‘No clear future’ for the poor in one of Yorkshire’s largest cities

Lord Blunkett.

Picture by Dean Atkins
Lord Blunkett. Picture by Dean Atkins
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One of Yorkshire’s biggest cities is becoming more polarised - with greater numbers living in the most deprived and most affluent areas, a major report examining Sheffield has found.

The State of Sheffield report warns that the city faces stark challenges, including a “damaging and growing” inequality that has left parts of the city with concentrated poverty and financial insecurity.

It said large numbers of the city’s population see “no clear future for themselves or their children”, and that deprivation is also having an impact on health, in particular on levels of preventable mortality - with those in the poorest parts of the city, including Manor and Darnall, ranked in the highest sector for premature death.

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Furthermore, health inequalities could “worsen significantly” in the face of austerity, with much of the impact of cuts not yet felt, the report warns. Poverty has grown, demonstrated by around 25,000 Sheffield households that are affected by fuel poverty, and a “significant” increase in food bank use.

The report, which was commissioned by the Sheffield Executive Board, also warns of major challenges in terms of meeting the increasing demands of a growing population with regards to housing, health and education at a time of further public spending cuts; tackling low wages and “unacceptably poor” air quality.

But it stresses the importance of Sheffield as the economic core of region, which it said strengthens the case to bring HS2 to the city centre - and said it “remains resilient” and well placed to meet future challenges.

Lord Blunkett, chair of the Sheffield Executive Board, said measures already gaining pace in the city, such as the Fair Employer Charter and Sheffield Money, which offers low interest loans to counteract the payday loan market, were helping to meet its challenges.

“The strength of the city is it’s people,” he said. “There’s lots of good things going on but unless they are brought together into a joint venture we are missing a trick.”

He added: “We are in the throes of eye watering austerity and we need to mobilise good will in Sheffield, and to find new ways of commissioning and delivering services and initiatives has to be a priority.”

The report examined almost every area of public life, including education, finding that Sheffield children are making good progress in Early Years, Key Stage 2 and GCSE attainment - through gaps to the national average still exist. Youth unemployment, a key critique of the annual report two years ago, remains above the national average and the highest of all core cities, driven by high female youth unemployment.

Life expectancy has improved to 78.8 years for men and 82.4 years for women - although women are expected to live the last 23 years of life in poor health - five years more than the national average.

Increasing mental and emotional health needs in young people and women were also highlighted.

Sharon Squires, Director Sheffield First Partnership said: “Statistics on the economy, education, health, employment, and population growth all indicate improvements over the past five years. But the report is also challenging; inequality is widening with growing numbers of people experiencing financial insecurity. And providing high quality affordable housing, and good jobs remain key challenges for the city.”

Co-author, Prof Gordon Dabinett of the University of Sheffield said the issues facing Sheffield were “complicated and often interlinked”.