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									                       Jenny Jones roundtable meeting
                                  24.11.11
Attendance
Jenny Jones - Green party candidate for London Mayor
Ariel Plotkin - Assistant to Jenny Jones, Green Party Candidate for London
Mayor
Chair: Lin Gillians – Interim Chief Executive, London Voluntary Service Council

Mark Allan – Toynbee Hall
Nancy Astley – Planning Aid for London
Alison Blackwood – LVSC
Geraldine Blake – Community Links
Rory Edwards – Daycare Trust
Gail Emerson – Citizens Advice
Duncan Exley – One Society
Phil Jew – Advcie UK, Action for Advocacy
Maeve McGoldrick – Community Links
Deirdre McGrath – London Civic Forum
Alice Woudhuysen – Age UK London

Advice services
Concerns have been raised as more advice and advocacy service funding in
London has gone from grants to contracts with a consequent emphasis on top-
down specification of services to be delivered, whereas previously advice and
advocacy organisations could focus on holistic problem-solving. Competitive
procurement processes also favour large organisations at the expense of
smaller organisations providing specialist or local knowledge. At the moment
40-50% of the problems brought to advice and advocacy organisations is the
result of systemic failures in public services. However, because of contract
service specifications this is not being fed back into public sector policy-making
to address these issues. Legal aid cuts have also had a significant impact. For
example, there is now no funding for face-to-face work with individuals around
discrimination cases.

The approaches to implementing national cuts have been very different across
local authorities in London. For example cuts to the Citizens Advice Bureau’s
services in Ealing have been relatively small but other boroughs have made
much more dramatic cuts to advice services. In such cases better funded local
Citizens Advice Bureaux are having to take on cases from other boroughs
where cuts have been more extensive. There is a key role for the Mayor of
London in developing a picture of what is happening to advice and advocacy
services across London and co-ordinating this so that gaps are addressed. The
London Debt Strategy Group, based at the Greater London Authority and
chaired by Deputy Mayor, Richard Barnes, works in this way currently, but
similar work needs to happen across all advice and advocacy services in the
capital. This is particularly important at a time when the Government’s changes
to welfare benefits are going to have a huge and disproportionate impact on the
poorest Londoners.

Tower Hamlets is beginning a project to make it the first ‘Financially Inclusive’
borough. Primary Care Trusts, local authorities, banks and voluntary and
community sector organisations are working together across the borough to
ensure everyone in the borough has access to financial services and products
that help them to manage their money and the skills to use these. London
should aim to become a ‘Financially Inclusive’ city. There is also concern that
RBS and Lloyds are now charging customers to take money out of other banks’
cash machines. We know that financial well-being is least amongst the most
vulnerable. For example 50% of people in debt have mental health problems
and 55% of people with long-term illnesses are in debt. In London, debt is
increasing amongst young people. The membership of the London Debt
Strategy Group needs to be broadened. The Group needs to campaign and
lobby for the Financial Inclusion Fund to be sustained in London and to bring
organisations together so that resources can be targeted where they are most
needed as public spending cuts bite and needs change.

The aims of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) are two-fold: to provide people
with advice to manage problems and to improve policy and practice. Currently
there is little opportunity to engage with policy makers to achieve the latter.

The CAB was also involved in the Future Jobs Fund using funding to encourage
young people to volunteer. They have also successfully campaigned for school
uniform grants to be increased in Hackney and Kensington & Chelsea, and are
currently working on to improve wheelchair accessibility. The Mayor has a role
in identifying good practice and encouraging local authorities to adopt it across
London.

The Mayor of London currently has a changing remit around four quite focussed
areas. The Daycare Trust is concerned about the quality of advice parents are
currently receiving around childcare. We already know that child poverty is a
huge issue for London; one issue is the high cost of childcare in London, which
prevents many parents or carers for children from working. The Mayor of
London should address this issue.

Children & young people’s services and youth crime
In Newham the local authority has made massive cuts to the voluntary and
community sector. The current Mayor has had an interest in young people and
youth crime but needs to do more to ensure these issues are addressed well
and more consistently by London’s local authorities. For example, there have
been huge cuts to advice services in Newham but not in Tower Hamlets. Young
people do not recognise borough boundaries and travel across boroughs all the
time. Community Links’ services are currently being kept open through funding
by a hedge fund and funding from banks is currently keeping their playgrounds
open. The Mayor should play a role in leveraging in such money.

[Jenny commented that although the current Mayor has had some success in
leveraging in funding for community projects from the private sector there are
ethical issues: there may be certain demands placed on organisations by their
funders and some funders’ business practices may be adding to the problems
that the projects that they fund (usually a tiny proportion of their overall profits)
are aiming to address.]

The Mayor could act as a neutral co-ordinator of such private sector funding into
the VCS in London so reducing some of these conflicts of interests for, and
undue influence upon, the sector.
Section 106 funds have in the past been misspent by local authorities with
money spent on projects that do not directly benefit the local communities
affected by the large scale developments they were meant to address. The
Mayor needs to provide a strong pan-London lead on where funding from the
new Community Infrastructure Levy (which replaces section 106 funding)
should be spent.

The Mayor should also support community groups to use the new community
‘right to challenge’ across London.

The Mayor should support more inter-generational work which supports
understating between older and young people, particularly in light of the recent
riots in London. Opening up schools to older people has proved successful in
breaking down cultural differences. The current Mayor has prioritised young
people but has ignored the needs of older people in London.

One Society has looked at the impact of low pay on families. Current
Government policy does not sufficiently acknowledge the impact that low pay
has on making parenting more challenging. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation
has just published research showing that child poverty is not simply a result of
parents not working but affects the children of parents that are in work also and
this is increasing. Their research shows that child poverty costs the country
billions of pounds in the long-term. One Society has identified low pay as being
a particular issue amongst those working for outsourced public service
providers. Jenny’s Green Party colleague, Darren Johnson, has done some
excellent work on pay ratios in London. There should also be more research on
the long-term full economic costs of outsourcing services to tax payers taking
into account not just the price of service provision but the cost of the low pay of
workers delivering these services, of any reduction in service quality and of loss
of integration between services.

The Mayor of London should commit to assessing the long-term impacts of cuts
and support early interventions that save money in the long-term. For example,
money spent on addressing the high costs of childcare in London would result
in long-term savings on benefit payments and improved outcomes for children
from the poorest families. There could be an economic statement within the
London Plan or Economic Development Strategy committing to increased public
spending on childcare to achieve long-term savings in the future.

[Jenny stated that the Green party is committed to the London Living Wage and
to be more active in its implementation than the current Mayor. They also
support pay ratios of no higher than 10:1, which is aimed at reducing the pay
awards of those at the top and also raising the earnings of workers at the
bottom, so reducing inequality.]

Health and health inequalities
The current London Health Inequalities Strategy supports a minimum healthy
income, which would apply to not just earnings, but to those reliant on benefit
payments or pensions. The current Mayor has done little to support the
implementation of this.
[Jenny raised concerns that the current Mayor has done little to address air
pollution, which research suggests causes 4,300 premature deaths across the
capital. His failure to address targets and falsely influence monitoring station
measurements will result in London having to pay hefty financial fines for
breaking EU targets. Improving road safety is another issue that not only saves
lives but can make financial savings as improvements in road safety reduce
congestion. A similar financial case can be made for preventative children &
young people’s services that make long-term savings, for example through
reductions in childhood obesity or diabetes.]

Planning Aid for London has identified a number of issues through its work of
the huge inequalities faced by particular vulnerable communities in London. For
example, its work with a charity to develop a Muslim cemetery in Redbridge has
resulted in the finding that the children’s cemetery had become full many years
before this was predicted. This suggested that there were higher than average
infant mortality rates amongst the Muslim community in Redbridge. They have
some evidence that this is because Muslim women are not accessing public
services and not being given basic information and training around childbirth.
More generally a number of their projects have shown different communities not
accessing public services and a whole range of hidden topics that have not
been well researched. Other examples are the number of faith organisations
running homeless centres that are not registered and the lack of land available
for use by faith groups to practice their religion in London.

The Mayor should work with voluntary and community sector groups to gather
statistics and research on issues they raise so that they can be acted upon at a
much earlier stage than presently.

The recent Examination in Public of the draft London Plan showed how difficult
it is for small community groups to engage in the process.

The Mayor of London should support community engagement in the
development of the London Plan and champion community development
approaches. There needs to be a specific contact for the VCS in City Hall. With
the introduction of the localism approach this will be one way to ensure it does
not result in widening inequalities in London, as it will enable gaps emerging for
disadvantaged communities across the capital to be addressed at an earlier
stage. There should be a statement of community involvement in the London
Plan

Planners often take the view that improving health through planning is simply a
matter of ensuring there is sufficient health service provision. However, the
Mayor should support a wider role in the London Plan that acknowledges the
role of community development, community facilities, access to healthy food
and activities and the provision of sufficient green space to improving the health
of Londoners.

[Jenny suggested that the localism agenda is opening up a Pandora’s Box for
local authorities with many not having sufficient knowledge or expertise to act
on the local issues for which they are now responsible.]
The Mayor of London needs to also acknowledge the needs of older people and
have a specific Older People’s Strategy, as the current Mayor has for young
people.

The Mayor of London should lobby national government to prevent the
disproportionate impacts of the proposed national benefit cap in London.

The recent riots in London have demonstrated that a number of young people in
the capital are completely disengaged and disenfranchised. They see the
example of the corporate world and think ‘they have got away with it, why
shouldn’t we?’ We need to rebuild the trust and confidence of young people so
that they can engage better in their communities and apply for jobs ‘on the other
side’.

Citizens Advice Bureaux have found that advice around housing issues is
needed much more commonly in London than in the rest of the country. In fact
housing is the third most common problem CABx address in London, while
nationally the third most common advice issue is employment. This reflects the
higher cost of housing in London.

[Jenny suggested that the group should come up with three principle ideas that
they should push each of the Mayoral election candidates to include in their
manifestos. This work needed to be done soon, as manifestos were already
being developed.]

The Mayor of London should also support a greater role for advocacy in the
Health Inequalities Strategy in light of the huge reforms in health and social care
services currently underway. There should be a particular focus on the
advocacy needs of BME communities.

Actions agreed by group after roundtable
Alison would circulate notes and key asks from the discussion for approval by
those present. Once approved they would be sent to Ariel (Jenny’s assistant)
and Tom Chance (Green party manifesto development).

Subsequent meetings with the three remaining Mayoral candidates would be
preceded by a short pre-meeting to discuss approach.

The key asks developed from this meeting will be consulted upon more widely
across London’s voluntary and community sector and a final set of asks
confirmed and focussed on at the following Mayoral candidate roundtable
meetings.

Those present were asked to complete monitoring and evaluation forms which
would be circulated electronically.

Alison would invite all those present to the Ken Livingstone roundtable, the date
and time of which had just been confirmed.

								
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