Government Welfare Cap to be imposed this Autumn in Cornwall

The Government is has been rather quiet on its next phase of the Welfare Reforms which involves the introduction of a benefit cap. This cap will come into effect from autumn this year. It will affect residents who live in our communities in Cornwall.

As part of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, the current benefit cap levels are being reduced nationally in autumn 2016.  An exact date is still to be confirmed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), although it is expected to be implemented nationally from November this year.

The new benefit cap levels will be:

  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) for a family or couple
  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) for a single person with children living with them
  • £257.69 per week (£13,400 a year) for a single person

The Benefits included in the new cap limits are:

  • Housing Benefit (HB)
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Incapacity Benefit, severe disability allowance, maternity allowance, bereavement benefit and widows benefit
  • Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance (assessment phase and work related activity   group)

Anyone in receipt of the following benefits and allowances will be exempt from the cap:

  • Working tax credit (receipt of or meeting the qualifying conditions for)
  • Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Attendance Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefit
  • Employment Support Allowance Support Component
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • War Pension Scheme
  • Carers Allowance*
  • Guardian’s Allowance*

*Carers Allowance and Guardians Allowance are currently counted as part of the benefit cap, however the DWP has stated there will be a change of legislation to make both of these benefits exempt.

The DWP has written to all customers nationally who are likely to be affected by the new benefit cap levels.  In Cornwall, based on current data, 625 customers are likely to be impacted, with 84 of those affect reside in Cornwall Housing properties. This figure includes those customers whose Housing Benefit is currently capped.

A leaflet has been made available: leaflet/bite size guide.  Information is available on Cornwall Council’s website: www.cornwall.gov.uk/benefitcap, and will also be available in libraries, one stop shops, and GP surgeries in the form of a leaflet with key information and contact details.

If you feel you be affected by these chances, Cornwall Council has advisors ready to discuss options with residents on 0300 1234 121 option 5.

How should Cornwall Council be governed – Mayor, Leader or do you care?

Cornwall Council is undertaking two reviews on how it is governed. The first is working with the Boundary Commission to look at the numbers of Councillors, which will need to be in place for the 2021 Council election. The other review is how the Council is structured, ie with the strong leader model, Mayor, hybrid system or committee. The reason for both reviews is because we said we would undertake them as part of our devolution deal.

A series of public meeting has been taking place around Cornwall to gather those views. There is also a series of ‘evidence gathering sessions’ who are asking different agencies, partners and members for their views. The questions asked are:

  • Is the current Cabinet and Leader system the best way for Cornwall to be governed;
  • What should Cornwall Council responsibilities be and what should the Towns and Parish Councils responsibilities be;
  • How should decisions about public services in Cornwall be made in the future.

The events outlined the options open to Cornwall and were an opportunity for people to discuss how they think decisions about public services in Cornwall should be made in the future. That feedback and suggestions will be used to help inform the full Governance Review.

The Council has also set-up an online poll. This can be accessed HERE. Please take the time to see the short films and other related information. But importantly, take the survey.

One of the questions is should Cornwall have a directly elected Mayor? much like you see in London and other metropolitan areas. Why is the review asking the question about having a Mayor? The Government has said, powers can be transferred to areas that have a directly elected Mayor. For instance, a Council can lower business rates, but cannot raise them about 2% unless you have a Mayor.

I am not sold on, in fact, I do not believe Cornwall should have a Mayor. Yes, the Mayor is democratically elected by residents one of the true if only plus point on why you should have a Mayor. Whereas A Leader is elected by the members of the Council – the same as town and parish Mayors and Chairpersons. At Cornwall Council the Leader is voted into position every 12 months. This gives the safeguards to make sure the wider membership are engaged and the Leader is not off on his own agenda.  Mayors are for a set election period and unless no-confidence motions are tabled, and other legal reasons, you cannot remove a Mayor. I also believe too much power is in the hands of one person, and lacks accountability.

The Leader and Cabinet system works. I say this as both a former back-bencher, and in the Cabinet now. The biggest challenge is how those not in the Cabinet are engaged. This comes down to culture from both the Cabinet and back-benchers. It is also understanding what you can and cannot do.

I look forward to the outcome of people’s views, and how we can make a governance system that delivers good services in Cornwall.

Congestion on the Harbour Head Road.

Over the last few weeks, the Harbour Head Road – an adopted highway – has been getting congested. The most congested day seems to be Thursday when Shearings Coaches park in areas they should not. This brings chaos to the area. I have contacted enforcement to deal with this, and will be writing to the management of the company to highlight the congestion being caused by their coaches.

Another issue has arisen is those with and without Blue Badge permits have started park all along this road. Holders of Blue Badges are allowed to park on double yellow up to three hours as long as they do not cause obstructions. But now other cars are now parking along this stretch of road which adds to the congestions and as a consequences of this people cannot pass those parked cars, this in turn backs-up to Fore Street causing even more congestion -much to the annoyance and anger of those trying to navigate this street.

From this I have been speaking to highways and enforcement to address those issues. Firstly, I have requested more enforcement. Secondly I have been given permission by highways to place the ‘no-waiting’ cones along this stretch of the highway on both sides of the road, apart from the bus stop to see if this limits the parking along this stretch of road over the August period. I plan to place these cones this week.

We have two large car parks in Porthleven. Sadly though, people seem to think they can park anywhere they like no matter the problems it causes.

Cones now in place

Cones now in place

Cornwall’s HeadStart Kernow programme is set to receive £8.9 million to help with mental health and wellbeing for 10-16 year olds

Following on from the huge success of a Good Ofsted judgement, today, I can officially announce further fantastic news for Cornwall’s young people. This news is Cornwall has been awarded nearly £9 million (£8.9m) to continue its work in supporting the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people over the next five years.thROYPQJ23

Cornwall is one of just six areas across the country to receive a Big Lottery Fund grant this year which will be used to support the delivery of the HeadStart Kernow Strategy from 2016 to 2021.

The aim of the national HeadStart programme is to equip young people to be able to cope better with difficult circumstances in their lives so as to prevent them experiencing common mental health problems before they become serious issues. Previous to today’s announcement, Cornwall Council was awarded £500k which was used to set-up the programme which importantly, have been developed in partnership with young people.

HeadStart Kernow is not just the Council, as this is a partnership which includes Devon and Cornwall Police, NHS Kernow, Cornwall Foundation Trust, Cornwall Association of Secondary Head Teachers CASH), Cornwall Association of Primary Head Teachers (CAPH) and the voluntary and community sector.

HeadStart Kernow focuses on four key areas:

  • A child’s time and experiences at school
  • Their ability to access the services they need
  • Their home life and relationships with family members
  • their interaction with family members

Over the past two years the programme has worked with 61 primary schools, 10 secondary schools and one special school across Cornwall, helping to support around 10,00 young people aged between 10 and 16 years.

20 July 2016, roll out beginning in September 2016. Activity will be phased, based upon need, assets and capacity and will be iterative in its nature – we will learn and adapt.

HeadStart Kernow young people's board and those involved with the programme

HeadStart Kernow young people’s board and those involved with the programme

With the £8.9m pot of funding, HeadStart will engage All Primary (235) and Secondary Schools (32), seven Alternative Provision Academies in Cornwall, and all of the five Special Schools by working in partnership to maximise the impact of the HeadStart funding along with voluntary sector providers and the wider community.

This is a fantastic achievement which will help us to continue to deliver pro-active and preventive emotional health support for young people across Cornwall.

This funding will be used to support a range of activities in schools and in local communities, help develop the workforce and improve support systems to ensure that all children and young people in Cornwall can access the right support when they need it.

I would like to thank the HeadStart team, let by Richard Head, and all those involved for their hard-work over the last two years and for convincing The Big Lottery HeadStart programme our project here in Cornwall will help young people deal with emotional and mental health issues. As the portfolio holder, I am very proud of all their work. This money will make a difference.

 

Cornwall Council supports The Royal British Legion’s campaign ‘Count them in’

At today’s full council, I submitted a motion that would lend Cornwall Council support to The Royal British Legion ‘Count them in’ campaign which calls the Government to include a new topic in the 2021 census. The motion is as:

This Council notes

  1. The obligations it owes to the Armed Forces community within Cornwall as enshrined in the Armed Forces Covenant; that the Armed Forces community should not face disadvantage in the provision of services and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most;
  2. The absence of the definitive and comprehensive statistics on the size or demographics of the Armed Forces community within Cornwall Council. This includes serving Regular and Reserve personnel, veterans and their families;
  3. That the availability of such data would greatly assist the Council, local partner agencies, the voluntary sector and national Government in the planning a provision of services to address the unique needs of the Armed Forces community within Cornwall Council.

In light of the above, this Council moves to support and promote The Royal British Legion’s call to include a new topic in the 2021 census that concerns military service and membership of the Armed Forces community. The motion further calls on the Government to approve the final census questionnaire through legislation in 2019.

Why is there need to have a question on the census? It is quite simple, the lack of clear data about the size and location of the Armed Forces community , including regular and reserve personnel, veterans and their families, makes it difficult for service providers to fully meet their needs.

The British Legion estimates that the Armed Forces community makes up around one in ten of the general population, with around 2.8m veterans living in the UK, along with 2.1m dependent adults, 1m dependent children and up to 290,000 “hidden” members of the ex serving community who are living in care homes etc.

Despite this large population however, the 2011 UK census only contained two questions related to the Armed Forces – one asking whether a member of the armed Forces usually lived at that address and the second whether the respondent usually lived at an Armed Forces base for over 30 days a year. This failed to collect detailed information on veterans or their dependents, and only provided limited information about reservists and dependents of those serving.

The Armed Forces Covenant, introduced by the Government, sets out how members of the Armed Forces and their families should be treated and yet we do not have the information to help achieve this. At Cornwall Council, we have updated our own version to reflect we need to do more.

I am pleased to say the vote was unanimous with no Councillor voting against this motion.

Are young people at risk of radicalisation in Cornwall via social media?

Terrorist organisations, such as ISIL, are trying to radicalise and recruit young and vulnerable people through the extensive use of social media and the internet. Young people, some as young as 14, have tried to leave the UK to travel to join ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Therefore, I want to highlight this issue both as a parent and a Councillor and to raise the awareness of online harm and how every parent needs to be aware of the risks posed by the online activity of extremist and terrorist groups.

I have in my Councillor role undertaken a couple of bouts of Prevent training. This is about raising awareness of those at risk at radicalisation. We have all seen the news, but radicalisation is not just about groups like ISIL, people are being radicalised on both the extreme left and right wing agenda

The current threat level from international terrorism for the UK is assessed as severe. This means an attack is highly likely. Furthermore, it is unlikely to go below severe. The security levels are:

  • Low – and attack is unlikely;
  • Moderate – and attack is possible, but not likely;
  • Substantial – an attack is a strong possibility;
  • Severe – and attack is highly likely;
  • Critical – an attack is imminent.

Evidence shows that most terrorist offences committed by people are under the age of 30. People might think the potential for radicalisation in Cornwall does not happen. It does. Whilst the actual numbers of those who have been referred to the pathway cannot be disclosed, 95% of referrals in Cornwall over the last six-years are with those aged 14-25. In the last 12 months all the referrals in Cornwall were for those aged under-18.

Over 60% of the referrals received were related to International Terrorism (ISIS), 15% were for extreme right wing and 20% had no single ideology

Young males are most at risk, and here in Cornwall this is associated with their online gaming and access to chat rooms. Let me be clear, I am not demonising gaming, or gamers, as there are other vulnerabilities associated with each of these cases, but the internet has the largest impact, principally as a source of information and as a communication tool.

Social media is a huge recruiting platform. 50,000 twitter accounts follow ISIL, with each account has around 1000 followers. Other social media platforms are used include:

  • YouTube is also used to host videos, both of official ISIL output and videos created by users themselves. Multiple ‘dummy’ accounts will be set up so that when videos are taken down they can be reposted quickly. Users will post YouTube links across their own social media platforms in order to disseminate material, particularly Twitter and Facebook;
  • ASK.FM People considering travel to Syria or Iraq sometimes use Ask.fm to ask British jihadis and female ISIL supporters about travel, living standards, recruitment, fighting and broader ideology. The answers given by ISIL supporters are encouraging, saying all their difficulties will be solved if they travel to the region;
  • Instagram is used by fighters and ISIL supporters to share the photosets frequently produced by various ISIL media organisations. ISIL supporters also use Instagram to share pictures of their life in Syria, often showing landscapes and images suggesting they are living a full and happy life;
  • Tumblr, the blogging site, is exploited by fighters to promote longer, theological arguments for travel. Tumblr is popular with female ISIL supporters, who have written blogs addressing the concerns girls have about travelling to the region, such as leaving their families behind and living standards in Syria;
  • On social media, ISIL supporters frequently encourage others to message them on closed peer-to-peer networks when asked for sensitive information, such as on how to travel to the region, what to pack and who to contact when they arrive. Popular private messaging apps include WhatsApp, Kik, SureSpot and Viber.
The most used media channels

The most used media channels

For help in understanding the social media world, The European Safer Internet Programme http://www.sipbench.eu/ provides information about which are the best tools and which are free for most systems (MAC, Windows, IOS, Linux, windows, Android, Blackberry etc). Additional helpful websites include http://parentinfo.org/   https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/  http://www.connectsafely.org/ https://www.getsafeonline.org/

The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of some of the threats to our young people, not demonise anyone who may like gaming or uses social media. I hope the information contained is of value. We should all be aware.

If you have concerns about someone being radicalised, you might want to report it via:

Making a referral under Channel will not lead to the individual receiving a criminal record.

 

 

 

 

Construction starts for a new Post-16 College in Bodmin

Last week, I attended the official start of construction at the 10-acre site to bring a state-of-the-art, post-16 College to East Cornwall which was celebrated at a special cutting-of-the-turf ceremony. Callywith College is being constructed in the heart of Bodmin and will bring quality Further Education provision to young people across North and East Cornwall.

This is a hugely important project for education and skills for our young people. It is not often you can see a purpose built College being built allow those attending a huge opportunity to reach their full potential.

This is all about partnership working as Cornwall Council works closely with Truro and Penwith College as part of our Raising Aspiration and Achievement Strategy (RAAS). We can only improve the educational journey for our young people by working together from pre-school up to FE and HE. Working together we will give a better education experience to all our young people in Cornwall.

Latest draft plans for housing at Nansloe

I thought I would share with residents the latest draft plans for the new affordable site in Nansloe. These are draft plans, and therefore, can change. At time of writing this blog post no planning application has been submitted.

 

The site layout

The draft entrance into the new proposed site

70 different languages spoken in Cornwall’s Schools.

On Monday, I have the pleasure of opening the English as an additional language conference. For those who do not know, there are 70 different languages spoken in our schools.

The most spoken language in Cornwall are Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese. Top nine (after English) are Polish, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Chinese, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Russian and Latvian.

All our secondary schools have EAL students with 572 EAL pupils in secondary schools (2%) and there are 1070 EAL pupils in primary schools which accounts for 2.6% of the school population. Furthermore, last year our schools organised exam qualifications in 13 different languages.

All these young people are included in the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) figures which are:

  • 95% of all primary schools have at least one BME student
  • Only 12 Primary schools 5% do not have a BME pupil
  • 6.5% of primary school pupils are BME
  • All secondary schools have BME pupils
  • 5.5% Secondary pupils are BME

Supporting EAL young people in our schools comes under The Equality and Diversity Service who work strategically across the Children’s services and in partnership with schools and other agencies to promote Equality and Diversity in Cornwall. Their role is helping to source funding for interpreters, which can include six-week placements by support workers in schools carrying out special projects tailored to support schools and pupils. They do this in partnership by working with Early Years’ Service, multi agencies, settings and staff, internal and external organisations.

It is great to see this work being carried out and was really pleased to be able to speak at this conference.