Do you qualify for free central heating in your home?

The question is do you qualify for free central heating? You could qualify if you are a home owner, landlord or private tenant. However, to qualify, you need to meet all three of following points:

  1. Recipient who is in or at risk of being in “fuel poverty” residing in property “G” rated;
  2. A domestic premises (dwelling) which is not currently using gas as the primary heating fuel;
  3. Where a central heating system would be installed for the first time

Looking at data for Porthleven, 10% of households have no central heating. For Cornwall, this is 7.2% of households. So there is need in Porthleven. Furthermore, 195 (15.9%) of households in Porthleven are in fuel poverty.  For Helston, it is 535 (10.3%). The England average is 10.4%

The scheme is part of a Public Health led, £2.3m Central Heating Programme, funded by DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change). Sadly this initial offer is limited to 70 successful applications.  Anyone Social Housing is part of bid already underway and would not qualify under this specific scheme.

For those wondering what a rating of ‘G’ means, here is a explanation of the ‘G’ rating. Your home is likely to be least energy-efficient because for example, expensive to heat, none or little insulation, or inefficient heating such as night storage heaters or plug-in heaters.

To find out more and apply, call Bev at Inclusion Cornwall – 01872 355008,

cental heating fund



Food Poverty in Cornwall

I recently attended the Food and Cornwall conference in St. Austell along with three of my Cabinet colleagues – Councillors Rowe, Hannaford and Paynter.  This aim of the conference was to get organisations like Cornwall Council, Public Health, businesses, voluntary sector and actual users of services. All in all, there must have been 100 people there.

A few of those gathered

A few of those gathered

Poverty in the UK is not something new, much like famine in Africa did not start at Live Aid. But what Live Aid and the campaign around it did do was to beam the images of children starving into our living rooms, which resulted in people becoming aware of the issues. Once people are aware, then something is done about it.  This is like the reports of  food and fuel poverty now being beamed into our living rooms, our tablets and phones. People cannot ignore the fact people are going hungry, and in large numbers too.

The stats on food poverty are stark. The Trussell Trust report in April 2014 that over one million people nationally received emergency food in 2013/14. This is a rise of 163% on the previous year. And yet the DWP still fail to acknowledge there is food poverty in the UK. You have to ask yourself what figure needs to be reached before food poverty is acknowledged.

It is Estimated 350,000 people are going hungry today in the UK, this is the same number of people facing hunger in Mozambique.  Considering the UK is the sixth largest economy in the world and Mozambique is 117  it should shame the UK it has so many people going hungry.

Last year the Food Banks run by the Trussell Trust distributed 105,000 food parcels in the South West alone. There are 15 Food Banks in Cornwall. The Camborne, Pool, Redruth (CPR) food banks gave out 54 meals in 2010. This has turned into 14,490 meals given out in January 2013 alone, and for the whole of 2013, the CPR food bank issued 113,532 meals. And still the DWP still thinks there is no food poverty in the UK??

It is not only the food banks in Cornwall issuing out meals, but St. Austell’s community kitchen (STAK) has in the last four years served 58,594 teas and coffees, 16,008 hot three-course lunches and 7540 dinners. Speaking to the volunteers, this is just the tip of the proverbial food poverty iceberg.

Getting back to the conference, everyone agreed there was no magic wand someone could wave and food poverty would be sorted, but what did come out of the event, that people from across the spectrum needed to work together to address the issues facing our communities. From those gathered, lots of ideas were put forward, some more immediate and other more long-term, but what it did show was people gathered wanted to work together solve the issues, and not just blame others.

Just some of the aims of Food and Cornwall is:

  • Map who is currently involved in providing food to older people
  • Schools – achieve ‘Good Food for All’ and embed the importance of healthy school food culture within the education agenda
  • Increase food utilisation by reducing the percentage of in-date usable food that goes to landfill from businesses and increase the percentage used to improve the lives of those most in need.
  • Improve access to food supply and move from crisis response to sustainable quality and affordable food solution for all
  • inspiring people of all generations to connect with fresh food and learning how to prepare healthy meals.

I gained a lot of valuable knowledge from the event and pledged that as the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People at Cornwall Council would help address the issue of food poverty, as did my Cabinet colleagues.

I have also embedded a YouTube video that certainly brings home the message of food poverty in Cornwall is a serious issue. 

Poverty in Porthleven and Helston

First, a ‘hat-tip’ to the blogger Mudhook for finding this information on poverty in Cornwall. This information is provided by the Church Urban Fund and looks at poverty in a Diocese and then at parish (not civic) level. The link can be found HERE. The figures produced are very interesting and cover poverty for children, pensioners and working persons. Also is the life expectancy for those who live within a parish and other important facts on social housing etc.

Porthleven (Diocese of Truro):

  • Child Poverty (% of children in poverty): Porthleven – 16% (137 out of 185)
  • Pensioner Poverty: Porthleven 17% (144 out of 179)
  • Working Ages Poverty: (% of adults receiving key out-of-work benefits) – Porthleven – 13%
  • Life Expectancy (boys): Porthleven – 77 years.
  • Life Expectancy (girls): Porthleven –  83 years old.
  • No Qualifications (% of working age adults without any qualifications): Porthleven – 29%.
  • Social Housing (% of households living in social rented housing): Porthleven – 16%.
  • Lone parenthood (lone parent families as % of all families with children): Porthleven – 22%.
  • Ethnic diversity( % of population who are not white British): Porthleven – 2%.
  • Older population (% of population who are aged 65 and over): Porthleven – 23%.

On the overall deprivation scale, where 1 is the least deprived in the diocese, this parish ranks 156 out of 223 parishes in Truro diocese. This means that this parish is relatively deprived compared with other parishes in the diocese. Set against national figures, this parish ranks 10370 out of 12706 parishes in England. That means that the parish is among the most deprived.


  • Child Poverty (% of children in poverty): 14%
  • Pensioner Poverty: 16%
  • Working Ages Poverty: 13%
  • Life Expectancy (boys): 78
  • Life Expectancy (girls): 80
  • No Qualifications: 25%
  • Social Housing: 14%
  • Lone parenthood: 19%
  • Ethnic diversity: 2%
  • Older population: 17%

On the overall deprivation scale, where 1 is the least deprived in the diocese, this parish ranks 39 out of 223 parishes in Truro diocese. This means that this parish is among the wealthiest in the diocese. Nationally, this parish ranks 8396 out of 12706 parishes in England. That means that the parish is relatively deprived compared with other parishes.

The Lowest and Highest figures and percentages in Cornwall are:

  • Child Poverty (% of children in poverty):   Lowest  – 3% Isle of Scilly. Highest – 37% Penwerris
  • Pensioner Poverty: Lowest – 7% Feock. Highest – 28% Penzance, St John the Paptist
  • Working Ages Poverty: Lowest – 2% Isle of Scilly. Highest – 28% Penzance, St Mary’s
  • Life Expectancy (boys): Lowest – 72, Penzance, St Johns the Baptist. Highest – 81 Whitford
  • Life Expectancy (girls): Lowest – 75 Cury and Gunwalloe. Highest – 86 St Gennys
  • No Qualifications: Lowest – 14% St Eval. Highest 42% Treleigh
  • Social Housing: Lowest – 1% Lelant. Highest – 40% Penwerris
  • Lone parenthood:  Lowest – 5% St Neot. Highest – 40% St Keyne
  • Ethnic diversity: Highest – 18% St Pinnock
  • Older population: Lowest – 4% St Eval. Highest – 35% St Just -in-Roseland

These figure are very worrying, and just goes to show Cornwall is in desperate need of real money to tackle some of these issues. Europe is still handing Cornwall millions, but isn’t is about time central government looked to invest in Cornwall, just like it has in other parts of the country.  After the way things are going in Europe, this European money might not be available in the near-future.

Here are some link to Cornwall Council on Poverty: HERE and HERE

Child Poverty Work Sits on a Shelf

At Last weeks Children Education and Families Scrutiny Committee (CSF) I raised a question on the work carried out by a Single Issue Panel (SIP) on Child Poverty. The CSF committee submitted its findings and recommendations via the full council. This was because the committee felt this important issue should have the wider support of all Councillors.

However, it is the Cabinet  who will make the final decision  due to the budgetary implications and the need for approval of extra spending, especially for the role of a Strategic Lead to actually tackle this huge issue.

It turns out under further questioning to senior officers and Cabinet Member that no extra funding has even been earmarked to tackle this. Even at the recent Star Chamber this very issue was not even discussed. Which I can only interpret as no extra money will be set aside. The Star Chamber process is the councils yearly senior officer and Portfolio Holder meetings which looks at the future budget, and where money will be spent.

There is good work currently being carried out to tackle Child Poverty by the council, Councillors and other agencies, but this needs to be done on a larger, more strategic plan. In the SIPs findings, it highlighted after seven months work for this Strategic Lead to be appointed if anything is ever going to change.

The CSF committee was rightly annoyed and has sent a strong message back to Cabinet to address this issue. The recommendation to Cabinet is:

The Committee expresses its frustration and disappointment that key recommendations of the Deprivation and Child Poverty Single Issue Panel have so far been ignored and not progressed further in any way.

Let’s see if anything changes.

Ending Child Poverty – A Step Forward

Child Poverty is a serious issue not only in Cornwall, but in the whole country (and world).  There are a lot of depressing figures on this subject which make unpleasant reading, especially as they relate to Cornwall. Solving poverty, not just for children is the Holy Grail for Governments, Local Authorities and other organisations connected to poverty. The Children’s, Schools and Families Scrutiny Committee (CSF) thought this was a subject that should be investigated and formed a Single Issue Panel (SIP).

This SIP (which I sat on) started by gathering a lot of information for various organisations like the CAB, Food Banks and those that cover domestic violence.  All this information was sobering and highlighted the real problem in Cornwall. In all honesty we could have spent a year gathering more information, but SIP need to be time limited to have any real chance of having an impact.

We then gathered all this information into a report, which was then approved by the SIP who then sent it to the mother Committee of CSF. On Friday, this Committee fully endorsed the recommendations as laid out in the report. These recommendations will now be presented to full Council on the 5th July to give extra weight before they are sent to Cabinet. Normally SIP reports go straight to Cabinet, but the SIP and the CSF felt this needed to be endorsed by full Council due to the seriousness of this subject.

The recommendation is as follows:

This Council recognises that without a strategic direction that is consistently maintained, deprivation and child poverty will not be reduced or eradicated.  It must therefore:
1)    appoint or identify and task a suitably qualified individual, to provide that strategic leadership working exclusively on this topic, leading and co-ordinating the work to deliver the Child Poverty Strategy for Cornwall from funding sources to be identified by Cabinet,
2)    identify suitably resourced organisations or bodies to work in partnership with the Cornwall Real Choices Board to tackle the issues highlighted in the report,
3)    Ask the organisations and bodies working in partnership with Cornwall Council to develop the Cornwall Child Poverty Strategy which addresses the issues highlighted in this report and provide quarterly reports to Cornwall council’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

We may never solve child poverty fully, but we should never shy away from tackling it. In the six months of working on this I am confident that we will make some inroads as long as the recommendations listed above are approved and properly resourced. If not, then we would have failed the children and people of Cornwall.

Child Poverty Panel and Food Banks

Child poverty is a serious issue and needs to be addressed with the aims of eradicating it. Not an easy task in anyone’s book. The Children’s School and Family Scrutiny Committee whose area this covers set up a Single Issue Panel to gather evidence from various organisations. Once this has completed a report will be compiled and presented to the main Committee. It will not be able to solve this complex issue, but will highlight areas that Cornwall Council can address.

Today was the chance for another organisation to present its evidence. This organisation was the Trussel Trust ( This Charity runs 5 Food Banks in Cornwall which are based in Truro, Bude, Liskeard, Falmouth and St. Austell. They plan to open three more in Helston, Newquay and Penzance. These are part of the franchise of 80 food banks in the UK under the umbrella of this Charity. During the first year of operation (Sept 2009/10) the Truro Food Bank ( was donated nearly 5 tons of food, which over 3 tons was distributed to about 500 people. Over a quarter of whom are children. The commonest causes for crisis are benefit delays and cuts, debt, homelessness and unemployment.

On Sundays Politics show the subject of food banks was also highlighted and a more worryingly it highlighted a different group of people who are now coming to these banks. This group are those people who are in employment, but have had a set back like illness, drop in salary, or some change in personal circumstances.

I asked the question to those present from the Trust if this issue was being replicated in Cornwall. The simple answer was “No, not yet”. It is the “not yet” that has got me worried.

So how does this system work? It is run on a voucher system that around 40 organisations currently hold and then can issue them to people in need. These organisations include CAB, community Police, Housing Associations, Doctors, homeless charities and churches. Once you are given this voucher you take it to the depot where you will be given 3 days worth of emergency food. This of course does not completely solve any issue, but in many cases it throws the lifeline that is desperately needed.

It makes you think what would happen if groups and charities like the Trussel Trust were not around. What other means would people resort to just to stop being hungry. That list would be extensive and in a lot of cases probably not legal.

Further information and contact details are: Phone – 0772171669, email – or their website –

Poverty Panel – Why there needs to be a change

It’s not often that I attend a meeting and it having a hard hitting effect on me. As I have posted before (click here). A single issue panel has been set up to look at poverty in Cornwall. It’s going to look into child poverty in Cornwall, but it can’t do that in isolation. 5 Cornwall Councillors sit on this Panel, I being one of those Councillors.
I know were are not going to fully solve this issue, but what we are going to do is look into how Cornwall Council deals with this, and makes sure we work harder in trying to eradicate this. This Panel can only have an influence on Cornwall Council, but that could be improved. Currently 18.3% of our children in Cornwall are classed as living in poverty. (Please click Here and then click County for the full details from HMRC). Cornwall is by no means the worse. Greater London comes in at 30%, but  our neighbouring County, Devon is lower at 14%
The first few meeting are going to be evidence gathering. We are inviting different organisation that deal with this issue to come and present to us. That way we have a ‘big picture’ understanding on this issue. I have found that a lot of problems could be solved if there was better communications between different organisations. Cornwall Council has to hold its hand up on this issue too. From my experience Cornwall Council struggles to talk between different departments. Organisations and different depts are very territorial, especially when it comes down to funding.
At the first meeting we invited 3 different organisations. It was the presentation from John Ede in his role CAB that the figures of debt and poverty were most striking. He made the comment that if 100,000 people in Cornwall had Typhoid then people would move heaven and earth to solve it, but because debt and poverty is a dirty word it’s kept under the counter. That comment really hit home.
Lot’s is already being done. Excellent work is being undertaken by Cornwall Works. They can be found via .  I hope this Panel can make a difference, even a small one would be an improvement.

Here is Cllr Chris Ridgers blog on this issue. He is the Chairman of the SIP looking into this.

Poverty and Children

During the Children’s Schools and Families Committee that I sit on; we were given a presentation by the person heading up the enormous task of preventing child poverty in Cornwall. I have to say I was shocked at how many of our children in Cornwall are classed in Relative Poverty (A Government Indicator). This is worked out using the following formula. A household of a couple with two children bring in less than 60% of the Median Income. This is a sliding scale depending on the make up of families and numbers of children.

What shocked me most was this figure is £361 per week, yes £361 per week! That figure and anything below that and your are classed in Relative Poverty. In Cornwall that could be seen as an average wage. It means that 19,660 of our children in Cornwall are classed in this category. Nationally, 2.8 million of our children fall into this category.

There are also 3 other categories.

Material Deprivation – 70% of Median Income
Persistent Poverty – Living in relative poverty for 3 out of 4 years
Absolute Poverty – Living in families with income below absolute threshold.

The Government under the Child Poverty Act have made it a duty for the Local Authority to co-operate and tackle child poverty. The Government has some pretty big targets to achieve by 2020. This too is a mammoth task for Cornwall Council to achieve. Partly due to Cornwall being a relatively poorly paid area compared to the rest of the Country, and (my view) our over reliance on seasonal work that is historically low paid.

I wish there was a magic wand to just wave, but there isn’t. If we don’t tackle and prevent this in childhood, then its hard for them to breakout of this cycle once they are older. Sadly, history has a habit of repeating itself once they have children.

What the CSF committee is going to do is make this issue one of its most important works by forming a special single issue panel to look at this in depth. Its not an easy task, but it would be wrong not to at least try and solve this terrible issue.