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Sefton Council to provide voucher scheme for families eligible for free school meals this half-term holiday

Sefton Council will, once again, be providing vital ‘much-needed’ school holiday meal vouchers to eligible local families during next week’s half-term holiday.

The Council is using its Household Support Grant funding allocation from the Department of Work and Pensions to provide this invaluable service.

Like during previous holidays, families eligible for free school meals are being given supermarket vouchers that can be used to purchase food. Worth £15 per week per for each child, the vouchers are valid to buy food in-store and online at local supermarkets. They cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, phone top ups or stamps.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing said:

“During the COIVID-19 pandemic the Council has seen a significant rise in eligibility for free school meals so providing these vouchers though the school holiday is vital.

“This is particularly the case when many families are facing the fallout from the Government’s recent £20 per week cut in Universal Credit payments, rising household fuel costs and rising prices in the shops.”

Sefton Council provided similar voucher schemes since last year’s October half-term holiday and intends providing similar cover over this year’s Christmas holiday and the February half term and Easter holidays in 2022.

Additionally, over 5,000 meals, in the form of takeaway packed lunches, were prepared and distributed as part of a similar scheme during the schools summer break.

Cllr Hardy added:

“Families across Sefton who do not currently receive free school meals but think they might be eligible can visit www.sefton.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals  to find out whether they qualify and how to apply.

“Our website also contains information for people on Universal Credit, benefits and a range of related topics including help with rent and Council Tax and the Borough’s Foodbank Network at www.sefton.gov.uk/advice-benefits”.

Sefton Council agrees to consider closure procedure for St Teresa’s Catholic Infant & Nursery School

In line with a request from the school’s Governing Body, Sefton Council is starting procedures to propose the closure of St.Teresa’s Catholic Infant and Nursery School in Southport.

After being advised by the Governing Body that they have exhausted all options available to increase pupil numbers, the Local Authority has agreed to consider instigating the procedure for closing the school.

To avoid any speculation or rumour, the school’s headteacher has written to all pupils’ families and has held a meeting with all staff. An announcement will also be made to parishioners at St Teresa’s R C Church on Sunday.

The letter tells parents that Sefton Council will progress the matter at the next Cabinet meeting, which will be held on Thursday 4th November.

Calendar of Council meetings.

Sefton Council joins forces with partners to support National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2021

A group of people stand in front of a Stope Hate UK banner outside a fire stationNational Hate Crime Awareness Week takes place between 9th – 16th October 2021 and Sefton Council, along with a range of partners, is highlighting what hate crime is, how it affects people, encourage people to report it, and let people know what is happening in the local area to tackle it.

Raising awareness and encouraging the reporting of hate crimes is a priority for the Council and partners throughout the year, but we can use National Hate Crime Awareness Week to shine a spotlight on the work being undertaken to tackle it in all its forms.

Hate crime can involve people being targeted based on their disability, transgender identity, race, religion and sexual orientation. Merseyside Police expand these strands further and also monitor hate crime against those who sex work, which is seen as unique but often best practice for the support provided. The force believes that every person in Sefton and the wider Merseyside area has the right to go about their lives without being the target of abusive language or criminal behaviour motivated by hate or prejudice.

The Home Office has today (Tuesday 12 October) released its latest figures for hate crimes in England and Wales. There has been an overall increase in recorded hate crime with sexual orientation, disability, race and transgender hate crimes all showing marked increases. Religion hate crimes have dropped for the second year running.

The report states that the increases are believed to be due to better recording methods by police forces, greater awareness on the part of victims and the public, and also spikes in numbers of hate crimes following certain events.

To support National Hate Crime Awareness Week several activities are taking place across Sefton to help prevent hate crime, increase awareness and provide training.

These are:

  • Community partnership event with the Police and Crime Commissioner Office and Sefton Hate Crime agency partners to carry out a targeted leaflet drop in key hot spot areas to encourage people to report hate crimes
  • Deliver Hate Crime Awareness training to students at Hugh Baird College, St Bedford Road Primary, Sacred Heart School Crosby and Sefton Youth Detachment Workers
  • Attend ‘People’s First’ in Bootle to discuss hate crime with group members
  • Attend a Disability Hate Crime Steering Group hosted by Dr Leah Burch from Liverpool Hope University
  • Visit Venus Women’s Centre coffee morning to discuss any hate related issues
  • Videos posted across Sefton Council’s social media channels in support of National Hate Crime Awareness Week and the support available to victims

A spokesperson for Sefton Council said:

“We want to do everything we can to send the message out that hate crime will not be tolerated in Sefton and to give people the confidence to report abuse and not suffer in silence.

“It’s really important that people know about the various ways a hate crime can be reported in Sefton; whether it be by contacting the police directly, via the independent charity Stop Hate UK or at one of the many reporting centres across the Borough. Victims and witnesses will be supported to report hate crime and to receive advice and support.”

Superintendent Sarah Kenwright said:

“Merseyside has a reputation for being a welcoming, friendly place and there is no place here for hate crime.

“If you are aware of a repeat offender on your street, of an individual or family who are being subjected to hate, or if you see anything online or while out and about, please tell us. We want to actively encourage our communities to be our eyes and ears and firmly believe they play a crucial role in spotting and reporting a hate crime.”

Supt Kenwright added:

“I would also urge any victim of hate crime in Merseyside to please come forward. It is vital that we give our support to anyone who believes they have been subjected to abuse or left in fear because of who they are, and I want to reassure the public that we will take action against those responsible.

“We have officers and staff dedicated to protecting victims of hate crime who will make sure you will be supported at every step as sensitively as possible.”

Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, Emily Spurrell, said:

“National Hate Crime Awareness Week is an important date in the calendar for me. It gives us all the opportunity to celebrate and promote the rich diversity of our communities, while coming together to reaffirm and renew our commitment to challenging and tackling all acts of hatred and prejudice.

“At a time when our country sadly still feels quite divided and, in the wake of a recent increase in incidents of hate crime, it is more important than ever that we remain vigilant to combat discrimination, abuse and prejudice.

“Let me make it clear, crimes motivated by hate have no place in our society.

“I’m pleased to be working with partners and communities across the region to send out the message – loud and clear – that our region is diverse, it is inclusive and it is welcoming. Those who look to spread and breed hatred are have no place here.”

Everyone has a role in tackling hate crime and eliminating it from society. If you have witnessed a hate crime, or have any information, please contact Merseyside Police social media desk via Twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook Merseyside Police Contact Centre. You can also call 101.

If, for any reason, you do not wish to the report to the police, Stop Hate UK will ensure you get the appropriate emotional and practical support. They offer a free, confident and accessible 24/7 reporting service for all victims of hate crime, including multi-lingual reporting, the Stop Hate UK app, phone line 0800 138 1625 and webchat www.stophateuk.org.

You can also report a hate crime at one of a number of independent reporting centres across Sefton, or you can use this online form.

Anyone affected by hate crime can visit www.victimcaremerseyside.org for help, advice and to get the contact details for organisations which can offer support.

Lack of Government funding will widen gaps rather achieve levelling up warns Sefton Council Leader

Cllr Ian Maher
Council Leader Cllr Ian Maher

Sefton Council leader, Cllr Ian Maher has responded to a forecast by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that Council tax could need to rise by up to 5% a year for the next three years.

Cllr Maher told yesterday’s Sefton Council Cabinet meeting that if the Government continued to push social care costs on to local authorities and rely on Council Tax rises to fund vital local; services, it would widen disparities between area rather than achieve any levelling up.

Forecast

The IFS forecast says said under government spending plans, a rise of at least 3.6% on council tax bills will be needed annually to keep services at pre-pandemic levels. But the report says rises of up to 5% are likely owing to extra cost pressures and demand on councils. are more likely to see bills rise by up to 5% through to 2024/25.

Additionally, the IFS claimed the government’s recently-announced social care policies will cost £5 billion a year in the long term, which is almost three times the funding that has been allocated over the next three years.

England’s councils face almost £8 billion of extra cost pressures of by 2024/25 just to keep vital local services running at today’s levels, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

The LGA’s analysis says the £8 billion figure is about addressing new pressures councils will face in the next three years. It does not include what it calls ‘the very real pressures that councils are facing here and now such as paying care workers a fair wage or investing in the early intervention services which help families and young people falling into crisis’.

Hardest hit

Cllr Maher said: “As the country emerges from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and areas such as Sefton that have been among the hardest hit, start to recover, we are facing enormous financial pressures.

“These are a result of a legacy of Government cuts and then a failure of ministers to provide sufficient support during rh pandemic, despite their claims at the beginning of this crisis, that they would do “whatever it takes” to support communities.

“It is now becoming clear that the government’s plan for tackling existing pressures and the growing costs of social care is through Council Tax and the new social care precept.

“As the research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the LGA have shown this is going to leave people facing significant rises in Council tax at the same time as they are having to deal with increasing household fuel costs, rising prices in the shops and the Government’s £20 per week cut in Universal Credit uplift yesterday.”

In a recent letter to Sefton residents Cllr Maher wrote: ‘we’ve always managed our budget to the highest standard despite having to make over £233m of savings over the last 10 years’.

Demand

In his letter, Cllr Maher said that all councils had seen a rise in demand for services as well as a drop in income from fees and charges and reductions in council tax and business rates and that Sefton Council had been calling on Government for months to deliver the resources needed to provide vital support and services to residents.

He wrote: ‘The Government will have you believe that they are making £1 billion of funding available for local authorities for social care. What they won’t tell you is that £700 million of that comes from allowing councils to increase Council Tax’.

Safeguarding

Cllr Maher called on the Government to make safeguarding vital local services for the long term, a priority for the Chancellor’s Spending Review later this month.

He said: “If Minsters have any real commitment to levelling up society, as they keep claiming, providing robust and sustained funding for our services needs to be at the heart of it, rather than relying on people in already hard-hit areas to foot the bill themselves.

“We are already building back in Sefton but if the government doesn’t support us with long-term investment Boris Johnson’s claims this week to be building back better will be seen as nothing more than political posturing and sloganeering.”

Sefton Council retains Navajo Charter Mark at annual awards ceremony

Three Sefton Council employees stand with the Navajo Charter Mark certificateAt the annual Navajo Awards Ceremony, held at The City of Liverpool College on Friday 1 October 2021, Sefton Council was once again awarded the Navajo Charter Mark for displaying good practice and commitment towards its LGBT+ staff and community.

Sefton became the first local authority to receive the charter mark back in 2018, marking its commitment to LGBT+ people across the Borough.

The Navajo Merseyside & Cheshire LGBT+ Charter Mark is an equality mark sponsored by In-Trust Merseyside and supported by the LGBT+ community networks across Merseyside– a signifier of good practice, commitment and knowledge of the specific needs, issues and barriers facing LGBT+ people across Merseyside.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing said:

“Sefton Council is committed to ensuring that our Borough enables everybody to be their true selves. In retaining our Navajo Charter Mark for the second time, we are once again sending a strong message to LGBT+ people across Sefton and beyond that we are an organisation that values them, understands their needs and will continue to make sure we do everything we can to support them.

“Although receiving the Navajo Charter Mark is a signifier of good practice, we know there is always more work to do. As part of the Navajo assessment process, four independent assessors met with various colleagues, partners and service users to gather evidence, enabling them to produce a report that the council will review and act upon to improve services.”

The process to receive the Navajo Charter Mark consists of ten assessment criteria, each asking for supporting resources. These resources include documents such as the Equality & Diversity Policy, an equality monitoring form, or brief details of working procedures, for example specific staff policies.

Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council said:

“The Navajo Charter Mark assessment process is not an easy one, but I would urge all organisations across Sefton, big and small, to work to become Navajo accredited.”

Organisations wanting to find out more about the free Navajo Charter Mark and the process involved can visit the website.

Sefton Council are also reminding people to complete LCR Pride Foundation’s Sefton LGBT+ Survey, which has been extended until Friday 15 October. Those wanting to have their views can click here.

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