The Board gave consideration to a presentation on Poverty by Councillor Cath Ball, Deputy Cabinet Member (poverty) and the Policy Manager.
The Board established in March 2020 a task and finish group to ascertain the nature and extent of strategies and services designed to address poverty as well as inequality and disadvantage. Members were informed that since March 2020, the unemployment rate in the Borough had increased by more than 5,000. By October there were 13,680 claimants in Oldham, 5,355 of those were due to Covid-19. The £20 uplift for Universal Credit claimants was due to end on the 30th April however many people relied on the uplift.
Members were informed of the poverty governance and structures. The Poverty Agenda Group were made up of community groups, residents and partnership organisations including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Issues would be passed on to the Poverty Steering Group consisting of Officers, Action Together and the DWP, updates would then go back to the Poverty Agenda Group putting residents and community groups in the centre of the Poverty Framework.
Members were provided with the aims that the Greater Manchester Poverty Group which had asked all Councils to sign up and to work on. Officers were currently in the process of updating the Equality Strategy and the socio-economic aspect however the socio-economic duty was removed from the Equality Act by the Government in 2012. The Steering Group had agreed further actions which would be progressed with the use of two Officers working on the issues half a day a week.
Members were informed of the work ongoing with the Children’s Society scrutinising Oldham’s Local Welfare Provision, Get Oldham Working’s project to help residents with clothes for interviews and the Reel Group who helped with the food bank and had recently found a premises to run the Cloths Rack. The Warm Homes Scheme had liaised with energy companies to provide emergency packages to prevent families from being cut off. In 2018, 11.7% of the population in Oldham were in fuel poverty however due to the unprecedented pandemic the percentage would now be higher.
The Covid-19 pandemic had highlighted the UK’s digital divide which amplified the impact of social isolation and loneliness particularly for those shielding such as older people and those with serious health conditions. Many young people fell outside of national programmes to aid remote learning. The Greater Manchester Mayor had called upon businesses to support young people through donations of unused digital devices or a £300 donation that would ensure the young person could continue their education through the purchase of a digital kit bundle.
A number of projects had been set up to help residents with food packages from groups such as the Bread and Butter thing, Family Pantry, Family Action, the European Islamic centre and many others. The Ancora Project was now back at the Foodbank and the Greater Manchester Poverty Group aimed to have financial support available at all Foodbanks. Oldham was in the process of preparing a Food Security Strategy as well as providing Holiday food through Government funding for half term and Easter. A separate fund would be provided for the summer half term and the summer holidays.
1. The presentation be noted.
2. The report be referred to Cabinet.