Diligent Work Of Highland Council's Welfare Support Team Praised By Members
25th August 2021
Members of the Corporate Resources Committee have praised the exemplary work of the Council's Welfare Support Team after they were presented with a comprehensive report today (25 August) highlighting the strong performance from the team in assisting Highland residents.
Members' attention was specifically drawn to the following key points:
More than 20,600 residents were supported by the Council’s Welfare Support Team and Citizens Advice during 2020/21 with welfare, debt and housing advice services, resulting in excess of 61,600 contacts (on average, 3 contacts per client);.
Financial gains for clients exceeded £21.6 million - representing a £13.83 return for every £1 allocated to these welfare services;
A total of £7.4 million of debt (including £1.5m relating to mortgage/other secured loans) was presented by households seeking support to prioritise their bills, reduce and manage their debts, and wherever possible to lower the interest charges they were due to pay;
Support was provided for 3,106 clients (including social rented, private rented and homeowners) seeking housing-related advice;
FareShare provided in excess of 570 tonnes of quality food to the Highlands, which is estimated to be equivalent to over 1.36m meals with an estimated value of around £765,000.
Councillor Jimmy Gray, Chair of the Corporate Resources Committee, said: "Throughout the course of the pandemic, the challenges across communities and public services have been exceptional. Many of the newly unemployed, and those with reduced paid employment, experienced the social security and welfare systems for the first time. In this scenario. we recognise that building trust and rapport between advisers and clients was, and continues to be, critical.
"While the Universal Credit caseload within Highland is still very high when compared with pre-pandemic volumes, the efforts of our Welfare Support Officers have been key in ensuring that individuals - where their financial circumstances necessitate it – are supported to make a claim, appeal adverse decisions, report changes in circumstances and to maintain their Universal Credit journal."
He continued: “The Council advocates an emphasis on early intervention and prevention across welfare services with the aim of preventing people from reaching crisis points which have more long-lasting consequences for them and their families. I would encourage those who feel they could benefit from the support and guidance available from the team to engage at an early stage – doing so aims to improve their financial capabilities and resilience to respond to monetary shocks and to improve overall wellbeing."
The Welfare Support Team can be contacted by email to email@example.com or by calling 0800 090 1004 (calls to this number are free).
The Highland Climate Change Conference is taking place on Thursday 21 and Friday 21 October 2021. Chair of Highland Council's Climate Change Working Group, Cllr Trish Robertson, said: "The conference is a fantastic opportunity to bring people together from across and beyond Highland to discuss the climate and ecological emergency.
Members of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee (which took place yesterday, Thursday 23 September) were presented with a report outlining the areas of work which have been undertaken by Highland Council's Internal Audit section since the Committee’s previous meeting during June 2021. Of the five audit reports considered, three were given the audit opinions of significant assurance or full assurance.
The high point of the year for celebrating our heritage starts on Saturday 25 September. For three weeks, the Highland Archaeology Festival will offer a range of walks, talks, workshops, exhibitions, and activities for all ages.
Zero Waste Scotland has launched a digital recycling tool to help combat confusion and meet Scottish recycling targets. This Recycle Week (20-26 September 2021), Zero Waste Scotland is launching the first ever Recycling Sorter.
The Highland Council's resilient digital learning estate continues to connect and support learners and educators across Highland, including the creation of a new digital toolkit for teaching staff. Education Chair, Cllr John Finlayson said: "The extensive digital learning estate available across Highland for staff, pupils, parents and carers is an effective way to empower and develop digital opportunities across Highland schools.
Members of the public are being invited to comment on a Draft Gambling Policy Statement for the coming years 2022-25. The Highland Council is consulting on the draft policy statement on behalf of The Highland Licensing Board under the Gambling Act 2005.
At the meeting of The Highland Council Members supported a starred item put forward by Caithness Members. The Thurso and North West Caithness and the Wick and East Caithness Ward Councillors asked that the Council creates and implements a Council wide playground strategy that considers the needs and expectations of communities and supports the active play, well-being and social activity of children and their families.
Members at a meeting on 9 September 2021 of the Highland Council agreed the scope, budget, phasing and timescale for 5 priority school projects including Beauly Primary, Culloden Academy, Dunvegan Primary, Park Primary, and St Clements School. It was also agreed that these projects are to be incorporated into the Council's current capital programme.
Given the importance of tourism to the Highland economy and the need for the tourism experience to be positive for visitors and communities, members have agreed to extend the Visitor Management Plan funding into the 2022 season by a one-off investment of £1.5m. A one-off Visitor Management Plan investment of £2.4m agreed by the Council in March 2021 for this year's season has enabled a range of service improvements.
On behalf of The Highland Council, High Life Highland has this week advertised a tender and invitation to quote seeking creative filming and photography input to the Inverness Castle - Spirit of the Highlands project. The tender and invitation to quote will contribute to Spirit:Journeys, a natural and cultural heritage initiative that will deliver many benefits for local communities, helping to unlock economic potential and improve visitor experiences across the region.