Vital signs report gives snapshot of Northumberland life

A report produced by the Community Foundation has revealed a number of areas of concern in Northumberland

Rob Williamson, chief executive of Community Foundation
Rob Williamson, chief executive of Community Foundation

A snapshot of life in Northumberland has revealed a number of areas of concern.

The Vital Signs report produced by the Community Foundation reveals that urgent action is needed to address problems in the local economy.

Fairness and civil society organisations are also classed as problem areas in the county, in a report that rates the county from A-E on 12 areas of public life.

A similar report was produced on Tyne and Wear earlier this year, giving the area the lowest possible mark – grade E – on work, learning and healthy living.

Northumberland was not given any of the lowest marks, but scored three D grades and didn’t have any As.

The Community Foundation hopes the report will give a clear picture of the needs in the local area and help highlight where charitable help can ease any issues.

Community Foundation chief executive Rob Williamson said: “The whole purpose of the Vital Signs report is to kick start conversations about how community philanthropy can help civil society organisations and others to improve the local quality of life.

“It offers an assessment of what’s good and what’s challenging in an area, and the scope for philanthropic action, rather than how public services are run. Northumberland clearly has lots of really good things which need to be treasured, but also some problems that more effective philanthropy can help to tackle.

“We now aim to get that conversation going with donors, communities and public bodies cross the county, about how best to start dealing with these critical issues.”

The report uses detailed research to grade the county on 12 areas of public life: work, fairness, housing and homelessness, safety, learning, arts, culture and heritage, strong communities, environment, healthy living, local economy, civil society organisations and young people.

The Community Foundation looked at the county separately to Tyne and Wear to ensure issues in rural areas were properly considered. It also drilled down into the different districts rather than using county-wide figures, which revealed some significant deprivation in areas of South East Northumberland, Berwick and in some rural communities. There was a wide variation between urban and rural areas of Northumberland on issues including benefit dependency, employment and education attainment.

Economically, the county has been hit hard by the contraction of the public sector and the closure of the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter, which was Northumberland’s biggest private sector employer.

Mr Williamson said: “It’s clear that the local economy must be a priority for action. Civil society organisations, supported by local philanthropists, can play a significant role in improving the county’s offer as a good place to live, do business and work. They can help ensure that local people, particularly the young and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are able to benefit fully from new opportunities as they arise.”

In the report, fairness emerged as an issue of concern in both urban and rural areas.

Urban parts of the county do less well  on employment, income, child poverty, health, education, older people’s poverty and crime. Significant rural disadvantages highlighted by the report included social isolation, limited public transport, housing problems in some areas and poor broadband connectivity.

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