Efforts to tackle deprivation in Northumberland

Northumberland County Council's headquarters in Morpeth.
Northumberland County Council's headquarters in Morpeth.

More than half of the households in Northumberland are affected by at least one of the four conditions of deprivation measured in the last Census.

However, only five per cent are affected by three or four, which is lower than the regional figure of seven per cent and the England average of six per cent.

The four conditions are: unemployment or long-term sickness; no person in the household having at least a level two qualification (eg, a GCSE at grade A to C); one person in the household having a bad/very bad health problem; or the household being overcrowded.

In terms of the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), Northumberland is the best performing local authority in the North East.

However, this still means that 13.2 per cent of the county’s population live in one of the top 10 per cent most deprived wards, compared to 9.9 per cent in England. The regional figure is 16.9 per cent.

To try to get to grips with some of the issues around deprivation, Northumberland County Council appointed a poverty lead in August last year.

This post was created ‘to understand poverty, to seek to mitigate the impact where possible, and develop a longer-term strategy that generates social mobility, positive outcomes and destinations for individuals, families, communities and beyond’.

A recent report to councillors on the work taking place in the past year explained that there are currently four main areas of work – safeguarding and enrichment, income maximisation, digital inclusion and opportunities, and education.

Safeguarding and enrichment involves helping people to feel safe and become more involved in their communities, while income maximisation includes ensuring clear information is available about what benefits and support are available; Universal Credit is a key priority ahead of its roll-out later this year.

Education is crucially important in a county where in 2016, nine per cent of the population had no skills or qualifications and a further 28 per cent only have level 1 qualifications (eg, GCSE grade D and below).

Almost 5,000 children under 16 live in workless houses in Northumberland, where the unemployment rate is higher than the national average, and of those in work, almost 14 per cent earn national living wage or less.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service