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Greenwich’s independent Fairness Commission delivers key recommendations on mental health support

The independent Greenwich Fairness Commission, investigating inequality in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, made a series of recommendations to improve mental health provision, relieve residents suffering from benefit sanctions, and provide additional support for those burdened with unmanageable debts.  

The Greenwich Fairness Commission, chaired by Lord Bob Kerslake, is composed of 15 commissioners including Baroness Doreen Lawrence OBE and Lord Victor Adebowale CBE. It released its recommendations at its report launch on Wednesday 26 April. 

The Commission was established to deliver an evidenced based strategy to tackle inequality and poverty within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, with a focus on education, housing, employment, education and financial inclusion. 
The Fairness Commission has 60 recommendations in total including:
•         Education recommendation: National government should investigate ways of introducing auto-registration for pupils entitled to Free School Meals, in order to ensure that resources are reaching all eligible children.
•         Education recommendation:  In order to maximise the potential of the Apprenticeship Levy, the Royal Borough should co-ordinate with employers to create a borough-wide Apprenticeship Levy strategy. This strategy should focus on the creation of a ‘local offer’ to support local young people into apprenticeships.
•         Housing recommendation: National government must re-examine welfare changes in light of the impact on homelessness and the rising cost of Discretionary Housing Payments, and establish a system that limits the need for emergency relief to a minimum. In particular, the shared accommodation rate of Housing Benefit should be reviewed in the context of risks to vulnerable young people.
•         Financial inclusion recommendation: Create a Council ‘one-stop shop’ for residents with long-standing multiple debts.
•         Financial inclusion recommendation: In the first year of leaving care, a young care leaver should receive a full council tax exemption, with an annual incremental increase (up until the age of 25 years old, where they would be expected to start paying the full amount). 
•         Financial inclusion recommendation: Royal Borough of Greenwich and Greenwich Jobcentre Plus should partner to review the application of benefit sanctions at a local level 
Chair of the Greenwich Fairness Commission, Lord Kerslake, said, 

“This report is ultimately about how Greenwich can continue its path towards greater growth and prosperity, while ensuring that no-one gets left behind. Recognising the time and funding pressures faced by public and third sector bodies, we also tried as much as possible to spread the responsibility of the recommendations, and focus on cost-effective methods that make use of existing powers and capacity. Where existing powers are not enough, we have also made recommendations for national government to consider. These recommendations require a collaborative, “whole system” approach, involving all relevant partners and focused on the long-term.” 

Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Councillor Denise Hyland said, 
“The Royal Borough of Greenwich established a Fairness Commission to maximise every opportunity to improve the quality of life for our residents. The Commission has acted as a critical friend over the past few months, exploring the challenges and, most crucially, identifying an evidence based strategy to tackle poverty and inequality in the Borough. 

I would like to thank Lord Kerslake and all of the Commissioners for their tireless work over the last few months. The Royal Borough of Greenwich welcomes these recommendations and looks forward to working together with partners and colleagues to improve the future of Royal Greenwich.”