Protecting vulnerable adults and children
Thriving residents outcome: vulnerable adults and children feel safe and are protected
West Cheshire Poverty Truth Commission
The second West Cheshire Poverty Truth Commission (WCPTC) launched in January 2019, aiming to address gaps in services and inequalities across the borough, building on the work of the first commission. A new group of Community Inspirers, residents with experience of poverty, joined the second WCPTC and played a key role in putting together a successful launch and sharing their experiences with the audience. Community Inspirers have met with civic, business and faith leaders on a number of occasions since the launch to form working relationships and discuss priority areas. Three sub-groups focus on housing and the homelessness trap, health, including mental health, and food poverty. The second WCPTC has been working with the Youth Senate and a group of young people from Winsford Academy and Wharton Primary School, helping strengthen the voice of young people and enabling them to influence change.
West Cheshire Poverty Truth Commission
Mental Health First Aid training
We have made considerable progress in tackling the stigma associated with mental health and encouraging people to start mental health conversations. The first WCPTC highlighted mental health as one of its key priorities, securing funding for mental health awareness training for frontline Council staff and partner organisations. In 2018-19, Mental Health First Aid training was offered to elected members and Workplace Health and Wellbeing Champions at the Council, helping them to recognise the main signs and symptoms of mental ill health and giving them the confidence to start mental health conversations and guide people towards appropriate professional help if needed. More than 100 councillors and staff have completed training, with the Council committing to further training in 2019-20.
Mental health support
We continue to develop the mental health support on offer to local children and young people. Better partnership working means that vulnerable groups are supported and improvements have been made to the capacity and confidence of school staff to deal with mental health issues. In the past three years the Mental Health First Aid training programmes have been offered to every school in the borough and the school-aged emotional literacy support assistant (ELSA) training and supervision programme has shown good evidence of supporting the emotional wellbeing of targeted pupils, including children in care. Schools have been provided with training and guidance to help them to identify and support children at risk of non-attendance due to emotional factors.
At the beginning of 2019 additional funding was secured to broaden our offer for individuals and families at risk of domestic abuse, enabling us to intervene earlier. The £247,000 will be used to proactively support these families and help to keep them safe.
Welfare team visits
During 2018-19 our Welfare team visited around 3,500 people in their homes. Many of these people are vulnerable and require help with a number of problems. We can help people to claim benefits, manage their budgets better, switch utility companies, reduce their debts, train for and seek work, get free school meals, secure a free nursery place or move into affordable accommodation - paying rent in advance, deposits, and removal costs.
Help in Emergencies for Local People
The Welfare team helped people in crisis to obtain food or fuel, furniture or white goods through the Help in Emergencies for Local People (HELP) scheme. This scheme replaced the government’s community care grants and crises loans and is for a one-off emergency, to help people integrate into a community or set up a home. In 2018-19 the team received 2,227 applications and awarded 2,075 of these, spending a total of £367,793. The team also helped to pay shortfalls between benefits paid and the amount rent due or shortfalls between an award through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme for people on low incomes and the total council tax payable. Welfare Services also received 2,074 requests for financial assistance through its discretionary funds, and helped 1,215 vulnerable people in crisis with awards totalling £813,193, while also preventing demand on other public services.
Help in Emergencies for Local People (HELP)
Homeless Support Service
A new Homeless Support Service was launched to help people seeking accommodation, people at risk of homelessness or people living on the streets. Forfutures, part of the ForViva Group, was appointed to work with the Council’s Housing Options and West Cheshire Homes services to help reduce homelessness in the borough. Forfutures provides advice hubs, mediation, support to people in accommodation, including temporary accommodation, and floating support, aimed at people who need help to maintain their accommodation, like budgeting advice or help with cooking skills. It also provides emergency beds and outreach support for rough sleepers, services for young people and some customers with complex needs. The outreach service has been reviewed resulting in the introduction of more staff, increased hours of service, and drop-in sessions at a range of partner venues.
Tackling rough sleeping
More than £500,000 of grant funding was secured from the Government to help us tackle rough sleeping in the borough. The Council was awarded £470,000 to deliver a Rapid Rehousing Pathway and open a Homeless Assessment Hub at Hamilton House, Chester. It is being delivered on our behalf by Forfutures as part of the existing homeless support service contract. The hub provides a base to coordinate services to help people sleeping rough get the support they need and find accommodation. We were also successful in our bid for £185,000 grant funding from the Rough Sleeper Initiative. This will fund specialist support, substance misuse and mental health workers who will help rough sleepers tackle their issues.