Agenda and minutes

Social Care, Housing and Public Health Policy Overview Committee
Thursday, 26th November, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: VIRTUAL - Live on the Council's YouTube channel: Hillingdon London. View directions

Contact: Liz Penny  01895 250636

No. Item


Apologies for Absence and to report the presence of any substitute Members


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Judith Cooper and Alan Deville.


Declarations of Interest in matters coming before this meeting




To receive the minutes of the previous meeting dated 21 October 2020 pdf icon PDF 155 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting dated 21 October 2020 be approved as an accurate record.


To confirm that the items of business marked as Part I will be considered in Public and that the items marked as Part II will be considered in Private


It was confirmed that all items were in Part I and would be considered in public. It was agreed that items 6 and 8 would be considered in tandem as they were on a similar theme; item 7 would therefore be considered prior to item 6.


Committee Review: Making the Council more autism friendly: Witness Session 3 pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Additional documents:




Two witnesses were in attendance – Toni and Stephanie Mullally – representing Hillingdon Autistic Care and Support (HACS). Members were informed that HACS had been founded in 1997 by parents in of children in Hillingdon affected by autism. It was confirmed that HACS supported over 300 families at present and had a large professional database consisting of teachers, SENCOs, health visitors and mental health professionals.


Councillors heard that services offered included advice and guidance, family support, educational workshops, an employability project started in 2015 and an adult support group. The age range of those supported by HACS ranged from 2 years 8 months to 59 years.  Members were advised that HACS was one of the only autism specific short breaks providers in the Borough providing weekend respite services for those aged 5 – 25 years. It was confirmed that autism was not classified as a learning disability or a mental health disorder. The term ‘high-functioning’ often used when referring to those with autism who did not have a learning disability was particularly unhelpful as it suggested that these individuals had less support needs; this was not necessarily the case therefore HACS avoided using this terminology.


The Committee requested further clarification regarding the effectiveness of the Government’s National Strategy on tackling autism. It was confirmed that there was now a clearer focus in terms of central Government legislation and attempts had been made to improve employment opportunities. However, although awareness was increasing, outcomes did not appear to be changing very much. On a localised level there was a more co-ordinated approach with agencies working together. It was noted that the National Strategy focused on adults. However, in Hillingdon, a decision had been taken to focus on children and families too. In response to their enquiries, Members were informed that it was difficult to access data in relation to autism therefore the tracking of outcomes locally was challenging. On a service level there had been a vast improvement since 2010 in terms of what was available for families to access; however, there was still a long way to go.


In response to questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that greater clarity was needed regarding the services provided by the local authority and how to access said services. It was reported that the information was currently not in a central location and was therefore not easy to locate. HACS received calls from GPs on a weekly basis asking how patients could get an autism diagnosis in Hillingdon. For those who were not eligible for specialist or statutory support, it was confirmed that availability of services was often an issue. It appeared that many Council officers lacked understanding of ASD. It was suggested that one option would be to train up a number of autism ambassadors across the Council (one ambassador per department) who could provide expertise in this area. Should the ambassador be unable to assist, a member of HACS could step in and offer support and expertise. The Committee was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.


Update on Online Housing Benefit Applications pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Additional documents:


Sunita Ghudial, Head of Benefits – Exchequer Services presented the report which had been prepared in February 2020 prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. An addendum had been included in the pack which captured the impact of the pandemic from 1 March 2020 onwards.


Members were informed that, prior to the pandemic, the benefits online facilities had been introduced for new claims on 12 June 2017 and fully rolled out on 21 May 2018. The service enabled customers to apply and report changes for Benefits and Council Tax Reduction online 24/7 at their convenience – this was a faster and more efficient system. It had also been brought in as part of the national shift towards claiming benefits online, which included the roll out of Universal Credit (UC). The Committee heard that UC had been fully rolled out in Hillingdon on 24 October 2018 – it was a single monthly payment which had to be applied for online. It was confirmed that the majority of new claims for help with housing costs were now made through UC. Help with paying Council Tax was not included in the UC claim and was processed by the Local Authority’s Benefits team.


The Committee was informed that the Benefits service continued to provide support for people who did not have access to online facilities or needed assistance to make a claim. There were 11 computers available in the Benefits reception area in the Civic Centre, 4 at the One Stop Shop in Hayes and others in libraries across the Borough. Benefits staff were available within the Civic Centre and at the One Stop Shop to assist. It was confirmed that, between 1 April 2019 and 30 September 2019, an average of 130 people per week had visited the Civic Centre to make an application, report a change or submit supporting documentation.


It was noted that the data in the addendum covered the period from 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2020. During the pandemic, staff had been advised to work from home and the Benefits reception had closed temporarily. Customers had been advised to go online or call the contact centre. Those who were unable to complete an online form had been advised to request a paper application. Members heard that demand was being managed successfully and on only one occasion had a face-to-face meeting been necessary.


Councillors were informed that, between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020, the Benefits Service had received 10,274 emails and 22,297 telephone calls. Of the new claims received during this period, over 82% had been submitted online successfully. 453 paper applications had been received which constituted 13% of the total. During this period the Benefits Service had seen an increase in applications of 63% compared to the period from 1 April 2019 to 30 September 2019. It was confirmed that, despite the increase in the number of applications, the Benefits service had seen an improvement in processing times and home working had been a major  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Carers Strategy - Update on work to support Carers in the Borough pdf icon PDF 142 KB

Additional documents:


Gavin Fernandez, Head of Service – Adult Social Care presented the report. Members were informed that, in May 2020, Cabinet had been updated on the delivery of the Carers Strategy in 2019/20 and had agreed a proposed approach to support the Strategy going forward. The approach included priorities for 2020/2021. The report shared with the Committee provided Members with an update on the delivery of those priorities. Key points highlighted included:


·         A guide for people who suddenly became carers was on track – an initial draft had been developed and was due for completion by Q4;

·         A response to carers’ feedback from the CCG’s October 2019 AGM had been implemented and a Farsi speaking interpreter in the south of the Borough had been recruited;

·         Information for children with learning disabilities and/or autism was being prepared including Easy to Read guidance on accessing the health service appropriately; and

·         The Hillingdon Parents’ Forum was working with officers to improve the information available on the Council’s for parents of children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) conditions.


In terms of achievements from April – September 2020, Members were informed that some strong partnership working had been taking place during the pandemic. In the first 3 months of the pandemic, the Hillingdon Carer’s Partnership had supported:


·         134 families to receive deliveries of meals;

·         the delivery of 378 food parcels; and

·         the collection of 296 prescriptions.


In Q2 £36.4k Covid grants had been secured to provide the following:


·         Hardship grants to 40 families with Young Carers;

·         Hardship grants to 23 Adult Carers; and

·         22 young adult carers with laptops to support their home study.


Other support had included providing regular care calls to over 1,034 carers and the completion of 324 Emergency Replacement Care Plans with Carers to ensure that alternative care arrangements were in place if the Carer was incapacitated for any reason.


The Committee heard that the period from April to August 2020 had seen 525 Carers’ Assessments completed which would suggest an outturn for 2020/21 of 1,260 assessments against a target of 986. There had also been positive increases to the Carers’ Register – as at 30/9/20 there were 7,982 Adult Carers registered on the Hillingdon Carers’ Partnership Carers’ Register, which was an increase of 264 on the position in April and represented 30.7% of Adult Carers against a target of 28%. The Council’s Carers’ Champion, Councillor Haggar, had identified Carers with Multiple Caring Responsibilities as a focus area - the implications of these additional responsibilities on the wellbeing of Carers were being taken into consideration as part of the annual review process. Members were informed that all 43 of the GP practices that were members of the GP Confederation had now identified a Carers Lead to raise awareness among practice staff. Moreover, the Hillingdon Carers’ Partnership had helped to improve the income of 140 Carers by securing an additional £607,397 in Carer-related benefits. 1,213 breaks had been provided via the Carers’ Partnership during the review period – many in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.


Update on Universal Credit following the 2019 review pdf icon PDF 113 KB

Additional documents:


This report was presented in tandem with the Online Housing Benefit Applications update (agenda item 6). Rod Smith, Service Manager – Tenancy Services, presented this update on Universal Credit further to the 2019 extensive review. It was noted that the Committee had been mindful of the challenges facing vulnerable residents and had asked the Council’s Universal Credit Project Group to explore several areas for possible improvement including –


·       Strengthening collaborative work between key partners;

·       Exploring opportunities for residents who lacked access to ICT or the skills to apply for and manage a claim;

·       Developing clear processes and procedures for signposting residents;

·       An increase in awareness of debt management;

·       Appropriate training to staff across the Council.


A summary regarding the impact of Covid-19 and feedback from partners had been included in the report.


In response to questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that, although the focus had been on Universal Credit, the needs of vulnerable people and those with debts pre-Covid had also been taken into consideration. The approach had been to tailor services to individuals which included assisting people with financial issues and teaching them how to manage their housing costs, utility bills etc at a very challenging time when many people had found themselves without work. The focus had been on working collaboratively with partners to support those in need of help.


Members were glad to see that Universal Credit had been successfully rolled out and noted that staff at the One Stop Shop in Hayes had been extremely helpful in supporting residents seeking assistance pre-Covid. Members were delighted to note how much had continued to be achieved throughout the pandemic to support vulnerable residents.


The Committee noted that the trial managed migration in Harrogate had been suspended.  It had also been reported in the press that, in the first 6 months of that managed migration in Harrogate, less than 20 cases had been successfully migrated to Universal Credit out of a total of 10,000. In light of this, Members enquired how Hillingdon was faring. It was confirmed that stress testing during the pandemic had strengthened the service; different ways of working had been introduced and changes made to meet demand. It was confirmed that existing claims in Hillingdon had been due to migrate over to Universal Credit in November 2020 but this had been delayed temporarily due to the pandemic.


In response to Members’ requests for clarification it was confirmed that, although it was impossible to guarantee that no one had been missed, those who did not come forward were often evidenced by arrears of rent accruing. This would provide an indicator that there was a need to engage and support these people. It was reported that all Universal Credit claims had to be verified on behalf of the DWP and 100% of claims had been turned around within the required timeframe of 5 days. Staff had worked from home 7 days a week to meet these demands and had proactively contacted claimants to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 31.


Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 53 KB

Additional documents:


RESOLVED: That the Social Care, Housing & Public Health Policy Overview Committee noted items going to Cabinet.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 56 KB

Additional documents:


RESOLVED: That the Social Care, Housing & Public Health Committee considered the Work Programme and noted its contents.