Agenda item

Rothercard Review

To consider a report outlining the findings of the review of the Rothercard scheme and changes identified to deliver an improved Rothercard scheme.


Cabinet Portfolio: Social Inclusion

Strategic Directorate: Finance and Customer Services


The Vice-Chair welcomed the Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, the Strategic Director for Finance and Customer Services and the Assistant Director for Customer, Information and Digital Services to the meeting.


The Rothercard scheme was launched as an anti-poverty initiative in 1993 to prioritise support for Rotherham people living on a low-income by offering a discount on a range of Council services, as well as discounts on goods and leisure activities from a small number of other organisations. The current scheme had not been developed or promoted for some time which was likely to mean that some of the people who could most benefit from the scheme, were missing out. A review of the Rothercard scheme by a cross party Rothercard Working group had been completed. The findings from the review were set out in Appendix 1. The purpose of this report was to set out the changes identified from the outcome of the review, which, once implemented, would deliver an improved Rothercard scheme.


The Cabinet Member introduced the report and outlined that the work undertaken to maximise the benefits for those residents eligible. He thanked members of the working group for their contribution to the review.


The Assistant Director noted that the scheme was originally introduced in 1993 and had not been reviewed in some time in line with technological developments or relevance of the range of offers. Applications for Rothercard were logged in 2017 to gain an understanding of what it was being used for. The report set out proposals to be implemented from April 1, 2023. It was intended that the working group would be reconvened on an annual basis to ensure that the scheme evolved and remained relevant for those who needed it.


The Vice-Chair invited questions from the Board and a discussion on the following issues ensued:


Clarification was sought about how the scheme would be publicised. A suggestion was made to add it to ward newsletters and publicise via school networks, social media pages, housing information etc. It was outlined that it would be targeted at residents in receipt of Council Tax support, including people receiving state pension. It was noted that further promotion was planned with under 21s.


It was noted that disabled people were often less physically active than non-disabled people and if scheme eligibility was extended, whether this may incentivise disabled people’s access to leisure facilities. Further consideration would be given to how the scheme could be expanded and what discounts were available. A piece of work was being undertaken with Children and Young People’s Service to look at gaps in provisions and how these could be addressed. It was suggested that consideration could be given to extending eligibility automatically to those in receipt of Education, Care and Health Plans (EHCPs) or other Council services.


Plans to engage local with businesses to offer discounts were welcomed. Details were sought of whether there were plans to undertake discussions with neighbouring authorities to expand provision. It was noted that this may take place in the future.


Clarification was sought about the application process and if this would exclude people without digital access. It was outlined that customer service advisers would complete the application on behalf of the customer should they be eligible and give consent. There would not be an online application and cards would be issued for those who did not have access to a smart phone.


Details were sought of the links to the wider cost of living workstreams. It was noted that this was a consideration of the working group to ensure that discounted services were available to low-income households. It was also noted that the intention was to ensure that these were available across the Borough not just in the town centre. It would be possible to analyse ward data, category of user, what discounts are being taken up and frequency of use.


In response to a query about the level of discount for garden waste (proposed at 5%), it was outlined that this was a new discount. The level of take up and impact on the business model would be reviewed by the service in due course.


It was noted that some other local authorities ran discount schemes. The Assistant Director indicated that these had been considered in drawing together proposals and the service was committed to learning from good practice elsewhere.




1.    That Cabinet be advised that the following recommendations be supported:


1)         That Cabinet approves the recommended changes set out in this report to deliver a new Rothercard scheme as detailed at Section 3 (Options considered and recommended proposal).

2)         That Cabinet note the changes to the eligibility criteria and the improvements that will be delivered to make it easier for customers to apply for/benefit from the scheme by:

·       Automatically providing residents who qualify for Council Tax Support (with consent) with a Rothercard

·      Raising awareness of the scheme with those who have already qualified for Council Tax Support so they can be provided with a Rothercard should they wish to have one.

3)         That Cabinet approve the proposal to offer the following new discounts to Rothercard holders:

·       10% reduction off the cost of a hot drink effective from 1 April 2023, at the following locations:

o   Clifton Park Museum Café,

o   Thrybergh Country Park Café

o   Rother Valley Country Park Café

·      5% reduction on the cost of the 2024/25 garden waste collection service (1st bin only).  This reduction will be applied from December 2023 when residents are invited to renew/subscribe for the collection service that will commence from 26th February 2024.

4)         That Cabinet approve the intention to engage with businesses to explore the potential for developing a universal discount scheme that supports local businesses and retailers to benefit all Rotherham residents.

5)         That Cabinet approve the intention to introduce an electronic alternative to a paper based Rothercard.

6)         That Cabinet notes the intention to undertake an annual review to assess how the scheme is benefiting residents and helping deliver improved outcomes.  


2.    That consideration be given to extending the eligibility criteria to include:


i.      young adults (up to the age of 24 years) with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs); and

ii.      care leavers.


3.  That further work be undertaken to ensure that the initiative aligns with the ‘cost-of-living’ workstream and neighbourhood agenda and ward priorities.

4.  That as part of the planned Rothercard annual review, consideration be given to:

i.      the number of disabled people participating in the scheme and if extending the eligibility criteria could encourage more disabled people to apply; and

ii.      the feasibility of increasing the level of discount on garden waste collections.

Supporting documents: