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UK's coalfield communities still facing deprivation, ill health and unemployment

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UK's coalfield communities still facing deprivation, ill health and unemployment

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Health

UK's coalfield communities still facing deprivation, ill health and unemployment UK's coalfield communities still facing deprivation, ill health and unemployment

The UK’s coalfield communities are still blighted by deprivation, ill health and unemployment more than a quarter of a century after the collapse of the mining industry, an independent report has revealed.

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust commissioned the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University to compare economic and social conditions in the former mining areas of England, Scotland and Wales with the rest of the country.

Presented in Westminster last week, the university’s report - ‘The State of the Coalfields’ - paints a grim picture for the 5.5 million people – one in every eleven of the population in Great Britain – who live in former mining areas and concludes there is a "compelling case" for continued support and access to funding.

The report reveals that:

• The employment rate in the largest UK coalfields is between 2% and 7% lower than the average for England and Wales and between 5% and 10% lower than the South East of England. In Scotland the figure is 3% lower.
• There are only 50 jobs for every 100 adults of working age in the coalfields which is significantly lower than the national average of 67.
• The business stock and business formation rates in the coalfields are significantly lower than the rest of the country.
• 11.7% of people living in the coalfields report long-term health problems compared to 8.6% nationally.
• 8.4% of adults of working age in the coalfields claim incapacity benefit, which is 2.2% higher than the national average and almost double the South East England average.
• 14% of adults in the coalfields are out-of-work on benefits, which is 4% higher than the national average and double the South East England average.
• 43% of all neighbourhoods in the coalfields fall into the most deprived 30% in the country.

The report covers England’s 12 coalfields, which are home to 4.25m people, 8% of the country’s population and range from Yorkshire, the biggest with 1.25m people, to Kent with just 44,000.

Scotland’s three coalfields Fife, Lothians and Ayrshire/Lanarkshire have a population of over half a million people, 10% of the country’s population. The former coalfields in the South Wales Valleys have 757,000 people, 25% of Wales’ entire population.

Professor Steve Fothergill, who led the research, said: “The pit closures may now be receding into history, but the job losses that followed are still a serious and contributing factor to the economic reality for most mining communities.

“The consequences are still all too visible in statistics on jobs, unemployment, benefits and ill health. The coalfields communities are seriously adrift of the national average.

“The job losses of the 1980s and 90s still cast a very long shadow."

However, the report found that it is not all doom and gloom.

Five smaller mining areas in South Staffordshire, North Warwickshire, South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire, Kent and Lothian are all showing lower levels of economic and social distress than other former mining areas.

And the report concludes that regeneration does work, noting there was substantial growth in employment in other sectors of the coalfield economy, at least up to the start of the recession in 2008.

The report adds: “The evidence on pre-recession trends is that there was real progress in rebuilding the economy of the coalfields but that the unemployment problem was still a long way from being solved."

Since the beginning of the 1980s the coal mining industry has shed 250,000 jobs.

Peter McNestry, chair of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, said: “This report really brings home the scale of the deprivation that has been faced by 5.5 million people, more than Scotland’s total population. What’s more, these coalfields communities have had to endure this for well over a quarter of a century.

“The tough reality for coalfields residents is that these problems will not go away overnight.

“We cannot simply turn our backs on more than 5 million people. We have worked for 15 years to support these communities and to provide them with access to the resources, practical advice and funding that they need to help themselves. We have come some way to improving the situation in the coalfields but this report proves there is still a great deal of work to be done.

“It’s not something we can do on our own and whilst we will continue to collaborate with our third sector partners to maximise available resources, this has become increasingly challenging in the current funding climate."

Since it was established some 15 years ago, programmes delivered by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust have benefited hundreds of thousands of people in the British coalfields.

In England it has assisted more than 21,000 people into work, helped over 187,000 to gain qualifications and new skills; created opportunities for over 180,000 people to participate in health improving activities, invested in over 1,000 social enterprises and 2,900 community facilities and supported almost 60,000 new volunteer opportunities.

Gary Ellis, chief executive of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, said: “We have a wide range of tried and tested programmes to help create jobs, get people work-ready, help them improve their health, and inspire local communities with new hope and enthusiasm.

“But the Coalfields Regeneration Trust is simply not resourced to tackle the deep seated social and economic problems on the scale highlighted by this report."

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