Hounslow Council


Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Meeting Room 2. View directions

Contact: Email: william.lee@hounslow.gov.uk 020 8583 2068 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence and Communications from Members

Minutes:

Cllr Mel Collins chaired the meeting as Cllr Candice Atterton, newly in the Chair, wished to observe.

 

He expressed deepest condolences to those killed and injured in the recent attacks in Manchester and London Bridge and also to Celia Golden, Head of Equalities who had recently lost a family member. The Forum held a minute’s silence in respect.

 

Cllr Collins welcomed Sahib Singh to the DCF as Co-optee.

2.

Minutes of the meeting of 2 March 2017 pdf icon PDF 349 KB

6:30 – 6:35 pm

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of 2 March 2017 were agreed as an accurate record and signed.

3.

Matters Arising

6:35 – 6:40 pm

Minutes:

There were no matters arising.

4.

Change of Customer Services and Waste & Recycling

Majella Sharma, Customer Satisfaction Manager, Susan Austin, Customer Services Manager and Ian Dudding, Waste and Recycling Manager.

 

6:40 – 6:55 pm

 

Questions from the Public 6:55 – 7:15 pm

Minutes:

Customer Services Manager Susan Austin gave the presentation as Majella Sharma, Customer Satisfaction Manager, and Ian Dudding, Waste and Recycling Manager, were unavailable. She only spoke on customer service.

 

She advised that the main strategy was for all services to be available via the website, but stressed that this would not prevent people phoning or coming to reception in person. An appointment system, linked to self-service, was to be established enabling people to make an appointment to see an officer. A new phone system was being investigated with the help of members of the DCF and speech recognition was to be introduced by autumn 2017. The unpopular current menu system was to be reduced from 10 across and 50 deep to 8 across and 7 deep. Thousands of individual changes had been made to the website since February 2017 in response to residents’ comments and feedback and included a page for comments to be left. The website is reviewed annually by the Society of IT Managers (SocITM) and had recently passed the mobile standard for phones and tablets along with the disability audit but it was hoped to do better than merely pass in future. It was intended to add hundreds more pages which would be updated quarterly; DCF members’ feedback was key to ensuring that the right content was provided and suitably simplified. Ms Austin stated that members had been very helpful.

 

The website would contain a ‘My Account’ part (currently under development) which would enable residents to report missed bin collections, garden waste etc. It would be made possible to pay council tax via the system and there was a need to transfer such services online in future as the new civic centre would be a lot smaller and it was hoped that footfall would be reduced to 6,000 a month, the optimum number in the new space. Reductions had already been achieved.

 

The Chair asked how the service would provide for the significant number of people who didn’t use computers or smartphones for whatever reason. Ms Austin assured members that phoning and visiting would always be options. In other questions, direct access to an operator was requested, without having to go through a large number of options. It was explained that this could be done, by holding the line or pressing 8, but there were only two operators and so that could result in a long wait. Residents expressed frustration at the time they were sometimes kept waiting, which could be up to half an hour. They were advised that the wait varied considerably according to the time of day and that sometimes it was better to call in person, or email if possible. The service was paid for by the Council and existing numbers would continue to be used.

 

The website would be in plain English. It was planned to look at the possibility of using the Sign Video service for BSL users who couldn’t speak English, although this would require users to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

LIFE HELP Service pdf icon PDF 329 KB

Joanne Powley, Assistant Joint Commissioning Manager

 

7:30 – 7:45 pm

 

Questions from the public 7:45 – 8:05 pm

 

 

Minutes:

Please see the presentation slides (agenda item 5)

 

The item was presented by Joanne Powley, Assistant Joint Commissioning Manager.

 

A Forum member advised that she had been introduced to a very helpful lady through Hestia but the person had unfortunately turned out to be very unreliable. She asked if the service could at least inform service users that a carer/helper could not make an appointment, as reliability was essential. Another member stated that support services for carers had been transferred to Hestia in January 2017 and had become very poor; she called for a full investigation to be carried out. Ms Powley advised that services would become ‘joined up’ in future to ensure that service users contacted the right person immediately. Members disputed that integrated support had fully commenced in January as claimed, as they had been told that support for carers had not started yet. They had been advised that support was available for people already on the books but it would be several months before there were enough staff to help new service users. Ms Powley said that the team was now fully staffed and was taking on new clients. Other members told of a lack of assistance from Hestia and multiple appointment cancellations. People had been told that Hestia would not be in a position to provide the help they needed until December 2017 at the earliest due to a lack of staff. Ms Powley conceded that the service was not working as it should and offered her contact details if people required help:

 

 Joanne.powley@hounslow.gov.uk

 

Tel: 020 8583 3798

 

 

6.

CAB Support Services

Amarjit Brad, Disability Specialist, Feltham Citizens’ Advice Bureau

 

8:05 – 8:20 pm

 

Questions from the public 8:20 – 8:40 pm

Minutes:

Please see agenda item 6. Ms Vandana Rawal, Manager, and Ms Amarjit Brad, Disability Specialist, both from Feltham Citizens’ Advice Bureau gave the presentation.

 

Ms Rawal advised that CAB had three offices in the borough, in Feltham, Chiswick and Hounslow (although Hounslow was unfortunately no longer offering a drop-in service) plus Outreach services throughout the borough, including Heston Community Hall, Bedfont Children’s Centre and the Ivy Bridge Estate. Service users’ needs were assessed, rather like the hospital triage system where it was ascertained whether general or specialist help was needed. Experts including solicitors working pro bono were available, although they were only able to give advice, not take action. Twenty minutes free legal advice could be given on subjects including housing, immigration, employment and family law. A new advice line had been introduced as people found they could rarely manage to get through to someone by phone previously. The call centre was part of a national telephone advice service and Hounslow CAB was working in partnership with five other London boroughs; meaning that if Hounslow CAB staff were training for instance, others could answer the phones on their behalf.

 

Ms Brad advised that she took on her role several years previously and saw clients in several different locations, booked through her office. She also did Outreach sessions via Hestia, dealing with various issues with disabled people and carers. Matters dealt with were mainly related to benefits but included housing, debt and family matters among others.

 

In response to questions from members Ms Brad confirmed that she advised on any issues affecting disabled people, not just specifically “disability” matters. Talks were underway to resolve problems regarding first floor access in the Treaty Centre, caused by lack of accessibility of lifts as well as the lifts often being out of action. Although the phone advice system covered six boroughs Hounslow residents still needed to make appointments to see staff within the borough. No statistics were to hand for numbers of deaf service users but centres worked with VoiceAbility to assist with communication. BSL interpreters were not readily available. It was confirmed that disabled parking spaces were available at Chiswick. A member stated that she had approached CAB for help and had to queue for a very long time before seeing a solicitor, she then had to return twice more and saw three different lawyers in total. She was not happy with the service. Ms Rawal apologised but assured attendees that the service had been greatly improved by the new triage system.

 

A Forum member said he found the phone system to be very frustrating and using drop in centres involved getting there very early and still waiting a long time; given the effort it took for disabled people to attend this was a particular problem. Ms Rawal advised that since the West London Advice Line project had come into being in October 2016 there had been major improvements. If urgent advice was needed it was possible to contact CAB using the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Open Forum

Minutes:

Cllr Mel Collins advised that he had attended a meeting of the TfL Sub-Regional Disability Mobility Transport Forum along with John Beattie and John Foster. A number of high powered speakers were featured. The meeting had discussed the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street where it was learned that it was proposed to have a ‘shared space’ between pedestrians and cyclists during the day, with buses allowed in after 10:00pm. A consultation would be held in late June.

 

The second topic was the TaxiCard scheme, the tender for which was likely to be bid for in October 2017. Options were ‘kerb to kerb’ and pick up at the door, drop off at the destination. Cllr Collins suggested door to door would be best and that needed to be added to the tender. There had been a lot of discussion about assistance dogs. It was felt that drivers should be required to indicate whether they were prepared to carry such dogs before they accepted a job; it was very important to note that drivers could not suddenly refuse on arrival. Following questions, Cllr Collins advised that drivers were currently allowed to refuse but it was hoped that a change in legislation would mean they had to state in advance. It was hoped that this matter would be included in any new service contract. A member of the Forum expressed the belief that access for assistance dogs was a clear equalities matter and religious/cultural beliefs should not stand in the way of access to a public service. Celia Golden advised that it was a matter for the law to decide whether it was permissible to refuse to carry dogs on religious grounds. Under the new legislation however drivers would be obliged to state in advance if they would refuse dogs and it was then up to TfL if they were still prepared to enter into a contract with drivers who refused. Cllr Collins advised that he would be attending a seminar on hospital transport on 18 June, which he would report on at the September meeting of the DCF.

 

In response to a question from the floor Ms Golden advised that the law on reasonable adjustments required that disabled people had a right of access to public buildings but in regards to the Treaty Centre there was a question about where responsibility lay. The primary duty to ensure that the lifts were accessible and in working order lay with the owner, followed by the leaseholder, then the contractors. As there were so many parties lift accessibility and maintenance tended to ‘fall through the net’ and so legal advice was needed. There was a need to ascertain who was responsible. Currently the leaseholders were saying they wouldn’t allow non-customers to use the lifts and there was nothing to compel Job Centre Plus to allow people to use the lifts. It seemed the leaseholders were not willing to do the right thing and allow disabled people access and so legal advice was being sought.

 

Finally the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Date of Next Meeting is 6 September 2017

Future items for consideration

9.

Urgent Business 9:00 pm

Any other business which the Chair agrees to consider on the grounds of urgency.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.