Self-harm, low life expectancy, serious deprivation and double the national average for smoking deaths are just some of the challenges faced by Northamptonshire communities today.
The county’s problems have been laid bare in a wide ranging report commissioned by Northamptonshire Community Foundation.
The grant distributing organisation worked with University of Northampton’s Professor Richard Hazenburg to produce Northamptonshire’s Hidden Needs – a comprehensive stock take of our social issues based on a forensic cross referencing of data from a variety of sources.
An invited audience battled through the snow to attend the March 1 launch at the Sunley Centre on Park Campus of the University of Northampton. Despite the inhospitable weather there were few empty seats as Prof Hazenburg, a former police officer who has retrained as an academic and is now part of the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact, delivered the report findings.
He said: “Northamptonshire is quite an interesting county when you start to dig into the data that underpins the report, it has some areas that are not deprived at all – historically you would focus on areas like South Northants that are quite well off – but also it has some areas of serious deprivation – a lot of the areas that are in the top one per cent of the most deprived in the country.
“If we look at reports that have come out recently, most notably the Social Mobility Report, Corby was actually the fourth worst performing for social mobility in the whole country.
“None of this is meant to say this area is good this area is bad, every area has its challenges, it is trying to understand what those challenges are and how we can better support those areas to overcome them.”
His presentation highlighted a number of issues for the county. The population is rising fast and is 4.5 per cent larger than it was in 2011. More children live in poverty in Northamptonshire than don’t, we have a high rate of hospital admissions for alcohol, some areas of high smoking deaths, lowered life expectancy in Corby and Northampton and for women in Daventry.
Prof Hazenburg took some questions after his presentation during which it was accepted many of the problems outlined would have been the same ten years ago and also that there may be less intervention from the state going forward, increasing the urgency of action from charitable bodies.
A panel session followed which featured Professor Richard Hazenberg (University of Northampton, Institute for Social Innovation and Impact), John Nickson (Author of Our Common Good and UKCF Trustee) Meghann Horner-Smith (The Horner Foundation) and Kathryn White (Blackthorn Good Neighbours).
The question put to the room was: what is the role of civil society in addressing the needs outlined in the survey?
John Nickson said: “The impact of the state providing less is going to put more demand on the voluntary sector but it is quite shocking, charitable giving in this country has not increased in real terms over the past 30 years or so despite a collossal increase in personal wealth and the lowering of personal tax rates.”
Meghann Horner-Smith described the work of her family foundation – something more common in her home country the USA – which she and her sisters operate to benefit the various areas they live in around the world.
At a different level but just as important Kathryn White described how Blackthorn Good Neighbours offers all kinds of social support and does what it can to help in the area, albeit in a small scale way.
Victoria Miles DL, Chief Executive of Northamptonshire Community Foundation said: “Whilst the report shows areas of great concern and need, it also shows how the Foundation is already meeting some of those needs through case-studies of the difference made by locally funded projects. We hope to engage with a range of partners and donors on how we can work together to tackle some of the most pressing needs head on.”
The academic research was conducted by Professor Richard Hazenberg and PhD Researcher, Claire Paterson-Young at the University of Northampton, Institute for Social Innovation and Impact.
Claire Paterson-Young, the lead researcher on Northamptonshire Hidden Needs spoke about the study: “Finding and analysing information from such a diverse range of sources was challenging, but it did allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the needs in Northamptonshire, which are varied and location dependent. However, the findings I believe will have great impact in allowing Northamptonshire Community Foundation to effectively target the fantastic support that they provide the voluntary sector in the county.”