There was intense discussion and actions agreed today (14 August 2020) at NILGA’s all council monthly Executive meeting where the sustainability of our 11 councils was in focus. At the meeting, members also heard from the Money and Pensions Service as councillors explored how to support constituents who have been affected by the coronavirus.
Janine Maher from the Money and Pensions Service, which is an arms-length body sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions and works closely with the Treasury to provide free financial advice to people, informed elected members about the free support and guidance they provide.
Other key local government issues like waste management were discussed, and the Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership gave an update on human trafficking and exploitation in Northern Ireland.
Cllr Matt Garrett (Belfast City Council) NILGA President said:
“This was a timely and incredibly useful briefing from the Money and Pensions Service. At a time of significant financial and economic upheaval, people are understandably anxious about their own personal finances. Members learned about the supports, services and free advice which are available for their local constituents.
“We also discussed and explored the severe ongoing mental and emotional impact which the pandemic is having on people. As well as being both a public health and economic crisis, this is fast becoming a mental health crisis also. Anxieties and worries concerning paying mortgages and rent, unemployment, rising debt, and other financial concerns are on the rise and the mental health of those affected often deteriorates as well.
“Engagements like these are worthwhile exercises which allow elected members to better assist their constituents. As public representatives, constituents come to us with a broad range of issues and there is an onus upon us to be aware of the support and guidance available to them. Briefings like today are opportunities to learn and hear directly from the experts which allow us to signpost worried or affected constituents in the right direction.”