More good quality jobs and better skills are needed to reduce the high level of deprivation in Hastings, according to the borough council leader.
Child poverty in two areas of Hastings is by far the highest across the county, according to a new report released by a Sussex charity.
In one part of the Baird ward more than three quarters of children are growing up in poverty, the eleventh highest figure across England, while an area of Tressell is second in Sussex and 56th nationally.
Six areas of Hastings and St Leonards are in the ten most deprived parts of Sussex, according to a new report compiled by the Sussex Community Foundation, a charity which raises funds for and gives grants to charities and community groups across the county.
The report, called ‘Sussex Uncovered 2: Bridging the Gap’, ranks 999 small areas of 1,500 people across Sussex on the proportion of children living in income-deprived families.
Using the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index, part of the Baird ward scored 75.5 per cent, while the lowest figure in the borough was an area of the Conquest ward scoring only 5.6 per cent.
Parts of Ore rank fourth, Central St Leonards fifth and seventh, and Hollington tenth.
The Hastings borough also ranks 20th out of 326 areas in England for deprivation and highest across Sussex.
Overall deprivation in Hastings is highest in Central St Leonards, then Castle, Hollington, Gensing, Tressell, Baird, Wishing Tree, Ore, and Braybrooke, all ranking in the top 20 nationally.
Carole Dixon is chief executive of Hastings-based Education Futures Trust, which runs a number of projects and courses aiming to improve the life chances of both children and adults in the town and surrounding area, and has received several grants from the Sussex Community Foundation.
She explained that there was a proven link between poverty and health, not just physical but mental health as well, as having to deal with problem after problem can ‘eat at people’s confidence and self esteem’.
Referrals to the organisation come from mental health services, GPs, and job centres, and a lot of the groups it runs are outdoors such as projects carrying out conservation work.
The registered charity does not receive any statutory funding so only receives money from bids or commissioned services. A recent example is £5,000 it received from the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner to run an outdoors survival squad for 10-16-year-olds.
Peter Chowney, leader of Hastings Borough Council, explained that the data showed that Hastings was ‘generally improving’ in terms of becoming less deprived, with some dramatic improvements in some pockets of the borough.
While the picture seemed to show general average improvements overall, the richer areas are improving faster than the poorer areas, with significant poverty in some parts of Hastings, such as the Broomgrove Estate neighbourhood, which is the eleventh most deprived area in terms of income and employment deprivation in the whole of England.
Mr Chowney added: “But in the end, it will be by continuing to improve the image and environment of Hastings overall that we’ll be able to attract more employers offering good quality jobs to local people.
“But it’s about skills and training too - other IMD indicators show that skills level and educational attainment is significantly worse in those more deprived areas.
“More recent data on educational achievement and employment than the data used in the IMD appear to show improvements in these most deprived SOAs [super output areas], but there’s still a long way to go.
“The council is hoping to get EU funding (through the Community Led Local Development scheme) which will help us address skills, training, and employability in these most deprived areas.
“Overall, a lot more public investment is needed in Hastings and other towns with areas of significant deprivation.
“For us, that means improvements to transport infrastructure so it’s a more attractive place for employers, but investment in improving educational attainment, skills and employability too.”
Kevin Richmond, chief executive at the Sussex Community Foundation, said: “The first Sussex Uncovered report was the first report to give a broad view of issues facing local communities across the entirety of Sussex.
“It found that Sussex is a great place to live if you can afford it. In this report, we wanted to look in a more qualitative way to uncover what is going on at the grassroots.”
He added: “We asked a number of the groups that we have funded to tell us about the services they provide, how they are managing the new funding environment and their hopes for the future. Their views and experiences are reflected in this report.”
According to the report, reductions in Government spending has started to have a ‘real impact’ on Sussex residents and on the charities and community groups that support them.
The report’s executive summary states: “Many local charities feel they are facing the perfect storm of increasing need, reducing funding and an uncertain future.
“We aim to provide shelter from the storm for the local community by providing a flexible and responsive source of funding for the people who give their time to help those in need.
“Sussex is a great place to live, if you can afford it. We hope that this report will show our current and future donors what the needs of Sussex people continue to be and how, together, we can use our unique model of community philanthropy to support the charities and community groups and volunteers that work so hard to make Sussex a great place to live for everyone.”
To donate to Education Futures Trust visit mydonate.bt.com/charities/educationfuturestrust or for more information about services or to donate to a specific project call 01424 722241.
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