Easing deprivation, dementia care and boosting young people’s potential among focuses of new ‘health check’ for Norfolk
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A new health check for the county has been launched by the Norfolk Community Foundation, with hopes it will guide where future cash is spent. Reporter Lauren Cope looks at the five key areas it covers.
Health and wellbeing
An ageing population and increasing cases of dementia are among the top concerns for the county's health system.
According to the Vital Signs report, there are an estimated 16,000 people living with the disease in Norfolk, with 3,885 new diagnoses emerging every year.
Willie Cruickshank, director at the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, said: 'Dementia is different to other long-term health conditions. There's no cure, there's no disease modifying drugs. It's not an NHS problem, it's a social care problem, which means it is means tested.
'Today, like every other day across Norfolk, there are about 100 families unable to fund the social care support they need to help their loved ones with dementia continue with the care they need.'
Mr Cruickshank said the issues around dementia touched all sections of the report.
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The report also reveals that Norfolk has the third highest number of excess winter deaths in the country - and the highest in the region.
Problems around mental health care are also covered - 12.3pc of people in Norfolk have depression, which is above the national average of 11.2pc.
Of all the people affected by common mental disorders in the county, 23pc of those are from Great Yarmouth or Waveney. Women aged 16 to 74 account for 70,477 of them, compared to 44,434 men.
Earlier this year, the NCF launched a campaign to attract more funding from Norfolk donors for mental wellbeing, in which more than £500,000 was raised.
Despite the concerns, the overall picture of healthcare in the region is painted as positive - 81pc of people surveyed said there is a good standard and quality of healthcare where they live, while 87pc report having 'very good' or 'fairly good' experiences of their GP surgery.
Education, skills and employment
The skills and education picture in Norfolk is bleak.
While the employment rate, at 75pc, is higher than the national average, the county has long been identified as a low-scorer in skills and qualifications.
The report reveals that Great Yarmouth is the second worst place in the UK - 323rd out of 324 - for limiting youth ambition, with west and north Norfolk also in the bottom 20, while the county's skills and qualifications score is 92 - in the bottom three of all counties nationally.
Tim Sweeting, chief executive of YMCA Norfolk, said: 'I believe the quality of a life should not be dependent on where we live. There should not be an outcome to our lives based on our origin.
'These people are more likely to face poor health, more likely to face employment barriers... It is easy to think about this as statistics, but these are real people with a family and the tough situations that they are going through today.'
He said he had seen a recent rise in the number of people sleeping on the streets and forced to 'rummage through bins' for their meals.
'For me the most important message in this report is the need to take a strategic approach to have a long-term sustained change,' he said.
In the NCF's survey, 71pc of people said they didn't think it was easy for young people to get into employment in their area.
In 2014, the New Anglia LEP Community Challenge was launched to help disadvantaged people improve employment prospects.
Last year, eight grants totalling £160,000 were awarded to Norfolk and Suffolk charities.
Putting communities in Norfolk on an even footing when it comes to deprivation is key to creating a fair society for all, according to the report.
While Norfolk scored well overall for fairness, the report warns there are 'pockets of extreme inequality' in certain areas, including in Norwich, where 31pc of children are thought to be living below the poverty line - a figure which is about double that in nearby Broadland.
The county's overall deprivation score is 24.4, above the national average of 21.54, while in Great Yarmouth it is 32.82, with the Nelson ward the most deprived in the county.
One in three families in Great Yarmouth are also said to be in 'problem debt'.
Housing is a particular problem, with the growing gap between house prices and household incomes fuelling a rise in crisis services such as foodbanks.
John Archibald, chief executive of Victory Housing, said: 'With house prices outstripping incomes, housing is now a constraint on growth and prosperity, whereas it should be a catalyst.'
Dozens of foodbanks have sprung up around the county in recent years. Surviving Winter, a UK Community Foundations Campaign, aims to help those who may be forced to choose between food and heating during cold weather.
Safer and stronger communities
Norfolk ranks among the top 10 UK counties for volunteering, making its community spirit some of the strongest in the country.
It also has the lowest crime rate regionally and is in the lowest quartile nationally.
Three quarters of Norfolk residents believe that people from different backgrounds get on well together in the local area, while 61pc of people feel a 'strong sense of belonging' in their immediate neighbourhood, compared to 58.7pc nationally.
In the report, Jonathan Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk, said while the county's communities are unified, the strength was not 'evenly spread'.
'As we look at a future where communities will be asked to do more for themselves, it is vital we do not leave areas behind while ensuring the assets we have are not eroded,' he said.
However, domestic violence continues to be a problem - Norfolk Constabulary estimates that one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and of the 13,128 domestic incidents in 2012/13, 48pc involved at least one child.
Pockets of deprivation around the county include the swatches of rural villages and towns.
More than half of Norfolk's population, 52.5pc, live in an area classified as rural - and 45pc of deprivation in the county is found outside of built-up areas.
Rural living can often lead to a higher cost of living, isolation and lack of opportunity, with people in those areas spending about 10pc to 20pc more on everyday requirements.
In NCF's survey, 70pc of people said a lack of regular and accessible public transport was an issue, while 87pc said it was becoming more expensive to live in rural Norfolk.
To combat the problems, Kickstart Norfolk loans people mopeds and motorbikes to overcome the barriers of rural isolation.