More people using food banks in North Yorkshire 'than were in the workhouse' 130 years ago

More people were receiving emergency food aid in North Yorkshire last year than were inmates in the county’s workhouses 130 years ago, it has emerged.

Bread and dripping for lunch at the Workhouse Museum in Ripon Picture: Mike Cowling

A thought-provoking report by North Yorkshire’s director of public health Dr Lincoln Sargeant draws parallels between the extreme poverty of the 19th century - which drove people to workhouses - with present day poverty.

It is estimated around 6,450 people in North Yorkshire received emergency food aid in 2018/19.

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In contrast on census day, April 5 1891, there were 1,511 “pauper inmates” in the North Riding, a rate of 4.3 per 1,000 population - compared to the 10.5 per 1,000 population, which today relies on food packages.

Hanging out the washing in the workyard at Ripon Workhouse museum

Dr Sargeant said while people’s health had in many ways improved from the workhouse era “there is still a striking similarity between poverty in the past and poverty today - they are still largely due to unemployment and low household income.”

Estimates suggest around 92,000 people in North Yorkshire fall into the Government’s definition of poverty - which is a household with an income 60 per cent less than the average.

Although poverty can be found anywhere in the county, statistics show that nine of the 11 areas which are among the most deprived in England are in Scarborough.

Dr Sargeant said the rise of food banks “indicates a re-emergence of destitution where people lack sufficient income to meet their basic needs.”

In-work poverty is another factor, with data showing “that some of those who find themselves needing to rely on the compassion of others are in full-time employment”.

Dr Sargeant said: “They are hard-working, conscientious citizens who nevertheless find that they cannot make ends meet despite their best efforts.”

Life expectancy is, however, much better than in 1891, when in England a man could expect to live to just 44 and a woman to 48.

In North Yorkshire it is now 79.6 years for men and 83.1 for women. However there is huge variation across the area with Scarborough having the lowest life expectancy and Hambleton the highest.

Dr Sargeant said generally health in North Yorkshire was positive: “Generally I think we have been making the right choices and investments, but overall we have to be mindful that averages hide some important extremes and we should not be complacent.”

The annual report makes nine recommendations - including trying to raise incomes in deprived areas through supporting people into work and helping them access the benefits to which they are entitled.

Working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Region deals to promote rural growth is also suggested.