ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THORNTON HEATH COMMUNITY ACTION TEAM
WEDNESDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2020, 7-8.30PM AT THORNTON HEATH SALVATION ARMY HALL
1. Welcome and apologies:
Linda welcomed everyone to the meeting.
Apologies: Barbara Richards, Alison Butler, Rev Nadine Wilkinson, Jorn Cooper, Elizabeth Ash, Cedric Monvoisin, Rev Derrick and Gill from St. Pauls, Mark Huggett.
Copies of the THCAT Code of Conduct were circulated which participants were asked to sign and pass to the Secretary.
2. AGM Business
a) Election of the Committee
Linda asked the present Committee to stand and thanked them for their work. There were no nominations outside of the present Committee. The following Committee members were nominated, seconded and re-elected by a show of hands:
Secretary: Chris Milton
Treasurer: David Fell
Members without Portfolio: Gaëtane Jones, Barbara Benjamin, Marley King
Vice Chairs: Andrea Perry, Mohammed Mir
Chair: Linda Watson
Linda asked the meeting to thank the following Committee members who were stepping down:
Vân Dang who is moving from the area and has done so much work on our website, Facebook page, annual report, work with the refugee hostel, many practical projects and social events.
We would like to thank new volunteer, Sui-Leung, who has agreed to take over running our website (as a non-committee member).
Peter Lawrence who has done much work, particularly on the Pond and on planters and is moving on to other things.
Graham Mitchell who has also stepped down and has worked on many clean-ups and practical projects and took over work on the planters from Pete.
b) Annual Report
The THCAT Annual Report can be viewed on out website at: here.
The report reminds us of THCAT’s achievements over the past year eg. The In Bloom competition, the station mural and bookshelves, Thornton Heath Pond, The Re-imagine competition which is now influencing the Council’s plans for Ambassador House forecourt, the Street Action project which improved streets and brought neighbours together, the planter project, FreeArt, storytime and refugee parties, the railway bridge mural and the Xmas tree event.
David took us through the 2019 accounts summary included in the report. We started the year with a balance of £23,987 and ended with a balance of £16,545. The income is from Councillor’s Ward Budgets and from the People’s Health Trust for the Street Action project. The money is all allocated. Applications for money must be for specific projects.
Chetna asked where else we could apply for funds. Linda said we could not have taken on more this year as the People’s Health Trust funding involved detailed reporting at regular intervals and was a great deal of work.
Chetna then asked if someone were to come up with a suitable idea, could it be done in partnership with THCAT? Linda said it would have to comply with THCAT conditions and our insurance but was a possibility.
3. Domestic Violence
Linda thanked Sarah Haywood, the Head of the Violence Reduction Network at Croydon Council, for coming to speak to us about her role and domestic violence. Sarah has been in post for 6 months.
Sarah told us the approach in this area is Thornton Heath specific. She does not live in Croydon herself so she can learn from us too. They take a public health approach developed from the vulnerable adolescent view after 3 young people died in 2016. The Council looked at young people at risk and what happened when they were younger, interviewing parents. They found different types of violence are interlinked. Factors included parental absence and drugs gangs exploitation.
Croydon had strong experience and set up the Family Justice Centre, a holistic service including rehousing etc. Prevent is a government counter-terrorism strategy which found domestic violence is a factor in terrorism. Croydon adopted its strategy last June.
The public health approach is population based. They look for common factors for all children or women at risk of domestic violence. Preventative measures are taken and children are helped to deal with trauma. The FJC and Prevent fall under Sarah’s remit.
They do not just look at numbers but also anecdotal and personal experience. They have worked with Barbers who asked for de-escalation skills to get people to open up. They can also work with pub staff and clients, chicken shop staff etc.
The next stage is to put a community safety strategy in place. They are rewriting a consultation to take place in late April/May with all agencies involved. They have done work on how to approach trauma eg. domestic violence, addiction, mental health problems, witnessing torture, war zones etc. Trauma has a particular impact on children because their brain is still developing. There will be bespoke training in March/April. The youth work service is working in hospitals. A bid has been made for £1.2m to work with schools and community groups on trauma.
Questions were then invited from the floor:
Mohammed: Expressed concern that it seems when social workers are called in the families are split and the children taken away.
Sarah: Social workers have a key role. Many different people have a role to play. Child safety is important but children will not generally be taken away.
Gaëtane: Do you have statistics for domestic violence in this area?
Sarah: Not specifically for Thornton Heath but she will get them and email them to Linda.
Andrea: There are statistics on the Council website but domestic violence is highly under-reported.
Sarah: Domestic violence is defined as between adults over 16 years of age. Parent and child abuse also exists and there is a grey area around adolescents and younger children. Help comes from Health and Social Care. Children can be affected by domestic violence without seeing it or being victims of child abuse eg. hearing arguments and violence triggers the flight or fight response. This can cause changes in the way the brain develops affecting learning, sleep, behaviour etc. 60% of households where domestic violence occurs do not have children.
Linda: Is there evidence that children affected by domestic violence go on to be perpetrators?
Sarah: Domestic violence is linked to gangs but becoming perpetrators is less well evidenced. There is often poor performance at school, lower income and involvement with the criminal justice system.
Q: What is the strategy for schools?
Sarah: There has been a good service since 1997. It has developed in line with evidence on impact. There have been projects in schools re domestic violence, addiction, mental health and trauma. Schools which have had trauma training see exclusion rates drop.
They are currently looking at the 5 highest harm perpetrators of domestic violence and trying to work out why. They can disrupt the behaviour (eg by arrest – not necessarily for the domestic violence itself) work with tenancies etc. They use mental health intervention and look for long term change in behaviour.
Andrea: According to the statistics, 45 of 60 children were looked after. How can you ensure that the cycle will not start again? 25% were in the CR7 postcode area.
Sarah: There is a revolving door of professionals eg. Social workers, health visitors, police etc. They are aiming to reduce this to the Hertfordshire model with one visiting worker who has access to a team of specialists. The GLA prevention report identified poverty and violence as factors but not in all cases. They are looking at protective factors where these were not involved.
Marley: Who is the target group?
Sarah: At the moment they are looking at all types of violence. They will work out the priorities and focus but will need to make hard choices.
Q: What practical advice would you give to a young girl in a relationship where you suspect physical/sexual abuse? What help would they provide?
Sarah: It is dependent on age. If under 18 there is less support. In an emergency call 999. If it can wait til morning ring the Family Justice Centre who will give you the address so you can visit. If you do not wish or are scared to seek help from local services, Women’s Aid have a national helpline. You can also go out of borough. Encourage the victim to seek help and be there for her. It is a very big step to take.
If necessary, accommodation and a domestic violence advocate will be provided immediately.
Q: Do you work with Gingerbread?
Sarah: There are several domestic violence charities we work with. Many people prefer to go outside the local area. Help must be given on the victim’s terms.
Q: How is funding from different departments/agencies joined up?
Sarah: It is part of my job to join it up. The public health approach brings different strands of work together. This way they get more for their money. It is well understood that prevention saves money but it can be difficult to prioritise as violent acts are happening now.
Andrea: ASB costs the police money.
Sarah: We are looking at ASB data. It is a direct symptom of and a leading indicator for violence. We are trying to spot patterns in the data. Drugs and alcohol drive ASB which is bad in Thornton Heath. Drugs lead to county lines and cannabis factories. They are having conversations with the police. The production of drugs leads to violence and the taking of drugs leads to people becoming violent.
Andrea: What action will be taken in Thornton Heath?
Sarah: I will take back the information and try to develop a strategy.
Comment: There are people who seem to be respectable but they abuse their power.
Marley: Last Thursday someone tried to ring the FJC every 10 minutes but got no answer. It went to answerphone every time. Eventually she went direct to FJC.
Sarah: They may have been particularly busy. She will check and give feedback.
Marley: What provision is made between parents and children?
Sarah: Schools need to be reasonably concerned. If a safeguarding referral is made (which is a legal requirement) Social Workers will handle it sensitively and try not to upset the parent/child relationship. Help is available according to the needs of the chil. It is not assumed the parents are responsible.
Linda drew the session to a close thanking Sarah and asking her to come again. She suggested members could do local walkabouts with her.
4. Croydon Council Consultation on Property Licensing
Two members of the Council and Sam from Opinion Research Services joined us to tell us about this scheme looking at problems in the private rented sector. Linda explained that within THCAT are landlords, tenants and home owners.
HMO’s with 5 or more residents require a mandatory licence. This was extended through Croydon’s private renting licensing scheme which ends at the end of this year. The proposal is to renew this scheme. The Council Cabinet agreed to consult on the new scheme and Opinion Research services is running the consultation on their behalf. The consultation ends at midnight on 9th March and they are encouraging as many people as possible to take part. To get as many views as possible. The application has to go to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for approval.
They will be looking at property condition, ASB and deprivation. 1 in 3 properties across the borough is privately rented. Thornton Heath is in all of the proposals.
Jeffrey: How did the Brent Consultation go?
A: There has been no decision yet.
Andrea: What do Landlords pay?
A: The fee is £750 but if they applied before the scheme started the fee was reduced to £350. If a Landlord buys a property to rent and applies within a months they also pay £350. HMOs are based on £250 per bedsit.
Andrea: So you are making quite a lot of money.
A: The income is £15million. 12,000 inspections have been carried out. The money is spread around different departments involved eg. ASB.
Andrea: There are lots of Health & Safety issues that are not being picked up.
A: 1 in 5 has a significant hazard. The current scheme has focussed on ASB. The new one will be on property condition. They are looking at how to achieve this through licensing.
Q: How effective has the scheme been?
A: There were initially 24,000 applications/day. The Council can prosecute defective landlords but if they appeal it has to go to tribunal which takes a long time. It has been effective but not as much as they had hoped. They are hoping that with intelligence it will be better because of what is already in place. They need to be more transparent.
Q: What actually happens?
A: If landlords are not compliant there is intervention leading to inspection, warnings, prosecution and licence removal. 1 in 5 privately rented properties is not licensed.
Andrea: Has reported properties which are rented but not licensed. There are others with severe problems which have not been dealt with. A property on Melfort Road is a drugs house. Why has this not been stopped yet?
A: They are working on this one, seeking a banning order.
Q: The government has refused renewal for 2 other boroughs. Have the factors that led to this refusal been taken into account?
A: After the consultation the Council will put a paper to Cabinet for approval. They will look at reasons why something has/has not been achieved.
Q: How many banning orders have there been?
A: None, but some properties have been closed.
Peter: There seems to be a lack of communication. Is there a time frame for dealing with a complaint?
A: Communication depends on how the complaint is made. Anonymous referrals can be made on-line but if a complaint is made by a specific person they will be kept informed as far as they can share information. It can take a long time but the complainant is kept informed so they know it is not forgotten.
There are 10,000 landlords without a license. They need an extra team to pursue that gap. If landlords are licensed under this scheme, they will get a price reduction next time.
There will be consultations in Croydon library on Tuesday and Friday next week.
The survey and further information can be found at: here.
5. Sustainable Thornton Heath Group
Daisy informed us that this group now meets on the 1st and 3rd Sunday in the month from 5.30-7pm at St Alban Church Hall.
They now have a Sustainable Thornton Heath Facebook page.
On Sunday 1st March at 11am they are meeting at Tesco for a plastic unwrap action day. They will do their shopping then unwrap everything of excess plastic, put it in a trolley and give it back to Tesco.
6. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 8th April from 7-8.30pm, venue to be confirmed.