Thursday, November 10, 2016
Bridging the Gap
Founded by the Duke of Richmond, whose Goodwood House home is in West Sussex, the Sussex Community Foundation has been active for ten years, raising charitable funds and distributing them throughout the county. It has made grant awards totaling over £8 million to more than 1,500 community groups and is currently administering a fund of a further £11 million.
Today, three years after its inaugural report into deprivation, the foundation has published Sussex Uncovered 2: Bridging the Gap and it notes that there is “huge disparity between different parts of Sussex.” Drawn from the Government’s own 2015 Indices of Multiple Deprivation, the report reveals that, despite its perceived wealth, Sussex has 26 wards in the top 20% most deprived in England, and Hastings is the 20th most deprived district out of 326 in the country. In terms of health deprivation, the data reveals that in some urban areas there is a nine-year difference in adult male life expectancy between the most and least deprived wards.
However, despite some large population concentrations in coastal towns, deprivation in Sussex is not confined to those urban areas. 25% of people in Sussex live in rural areas, higher than the English average of 17.6%, and for people there the most significant indicator of the economic downturn and subsequent government policy is that the average wage in Sussex is the lowest in the south east and below the average for England. This means that people living on low incomes in countryside areas face disadvantage in terms of transport and affordable housing and, although the level of homelessness has reduced in some urban areas such as Brighton and Hove, there has been an increase in rural areas such as Wealden.
Sussex has an unusually high elderly population, which accounts for some of the disparities in health and income deprivation; but it is the levels of child poverty that are the starkest indicators of a county of extremes. In some parts of Mid Sussex, less than 1% of children are growing up in poverty, a figure way below the 22% average for England. This is contrasted with many areas of East Sussex which are way above average: in parts of Eastbourne, 39% of children are in poor households; in Sidley, 47% live in poverty; and in one area of Hastings the level of child poverty is an astonishing 75%.
When the Sussex Community Foundation was set up, its founder called the levels of deprivation in Sussex “a scandal”. Ten years on, that a wealthy county in the south east of England can allow this situation to exist is just as scandalous. As the report notes, “the Government’s austerity policies have started to have a real impact on the lives of people in our communities and on the charities and community groups that support them.” Despite doing important work, organisations such as the Sussex Community Foundation cannot hope to stem the tide of deprivation and, unless cuts to mainstream services are reversed soon, the situation will not improve.
'Sussex Uncovered 2: Bridging the Gap' can be read here.