The delegates signed up to two of the three available workshops. The points raised throughout include:
Group 1: Fuel Poverty / Renewables
- Discussion about energy switching – some people find it overwhelming, but it is simpler than changing internet provider. If unsure people can speak to an Energy Advisor
- Piecemeal nature of interventions can be an issue. There should be a national vision to regenerate existing towns to tackle energy efficiency.
- How can renewable energy play a part on Rother? Gas is being phased out and will no longer be included in new-build properties from 2025, but it’s difficult to find experts for new technologies.
- Gas networks are looking to de-carbonise.
- Fuel poverty consultation happening soon – before summer recess but no fixed date yet.
- Discussion about energy efficacy on new-build. Lack of skills for new technologies required for Passivhaus construction.
- The stage is being set for change – recognition of climate emergency.
- Government policy needs to change to enable support for community energy companies.
Group 2: Financial inclusion/food poverty
- Food bank is a priority, but finding it is being abused.
- When Universal Credit was introduced, the food bank use in Hastings went up dramatically. The main cause is the delay in getting UC payments. Optivo finds people are encouraged to take up UC in advance, which creates longer term issues over the next 12 months. Would be better not to have UC in advance.
- Not everyone is a resident of Optivo or Orbit. What proportion of residents in Bexhill and Rother are not with registered providers? Could be a big gap – would be good to find out.
- If people don’t know that food banks and other services are there, they won’t be able to access. Organisations often work in silo, but if people come together, there will be greater awareness and improved outcomes.
- East Sussex Community Information Service (ESCIS) is available for local organisations and charities to promote their services for free. Professionals often use ESCIS to refer people within communities.
- Rye benefit office is rumoured to be closing. Now people will have to go to Hastings, this increases public transport costs and increases risks of missing appointments and being sanctioned in terms of Universal Credit. Could pop-up offices be created? However, as more things will be going online, this would prevent the need for travel. There is a scheme run by Stagecoach buses to provide free travel for food bank users.
- Areas in Rother are isolated from shops that provide the healthier options. Local convenience stores stock unhealthy options and residents are forced to use them as they can’t get to the larger stores, or get a heavy load of shopping home.
- School holidays present an increased challenge, especially those in receipt of free school meals. Optivo provides activities for children of residents which include food. Need a more targeted approach based on the free school meals data.
- Need joined up solutions – Optivo, Charter Centre; The Pelham, Egerton Park – rotate and signpost. Need to find out what can be done in rural areas.
- Could the pre-paid card system for school meals be used all year round at food outlets, rather than just at school? Perhaps persuade local café owners? Could the care homes be used as access to food for younger people and also help to bridge the generation gap? Young people could volunteer or have play activities at older people’s home and get a free meal while you’re there.
- Social Value – procurement. Matching bidders to community groups to support activities. Social Value Marketplace tool coming soon (led by Orbis).
Group 3: Staying well and safe/exploitation
- Just fewer than 100 identified this year in East Sussex as exploited of at risk of exploitation.
- Communities Against Exploitation campaign in Rother – they’ve spoken at Bexhill College.
- Exploitation can be difficult to identify – compared to domestic abuse relationships – there’s not always violence present – can be coercion.
- Message isn’t getting through to rural areas. Suggestion that Parish Councils could be offered training/presentations.
- Well known public figures need to ‘champion’ the Modern Slavery helpline.
- Exploitation of ‘JuJu’ – a form of black magic used as coercion for exploitation.
- Are there key resources that can be shared with key staff? Poster, leaflets – awareness training for front line staff is available.
- Young people in poverty are particularly vulnerable – new clothes, trainers etc. – builds up trust but is coercion.
- Prosecution rate is very low for organised crime – as it often happens across many borders.
- More discussion re: young people – examples where they are thrown out of home at 18 years old.