New report reveals high levels of deprivation and violent crime in Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 July 2020
High levels of deprivation, low levels of pupil attainment and a relatively high rate of violent crime – the analysis of Stevenage by an independent charity does not make for comfortable reading.
Grant-giving charity Hertfordshire Community Foundation uses socio-economic data from sources including the Office for National Statistics to periodically analyse the county to understand the key social issues people are facing, with themes including health, crime, deprivation and homelessness.
The latest Hertfordshire Matters report resulting from this research highlights significant deprivation in Stevenage.
“While Hertfordshire is on the whole an affluent county, there is strong evidence of high levels of inequality,” it says. “There are 45 neighbourhoods ranked among the most deprived 30 per cent in England on the Indices of Deprivation 2019 - with the highest concentrations in Broxbourne and Stevenage.
“All districts across Hertfordshire have shown an increase in relative levels of deprivation from 2010 to 2019, with Broxbourne and Stevenage seeing the greatest increases. In other words, Hertfordshire is becoming more deprived relative to other areas in England.”
The report says teenage pregnancies, violent crime, depression and obesity in Stevenage are all above the national average, with drug offences more than 12 times above.
Housing is also a worrying issue, the charity says, with demand for social housing in Stevenage outstripping supply and rates of homelessness above the England average.
Hertfordshire Matters also points to unemployment rates in the town increasing at a faster rate than the national average, and “high levels of education deprivation among children and young people in Stevenage”, with pupils consistently performing at below the national average.
In 2018, only 58.2 per cent of Key Stage 2 pupils in Stevenage reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths; and only 38.7 per cent of Key Stage 4 pupils achieved grade 9-5 in English and maths.
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Stevenage also has the lowest proportion of children in Hertfordshire going on to higher education - 29 per cent by age 19.
Helen Gray, HCF’s director, said: “Hertfordshire Matters is a snapshot that measures the wellbeing of our communities. It helps us identify strengths, needs and trends and the issues critical to our community’s quality of life.
“As the impact of the coronavirus outbreak unfolds, the crisis has further exposed local issues, including homelessness, food poverty, social isolation, poor mental health and domestic violence.
“It has become even more important for community stakeholders to understand the needs and challenges within our communities so we can collectively tackle them.
“We will use Hertfordshire Matters 2020 to advise our donors and fund holders to ensure their local giving delivers the greatest possible impact and to support organisations we work with.”
Responding to the report, leader of Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor said: “I am deeply proud of the efforts of our town, community, council and partners in response to the deep challenges of the coronavirus crisis. We continue to work hard to create a bright future following a decade of government austerity.
“We want the people of Stevenage to benefit from opportunities within the town, which include regenerating the town centre and building high quality social homes.
“There are many things that make our town unique and a great place to live. Stevenage offers a wide network of parks and cycle ways, over 45,000 jobs and many places to enjoy art and culture.
“Our community isn’t alone in facing national challenges, which include a shortage of available quality affordable homes, health challenges and a need to support those suffering domestic abuse.
“This report only gives half the picture as it fails to showcase the excellent work our council delivers in partnership with local providers. We work hard to create services and a safe haven for those experiencing domestic abuse through our award-winning Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse service and we have put in place a joint plan with the NHS to help improve community health services, including the cutting-edge Healthy Hub Stevenage. It’s a one-stop-shop of support for mental health, carers, physical activity, weight management, parenting skills, coping with cancer and stopping smoking.”
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