate much increased demand for a whole range of services of last resort, including the Council’s own Local Welfare Provision.
It is for that reason that we intend to keep the operation of the new scheme under review and will be looking to make any necessary modifications in order to protect the interests of vulnerable people.
Councillor Sir Albert Bore
Leader of the Council
BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL
Strategic Director of Resources
Date of Decision:
4th March 2013
Local Welfare Provision (Localisation of the former Social Fund)
Key Decision: Yes
Forward Plan number: 467983/ 2013
If not in the Forward Plan:
(please "X" box)
Chief Executive approved
O&S Chairman approved
Relevant Cabinet Member(s):
Councillor Ian Ward and Councillor John Cotton
Relevant O&S Chairman:
Councillor Carl Rice
1. Purpose of report:
1.1 This report seeks approval from Cabinet on the policy for Local Welfare Provision in Birmingham from April 2013.
2. Decision(s) recommended:
2.1 To approve the Councils policy for Local Welfare Provision in Birmingham due to take effect from April 2013.
2.2 To authorise the Corporate Director of Resources (in consultation with the relevant Cabinet Member) to make necessary modifications and/or minor amendments in relation to the scheme for Local Welfare Provision. As this is a new scheme, for which there is limited data, an initial scheme will be introduced for the first 6 months to enable the Council to record and analyse meaningful data. From October 2013 onwards, the initial scheme may be modified to reflect the analysis. This approach is in line with other authorities across the country and is supported by internal stakeholders and voluntary and third sector partners
Lead Contact Officer(s):
Chris Gibbs, Assistant Director Revenues and Benefits
Martin O’Neill, Head of Benefits
0121 464 6387
3.1 Internal The Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion and Equalities, The Chief Executive, Strategic Director of Corporate Resources, Legal Services and Director of Corporate Finance have been consulted.
3.2 External Whilst there is no legal obligation to consult on the discretionary scheme in Local Welfare Provision, considerable consultation has been undertaken as part of the Multi Agency Welfare Reform Group, Probation Service, HM Prisons, internal stakeholders, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), JobcentrePlus, the Independent Review Service and other local authorities.
4. Compliance Issues:
4.1 Are the recommended decisions consistent with the Council’s policies, plans and strategies?
The scheme is designed to provide emergency financial assistance and community care grants to alleviate immediate personal crisis and hardship to some of the most vulnerable citizens in Birmingham.
4.2 Financial Implications
As part of the devolution of the former Social Fund, Government have published the financial settlement for all local authorities covering set up costs, administration costs and Programme Funding for local schemes for the financial years 2013/14 to 2014/15.
The details of the allocation of the above mentioned funding to Birmingham can be found at appendix 1.
A breakdown of the forecasted spend against actual budget is provided in appendix 2. This will enable effective financial monitoring to be put in place as part of the scheme to ensure that the award of grants and crisis payments will not exceed the level of Programme Funding. Once the funding has been exhausted for the financial year, no further awards will be made.
Funding for Year three of the scheme will be subject to evaluation of the expenditure for the first two years which will be carried out by the DWP. The evaluation will be designed to review how the programme funding has been allocated and spent between the two elements. This will provide DWP with the relevant information to decide on future funding allocation.
4.3 Legal Implications
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 provides for the abolition of Social Fund payments formerly administered by DWP and its replacement with a scheme of Local Welfare Provision to be administered by Local Authorities with effect from 1st April 2013.
The Government’s only stipulation for Local Welfare Provision is that we should use the grant to support customers in ‘immediate threat to health and safety’. We are also required to use this grant to provide some financial support to customers moving into the community to replace the existing scheme of Community Care Grants.
Other elements of the discretionary Social Fund will be retained by the DWP, nationally, in the form of short term and budget advances: cash advances and loans for benefit claimants. This facility will be appropriate for claimants that need emergency living expenses.
4.4 Public Sector Equality Duty (see separate guidance note)
Cabinet must have due regard to the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010. The initial screening of the Equality Impact Needs Assessment (EINA) has demonstrated there are no requirements to complete a full screening. See attached as Appendix 3. However, given the importance of putting fairness and equality at the heart of our decision making, the scheme will be promoted across all sectors and monthly monitoring of authorised and refused cases will take place to ensure there is no discrimination being applied. This monitoring and evaluation will also enable the Benefits Service to target resource in assisting those most in need and those groups of people who are under represented, based on the monitoring data. Applications will be limited to a maximum of 2 awards per year. However, for applicants with physical disabilities, where it is recognised the disability will have a detrimental effect on household goods, the maximum applications will increase from 2 to 3 per year.
The Policy for Local Welfare Provision in Birmingham is attached as appendix 4.
5. Relevant background/chronology of key events:
5.1 In October 2010 The Government published the White paper “Universal Credit: Welfare That Works”. The White Paper detailed the Government’s proposals for wide-ranging welfare reform which have subsequently been included within the Welfare Reform Act 2012.
5.2 Included in these proposals is the abolition of the Social Fund, currently administered by the DWP. This is to be replaced with a local system of welfare provision, administered by local authorities from April 2013, which will be designed to meet local needs and priorities.
5.3 The funding currently in place for Social Fund will now be transferred to local authorities in the form of Programme Funding as described in section 4.
5.4 The Government believes the system will be better delivered locally and will empower local communities to better identify and meet the needs of the most vulnerable within their own localities. It has also identified that through localising the service it may be possible to improve the quality of the decision making, as well as integrating with locally designed programmes that can provide complementary avenues of assistance. It is not intended that local welfare provision should replicate the current system of Social Fund payments. Local authorities are being provided with the discretion to develop a scheme that is most effective in delivering the needs of its own citizens.
5.5 The specific elements of the Social Fund that will be replaced with local provision are:
Community Care Grants
5.6 The new scheme will be administered as part of the function of the Benefit Service, in line with other local authorities in England.
5.7 The local scheme must be operational with effect from 1 April 2013.
5.8 Feedback received from the Department for Work and Pensions in early February shows that Birmingham City Council is one of only two Local Authorities within central England with a status of green in terms of readiness for implementing the Local Welfare Provision.
5.9 The key principles are set out in the attached policy are summarised below;
The Birmingham scheme will introduce a system of Crisis Grants which will be made for the provision of the following:
Food and heating
Nappies and other essential items such as bedding, crockery etc.
Other forms of support will be considered in exceptional circumstances i.e. pre-paid bus tickets
Payments will be made via a system of payment cards credited to the relevant value of the award. Once authorised, these cards will be distributed through the City’s 4 Homeless Centres and can be spent in specific supermarkets.
The Birmingham scheme will also introduce a system of Community Support Grants considered for the provision of the following:
Furniture and Furnishings
It is our proposal to pilot an initial scheme for the first 6 months. During this time, items will be procured through the City Councils Corporate Procurement system and delivered direct to the applicants address. From October onwards, the Council will aim to procure local suppliers.
The principles of the Birmingham scheme are designed to be:
Accessible to applicants
Delivered on a grant-based system that will not require applicants to repay any award made
A streamlined assessment and decision making process
Make use of technology to minimise cash transactions
Deliver value for money through efficient procurement of key goods and services
‘Out of hours’ provision for those in crisis
Methods of payment will be respectful of the dignity of those who apply
These key principles have been shared with internal stakeholders and voluntary sector partners who support our proposed approach.
5.10 Assessments for Community Care Grants and Crisis Payments will be made against a set of eligibility criteria based on an individual’s personal circumstances. This will include consideration of the specific needs of the individual in terms of any crisis being experienced. In line with other discretionary schemes, a selection criteria is also being developed to allow transparency and accountability.
5.11 The scheme for Local Welfare Provision in Birmingham will be publicised primarily through the City Councils website and via third sector organisations in the city. As this is a cash limited budget, a decision has been made not to promote the scheme amongst service users however, following evaluation of the monitoring within the first 6 months, this decision may need to be reconsidered, i.e. low applications from minority ethnic groups or pensioners.
6. Evaluation of alternative option(s):
6.1 The City Council can elect not to adopt a scheme of Local Welfare Provision as this is not a statutory requirement. The funding is not ring fenced and as such may be utilised in any way in which Councils see fit.
6.2 However it is recommended by Government that Authorities do in fact utilise the devolved programme funding to support the needs of its most vulnerable citizens in times of crisis and this is the policy intention for Birmingham.
7. Reasons for Decision(s):
7.1 The policy will enable the City to deliver a suitable scheme that aligns with corporate requirements and within acceptable timescales to alleviate crisis and financial hardship.
7.2 This will enable the council to closely monitor and if necessary to modify the scheme and carry out effective evaluation of the initial outcomes following its introduction in April 2013.
Signatures (or relevant Cabinet Member approval to adopt the Decisions recommended):
Chief Officer(s): ………………………………………………………
Cabinet Member: ………………………………………………………
Cabinet Member: ………………………………………………………
List of Background Documents used to compile this Report:
List of Appendices accompanying this Report (if any):
1. Birmingham’s funding allocation
2. Forecast expenditure against budget
3. Equality Assessment Initial Screening
4. Policy for Local Welfare Provision
For those of you that are not aware, People experiencing hardship will no longer be able to claim Emergency Welfare Funds from the Department of Works & Pensions.
These claims are now to be made to your Local Council in this case Birmingham. It is my understanding that claims are to be made online by visiting www.birmingham.gov.uk/lwp the information on how to proceed will appear there, along with the application link.
Please note that any successful claim will receive ASDA vouchers, white goods and or furniture.
There will be no cash so there may be an issue for Electricity and Gas Top Up's, as I understand Asda may not provide this service.
The Service I understand is live as from today, however, if you cannot access the internet for any reason, I suggest that you go to your Local Neighbourhood Office for more information or indeed contact your Local Councillor as this scheme is now administered by Birmingham City Council. To find your Local Councillor visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/councillors
The Following PDF's are Available for Download
Local Welfare Provision Power Point
Local Welfare Provision Policy Document
Please feedback any difficulties you may encounter.