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‘Shocking’ unemployment figures reveal jobs blackspot in Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 06:30 17 May 2012

Great Yarmouth's Nelson Ward, which has the worst unemployment rate in Norfolk. Photo: Steve Adams

Great Yarmouth's Nelson Ward, which has the worst unemployment rate in Norfolk. Photo: Steve Adams

Latest unemployment figures reveal that an area of Great Yarmouth has one of the highest rates of people claiming unemployment benefits in the United Kingdom.

Latest unemployment figures reveal that an area of Great Yarmouth has one of the highest rates of people claiming unemployment benefits in the United Kingdom.

The Nelson ward already has the unwelcome tag of being one of the most deprived areas in the country, despite its place in our largely-prosperous county.

Earlier this year it emerged that nearly half of children living in the ward are in families on out-of-work benefits.

That was compounded yesterday when the latest unemployment figures revealed the ward has the 11th highest rate of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in the country – with nearly one in six claiming unemployment benefit.

The ward comes in just behind areas in Glasgow, London, Middlesbrough and Northern Ireland.

The figures were last night described as “shocking” and people in the town said more must be done to increase employment opportunities.

Michael Jeal, borough councillor for Nelson ward, said: “My personal opinion is that Great Yarmouth needs more industry. This does not deflect from the valuable role the tourism industry plays to the Great Yarmouth economy, but there isn’t enough work in the tourism industry for 52 weeks of the year.

“Unfortunately, since the recession, people haven’t been quite so willing to invest and smaller businesses, which need investment, are not getting it from banks. Yarmouth, like everywhere else, has been hit severely by the recession and it needs regeneration.”

Mr Jeal said he hoped local labour would be used to build the town’s new £35m casino, which was given the green light last month.

Great Yarmouth mayor Colleen Walker said the figures were “shocking” and the issue needed addressing urgently.

“I was born and raised in the area and I share your concerns,” she said. “It is not good for an area of town to suffer in this way.

“I do not understand why and we have to look at it urgently. Obviously we want people’s lives to be better and we do not want them to continue living in deprivation... I do not have the answer. I wish I did.”

Melodie Fearns, headteacher at St George’s Infant and Nursery School said it was working hard to increase children’s aspirations.

“We do have a mixed population here,” she said. “We have people in normal jobs as well as a number of families who are claiming benefits in various forms and also people above benefits – some who are in low paid work and are therefore struggling an awful lot.

“We currently work within the school to support parents on low pay or on benefits.

“From our point of view, in job terms and career terms, Great Yarmouth is quite limited in normal circumstances. It is even more limited given the financial crisis we all find ourselves in. I currently do everything possible to bring into the curriculum that there is life beyond Great Yarmouth and increase aspirations in any way.”

Mrs Fearns said about 30pc of youngsters at the school did not speak English as their first language.

She added: “Parents can become despondent and can be unemployed for a very long time through no fault of their own. Quite often parents volunteer in school and we allow them to come in so they can put it on their CV. We are quite different to Great Yarmouth as a whole and have quite a transient population. There are also a lot of low cost houses, a lot of them privately rented.”

Ben Sampson is project co-ordinator for Target Opportunities, a project set up to help people in south and central Yarmouth find employment. He said the issues surrounding unemployment were multi-faceted.

“One of the main things is inter-generational unemployment where people are born into a household where perhaps the father and grandfather do not work and they lack aspiration,” he said.

“This problem is one of the main drivers in Yarmouth, a lack of aspiration and a discord between people and what the opportunities are. For example, we know there are lots of jobs in care and there are going to be a lot of jobs in the offshore industry but Joe Bloggs on the street probably doesn’t know that. I do not think anyone is particularly happy to stay on benefits. The vast majority are honestly really trying to find work.”

Rob Gregory, corporate strategy, communities and partnerships manager at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said it was working hard to improve employment support for people in the area.

“We are acutely aware of the issues for local residents in terms of unemployment,” he said.

“In Nelson ward in particular, we are working with the local neighbourhood board “Comeunity” to bring together a pooled community budget from the borough council, job centre plus and local private sector to help to improve employment support for local people.

“Part of this work is about linking local people with new and emerging job opportunities in the borough. The Target Opportunities project is one service we have been able to fund through this approach. It has been hugely successful in helping people to get into work – mainly because it is shaped and designed by residents themselves.”

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis welcomed yesterday’s figures, but said there was a “real issue” with the Nelson ward. He added: “There is not a simple, straight fix. Nelson ward has been an issue for a long time.

“In Yarmouth we have such big opportunities with £50bn worth of energy contracts over the next 10 years – the opportunities are there.

“There are jobs available and we need to make sure the system encourages people. If they can’t necessarily get the job they want at first, they may have to take a job and use it as a stepping stone. The majority are keen to work and we need to make sure the system gives them every opportunity.”

Mr Lewis added: “A couple of years ago a kid said to me that it was good to be on benefits as his parents were on benefits and they had a decent telly and could eat McDonalds nearly every day and that their neighbours next door could not afford that and they were at work. The fact that child was able to have that conversation at all is still a worry.”

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