19 April 2023

Committee round-up: Communities Committee 30.3.23

Support for those facing poverty, new membership options for Live Life Aberdeenshire, and efforts to tackle violence were among items discussed at the meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee on Thursday, March 30.

Housing Business Plan working group to be established

A group of councillors, council officers and tenants is to be established to review Aberdeenshire Council’s 30-year Housing Business Plan, in light of the ‘significant challenges’ facing the authority’s housing revenue account.

The group will consider a range of information before presenting proposals to Communities Committee around the prioritisation of activities, an evaluation of value for money, and a three-year rent strategy.

Extensive consultation with tenants is expected as part of this work and it was agreed that the group should be formed with the same membership as the existing Rent Strategy Member Officer Working Group.

In a separate report, it was agreed that a member officer working group set up to look at challenges around fuel poverty and community resilience be ‘mothballed’ for the time being with the ability to hold future meetings if required.

Committee hears of Police Scotland’s efforts to tackle violence against women and girls

Chief Inspector Jackie Knight of Police Scotland provided the committee with an update of the force’s work to tackle violence against women and girls, and of the wider support of Aberdeenshire’s Violence Against Women and Girls Partnership.

Ch Insp Knight gave an overview of the key mechanisms and processes in place to prevent such incidents across Aberdeenshire and ensure that offenders are held accountable.

The committee was told tackling domestic abuse is a priority for Police Scotland, and that the force is committed to providing protection and support for victims and their families alongside partner agencies, while targeting perpetrators who present the greatest risk of harm.

Councillors were told of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) approach that is followed for those at high risk of harm to allow a risk-focused, co-ordinated plan to support victims of abuse.

Highlighting an increase in MARAC referrals, Ch Insp Knight said the figures underlined that more people are receiving support. Work is also being undertaken to target those who present the greatest risk of offending, through enforcement and active targeting of offenders.

Ch Insp Knight also spoke of the development of the development of resources for schools, focusing on the themes of coercive control, inappropriate relationships, and peer pressure.

Commenting on the update and the work being undertaken, the committee praised Police Scotland’s That Guy campaign, which aims to reduce sexual crimes committed by men.

It was agreed that local police inspectors should be invited to engage with the council’s six area committees around the police’s efforts in either formal or informal sessions.

Annual update on efforts to tackle poverty and inequalities discussed

An overview of the work undertaken by the Tackling Poverty & Inequalities (TP&I) Strategic Partnership, along with the group’s proposed budget spend for the coming year, was brought before the committee.

The group was set up by the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership to tackle various aspects around poverty affecting children and adults and to co-ordinate strategic development with partner organisations.

The update to the committee included an overview of the council’s Child Poverty Action Plan, which was approved, and of wider work to tackle poverty and inequalities in Aberdeenshire.

In a detailed discussion, councillors highlighted the importance of employability and voiced support for the work taking place to support those facing poverty and to tackle issues around rural transport and childcare.

Amanda Roe, chair of the Tackling Poverty & Inequalities Strategic Partnership, told the committee that just under a fifth of Scotland’s children live in poverty, and that tackling the issue is a priority for the council and all its community planning partners.

In terms of support, almost 9,900 people have accessed information and advice services across Aberdeenshire over the past year, with just under £6.4million secured for clients under the themes of benefits, debt, housing, energy debt and support for the cost of living.

Feeding into the approach, more than 600 people have shared their personal experiences to inform policies and strategies, helping to shape practice and leading to the development of training, services and opportunities.

From a youth perspective, more than 250 young people have been involved in exploring issues around TP&I and have set up a steering group to progress this. There has also been a dedicated stream of work for people living with epilepsy.

Looking ahead, it was agreed that funding for tackling rural poverty should be increased to £600,000, providing £100,000 across each of the council’s six administrative areas to support projects identified in community plans and other local initiatives.

A budget of almost £5.5million for 2023/24 was approved and will fund a range of initiatives under the themes of digital inclusion, mental health and wellbeing, children and young people, employability, financial insecurity, fuel poverty and housing.

The work includes plans to develop a ‘childcare academy’ which would feature a training course to allow people to receive basic training and possible employment opportunities as childminders to address some of the challenges around childcare in rural areas.

It was agreed that a briefing note be prepared for the committee detailing the number of employers in Aberdeenshire providing a living wage for their employees.

Committee chair Cllr Anne Stirling said the committee would be keen to hear from young people about the Child Poverty Action Plan if they are willing to share their experiences.

Commitment to refugee resettlement activities confirmed

An overview of work undertaken as part of Aberdeenshire Council’s refugee resettlement programme was presented to the committee.

A report before councillors explained that over the last two years resettlement work has moved from mostly being pre-planned and responsive to being more crisis led and reactive due to the fall of Kabul, the war against Ukraine, and arrivals to the UK by boat.

A review of the council’s resettlement strategy is to be undertaken to reflect the changing situation and to take account of the latest national guidance.

It was agreed to reaffirm Aberdeenshire Council’s commitment to supporting the resettlement of refugees in line with Home Office and Scottish Government frameworks and funding arrangements.

As part of this work, the council will continue to aim to resettle up to 30 families per year via Home Office resettlement schemes.

There was also recognition of the scale and achievements of Aberdeenshire’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Responding to the update, councillors raised questions regarding the establishment of an asylum hotel in Aberdeenshire by the Home Office and the need to establish positive relationships with community planning partners. Comments were also made about potential pressures on local services.

The committee was told that community planning partners have been working with community leaders and sharing information about the hotel’s operation and this work will continue.

New approach to funding for cultural and supports activities agreed

Arrangements for £90,000 of funding awards via the Positive Action Grant scheme run by Life Live Aberdeenshire (LLA) have been agreed for the 2023/24 financial year.

The scheme, which provided awards totalling nearly £88,000 last year, supports cultural and sports groups from across Aberdeenshire.

The committee heard proposals to change the way funding is awarded to increase opportunities for communities that have little or no access to activities, which aim to build on the success of LLA’s holiday recovery programmes.

On that basis, councillors agreed that funding for the next year will be distributed through allocation and ‘co-production’ with Aberdeenshire Clubsport and community sports hubs, and via applications to the grants scheme, rather than via the grants scheme alone.

Members heard that Aberdeenshire Clubsport has links with more than 200 organisations and was previously able to reach around 5,000 young people via their network, supported by council funding.

Live Life Aberdeenshire membership pricing and staff concessions agreed

Updated membership pricing and the introduction of staff concessions for Live Life Aberdeenshire have been agreed.

The proposals were developed by a member officer working group and will take effect from August 1 this year.

The group’s considerations took account of council priorities around health and wellbeing, tackling poverty and inequality, with the aim of full cost recovery where appropriate.

Activities and opportunities offered by LLA are to be split into ‘bundles’ that can be purchased separately or combined to form a better value membership with an approach of ‘buy one and get the second at a reduced price.’

With the working group’s considerations complete, it is to be mothballed for the time being.

Other matters

  • Consultations: A response to a Scottish Government consultation about community wealth building will be agreed by Director of Environment and Infrastructure Services Allan Wood, following consultation with the committee chair, vice-chair, and opposition spokesperson.
  • Charging policy: Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s charging policy for 2023/24 was approved by the committee. The policy covers non-residential care and support, along with in-house unit costs for non-residential and residential care over the coming year, and costs are to rise by 5.9% in key areas, with some charges set by other bodies yet to be confirmed.
  • Strategic delivery plan update: A quarterly update on the work of the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s work to progress its strategic delivery plan was provided to the committee. A report providing detailed information on mental health services across Aberdeenshire is due to be brought before the next meeting of Communities Committee.
  • Audit workshop: A ‘stage two’ workshop to allow for further discussion of an audit into the Aberdeenshire Alcohol & Drugs Partnership’s governance arrangements is to take place to examine a series of risks identified in a report that came before councillors.
  • Congratulations to Rob: Cllr Anne Stirling closed the meeting by paying tribute to Rob Simpson for his support of the committee as Head of Housing and Business Standards. Rob is to take up the role of Aberdeenshire Council’s interim Director of Business Services.

The full public reports considered by the committee and a recording of the discussions can be found via