Rapid action has been backed by East Devon council as alarming figures show one in three local children are from deprived homes in certain districts.
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
Councillors at last Wednesday’s full council meeting heard that applications for Universal Credit have doubled since the coronavirus pandemic began, and that is without any potential negative effects of Brexit and when the Government Furlough scheme ends.
There are hundreds of households in deprivation in East Devon in parts of Exmouth, Honiton, Sidford and Seaton, while in some parts of the district, one in three local children are from deprived homes.
The full council meeting unanimously backed a motion that had been put forward to speed up the work to reduce deprivation and poverty in East Devon.
The cabinet, when they meet on January 6, 2021, will be asked to give urgent consideration to the unprecedented challenges now being faced by many residents and in recognition of the worsening poverty crisis decide whether a further report should be prepared to identify practicable and affordable further actions.
Conservative Cllr Mike Allen, who put forward the initial motion, said: “At first sight, the challenges facing us today appear overwhelming, so we have set out to see what we could do at speed to help the poorest in our East Devon and help them to cope during the extreme and unprecedented circumstances we have seen this year. One in six mortgages went into default this year, although many recovered during the summer.
“However with future uncertainty East Devon District Council should look at innovative ways, such as using the Councils housing company funding support to allow hard working people to keep their homes that might otherwise be at risk of being lost.
“The measures put in place to stop spread of Covid has caused a problem for the most deprived and we need to help the poorest in these extreme circumstances. We need to look at the consequences for the economy very fast and need to limit the rise in unemployment, help those find jobs quickly, as work is the best protection against poverty, but even then there needs to be a living wage.
“We are still going through the motions of putting a poverty strategy together and it has been far too slow. This is nothing that hasn’t already been propose but I am just trying to bring things together quicker.”
Moving to speed up the actions that would be set to be taken, Cllr Dan Ledger put forward an amendment to refer the motion to the next cabinet meeting. He said: “We need to debate this and get this right and get this moving. We are trying to come up with results quicker while not detracting from the evidence base programme.”
On January 6, the cabinet will give it urgent consideration to the motion and to decide whether a further report should be prepared to identify practicable and affordable further actions with a view to:
– identifying any emergency actions for prioritisation;
– helping address gaps in the benefit system;
– applying for all available grants;
– strengthening families and communities with clear signposting;
– improving communication with towns and parishes around financial resilience;
– promoting long term economic growth potential;
– addressing issues affecting all age groups with regard to mental health and employment.
– assessing how the Poverty Strategy and action plan can be expedited by the Poverty Working Panel without compromising the evidenced based programme of work.
The motion was unanimously agreed by the council, and the cabinet will in January the need for any short-term actions as well as strategic initiatives to be put in place immediately.
The council had previously agreed a policy vision for poverty that no one in East Devon is to be destitute without immediate help, and nobody should be in involuntary poverty for more than two years duration.