Norwich is not a fine city for everyone

Foodbanks are becoming more and more necessary as more people fall on hard times and need to call o

Foodbanks are becoming more and more necessary as more people fall on hard times and need to call on them to help. Photo: David Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Visitors may drive along tree lined Newmarket Road, visit our great shops, parks, museums and theatres and go home thinking all is well in our fine city. However, Norwich is not a fine city for everyone. Poverty and deprivation is often out of sight.

Many wouldn't realise that Norwich has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the country. 32pc of children live in income deprived households. For our neighbours in Broadland and South Norfolk it's only 10pc. One in five Norwich children lives in a household that have no work at all. Reliance on foodbanks is increasing.

Living in deprivation means having shorter lives, poorer health and experiencing more crime.

What is particular about Norwich is how poverty is concentrated in particular areas. In west Norwich the rate of children living in low income families varies hugely – it's over 30pc in Wensum, University and Bowthorpe yet in Nelson, our 'golden triangle', it's under 5pc. This highlights the real problem in Norwich – a lack of social mobility; meaning, if you are born poor, you tend to stay poor.

The government's 'social mobility index' came out a few months ago listing Norwich as the second worst place in England out of 324 districts. Young people in deprivation in Norwich get stuck.


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Education is a big part of this. Last year we celebrated not being the worst place in England for GCSE results – which shows us just how bad things have become. Norfolk County Council Children's Services are still in special measures, as is our NHS Mental Health Trust. We aren't creating the chances for young people they deserve.

I worry that we are complacent about these challenges. It is so easy to just think 'but Norwich is so nice'. It is. But there are some big problems we mustn't ignore.

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The answers are big too. We need some strong action and leadership – but first of all we need to accept that Norwich has a problem. We need to understand that the answers aren't simple.

Quite often people tell me that all young people need is 'a good talking to' or 'an inspiring role model'. If only! Young people who come to MAP for support face huge barriers such as having nowhere to live, having no qualifications, being in debt, being unwell, having no family support.

They are often hungry, have low confidence and no belief that they can change things. And why would they? All the evidence is that in Norwich you can't break out of poverty. To change things takes considerable time, effort and expertise. It takes trust. It takes more support for vulnerable people, such as MAP's drop-in centre and our preventative work with schools. We need to focus our efforts much more on those who most need our support; those who are getting left behind. And the solutions need to be bigger – such as needing more housing, better health care and better education.

Making our city a fairer place with less poverty and more life chances will take a huge effort. I hope that we are willing to make that effort to change things and make Norwich a fine city for everyone.

• Dan Mobbs is the chief executive of MAP (The Mancroft Advice Project).

MAP provides advice, counselling and youth work; supporting young people facing difficulties such as mental health, relationship difficulties, homelessness, unemployment, debt. MAP also supports young people to stand up for themselves and have their voice heard.

To support MAP or find out more go to www.map.uk.net

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