Agenda item

Tackling Poverty through Partnerships.


Judith Langdon presented the report, delivered a presentation and answered the councillors’ questions, with additional comments from Matthew Gatehouse and Sharran Lloyd.


Are the Poverty Action Group and the Poverty Steering Group different?

This was a typo: it is the Tackling Poverty Steering Group.

Inequality is a huge piece of work in its own right. Should we not pin it down, for practical reasons?

Primarily, we are talking about income inequality. In terms of near future actions, we are looking to set up an action-focussed working group around that theme specifically. We don’t want to pre-judge what that wider group comes out with. Today was about discussing working in partnership, and I want to tap into that wider partnership view.

The PSB is meant to tackle poverty – why should we ask them to do something they should already be doing?

The appropriate level of member involvement in the Poverty Network Group was debated for the first meeting. The decision taken at that point was to go with the Social Justice Advisory Group members. It is a very fluid group, evolving and dynamic, open to anyone with a passionate interest in that topic. I don’t wish to give the impression that the PSB’s members are not doing anything to address poverty. A parallel with our own organisation might be helpful: if we were to go back two years, there is a huge amount of activity within our own organisation, the effect of which is to reduce poverty, address its causes and effects, but which is not necessarily being drawn under that banner. The same is perhaps true, to some extent, of the PSB, in that there is no shortage of activity but with this piece we are hoping to put some flesh on the bones of that aspiration. Hopefully, by providing a greater degree of coordination across those groups, it can become more than a sum of its parts.

Can we, as a Select Committee, ask the Partners to feed back to us every 6 or 12 months on the progress they’ve made towards tackling poverty, what steps they’ve been taking, etc.?

Typically, when a topic is the subject of partnership activity, it is in the spirit of partnership working to report on that as a partnership. Within that, yes, there would be specific actions that could be attributed to individual partners to see the contribution they have made towards that. We would be very happy to continue to report on that. This committee – in its previous form as the PSB Committee – has brought in partners from Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Natural Resources Wales, etc., to be held accountable for their contributions to PSB commitments, and that would be true for this Public Services Committee as well. We are also looking at this through the lens of where other regional structures play a role in this, that are not necessarily coordinated by MCC, and the impacts of how that work at a regional level plays out in our localities. That work will become more crucial as we move forward.

The pandemic will mean many people are now in poverty, who weren’t before. Has this been seen yet, or is it still yet to happen?

There is a sense among the partners that it is starting to come through now, in terms of increased universal credit claims and Citizens Advice handling an increased number of employment-related issues. So it is starting to come through but not yet in the form of a tidal wave that we have feared. But that’s not to say it won’t come. So far, one of the more reassuring things has been that for the most part, the systems that are in place to pick people up are working. For instance, there has been recent data about food bank use: it has shown an increase in Monmouthshire, but not a huge one. The general feeling is that people are finding their way to the services to support them (this is largely anecdotal, as there is always a lag between anecdotes and data.) That will continue to be a key focus: that many people will be facing these challenges for the first time, and we need to get them to the right support at the earliest possible opportunity. For example, a piece of work through the Steering Group has been to create a new resource on our website that aggregates into a single place all the different sources of support that someone might need.

Chair’s Summary:

The point about defining inequality and poverty is an important one. We heard the question about having feedback from the partner organisations – we welcome that. There is bound to have been an increase during this time: there have certainly been those who have lost their jobs and not been able to furlough. We have a huge responsibility now to take this forward, and do meaningful work.


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