Tackling Cheshire’s hidden poverty

Footballer’s mansions worth millions; leafy attractive suburbs; expensive restaurants and flashy cars. These are the images of West Cheshire portrayed in much of the media that have shaped the public’s views of the area over many years.

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It would be easy to be blinded by this affluent reputation when other areas of the UK, particularly in cities, are tackling more visible hardship.

But we need to look beyond the stereotypes and recognise that while it might be hidden, poverty is a stark reality for thousands of families in West Cheshire.

Poverty exists here and it runs deeper than financial hardship and the impact of welfare reform. Increasingly we are seeing wider concerns around health and wellbeing, debt, housing, food and fuel poverty and difficulty securing employment.

Although child poverty is relatively low compared with England, at a very local level some small areas record rates in excess of 40%.

So, while in an area like Hoole less than 2% of children are living in low income families, in stark contrast, over 50 per cent are in Winsford Over and Verdin.

And according to the Government’s ‘Indices of Deprivation’, statistics reveal that close to half of all West Cheshire residents are living with some level of deprivation, including thousands of children.

Over the past three years, West Cheshire Foodbank has reported a growth in emergency food provision and as a result has expanded considerably to now distribute food from six centres.

Last year it provided over 5,400 emergency food supplies, making it above average in terms of numbers fed both nationally and regionally.

All this evidence points to the fact that thousands of people in our communities, many working families, are facing hardship and difficult choices every day.

Yet rural poverty like we are facing here is too often side-lined or forgotten as initiatives to tackle deprivation in big cities take precedence.

In November 2015 the West Cheshire Poverty Trust Commission was set up by the council after it was revealed there are more than 26,000 vulnerable households in the borough.

The commission recognises that people living in poverty are the experts on the issue and puts them at the heart of the decision-making process to ensure that services delivered have as far-reaching and effective an impact as possible.

At Weaver Vale Housing Trust we are the only landlord wholly based in West Cheshire. We provide over 6,000 affordable homes across an area that encompasses wealthy neighbourhoods like Tarporley but also those with serious deprivation like Northwich and Winsford.

We are committed to providing services that not only support our customers in their everyday lives, but also help improve their quality of life in the long-run.

From providing support with welfare reforms, budgeting and debt through our Money Matters team to projects that help those furthest away from the job market into work, at Weaver Vale we are always considering how best we can support our customers.

Affordability of homes and demand for housing is of course also a key priority – house prices remain above the North West average –  with the average house price still 7.7 times the average salary in West Cheshire.

We are building new homes to help with this challenge – and we are committed to finding ways to finance many more.

Our developments of new properties across four sites in Leftwich and Northwich are using unused old garage sites and land to provide much needed affordable housing at the heart of the community.

And our first shared ownership properties in Wincham, The Fryers, will help people realise their dream of getting on the property ladder.

We need to work closer and better with our partner agencies to make sure that extra support is there for those that need it most in our communities.

Working together is the key.

By collaborating with the council, West Cheshire Poverty Trust Commission, health providers, the local food bank, police and others we can help ensure poverty in the area doesn’t stay hidden and make sure vulnerable people have a voice and are not forgotten.

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