Series: CASE Studies on Poverty, Place and Policy

 

Poverty is still a real issue within Britain today and this essential series provides evidence-based insights into how communities and families are dealing with it.

Published in conjunction with the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics, this series draws together fresh research and sheds important light on the impact of anti-poverty policy, focusing on the individual and social factors that promote regeneration, recovery and renewal.

CASE Studies on Poverty, Place and Policy

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This chapter investigates how the 12 areas were selected, to represent poor areas more generally, and how the data was collected. These areas include West-City, East-Docks, Riverlands, The Valley, Middle Row, Overtown, Shipview, Kirkside East, Southside, High Moor, Fairfields, and Beachville. Their respective neighbourhoods are The Grove, Phoenix Rise, Rosehill, East Rise, Broadways, Saints’ Walk, Sunnybank, Southmead, Borough View, Bridgefields, Valley Top, and Sandyton. The characteristics of each area are explained. The combination of statistical data and intensive local fieldwork provided a rich picture of the changing area scenes, looking back in time, taking a snapshot of the present and hinting at prospects for the future. It is also shown that unemployment was three times the national average; levels of Income Support claims twice as high. Health and educational attainment were well below average.

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This chapter discusses the history of the areas’ decline and divergence during the 1990s. It is noted that the fortunes of Southside and West-City pull apart. These two areas represent the extremes of the contrasts between poor neighbourhoods in the 1990s. The changing profile of the labour market had its impact both for older workers and prospective labour-market entrants. Economic change affected social and psychological outcomes as well as earnings and incomes. It is also observed that, in all the northern cities and outlying industrial areas, underlying trends of depopulation were deepening poverty concentrations in the least popular areas and neighbourhoods and, in some cases, literally beginning to empty them out. The uneven patterns of development meant that the fortunes of the areas started to diverge as they continued to be driven by the wider forces of the economic change, population movements, and housing demand.

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This chapter explores the policy responses, cataloguing attempts at regeneration, with a particular focus on the initiatives of the 1990s. The Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) was the only current major programme in England by 1999. Nine of the 12 areas had regeneration funding from this source. The examples show both the difficulty of making regeneration an inclusive process and the possibility for change, given sufficient will on the part of local authorities and other partners. Most of the SRB programmes failed to overcome the problem that residents were effectively excluded from real power in the decisions made about their lives. The SRB was an insufficient basis for regeneration. By the late 1990s, it was evident that a longer-term, more strategic approach to area regeneration was needed, within the context of broader policies to tackle the causes of area decline and polarisation.

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This chapter shows the continuing trends in the economy, population movements, and housing markets. The growing population meant that Middle Row came under none of the pressures that were evident in Overtown. The interviews with employment advisers, economic-development staff, and labour-market analysts suggest genuine labour-market improvement. Britain’s economic geography was changing. The number of jobs was growing, but their distribution did not replicate the jobs map of the industrial economy. Some industrial areas outside cities were benefiting from job growth in call centres, warehousing, and distribution, although manufacturing was still in decline. It was evident that Britain was developing a new economic geography which would not replicate the jobs map of the past.

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This chapter reflects on the lessons learnt from the journey around the country’s ‘poverty map’ and draws conclusions about its enduring ‘poverty gap’. The stories of these 12 areas and neighbourhoods demonstrate very clearly the structural origins of neighbourhood ‘degeneration’, but also the importance of space and place. What created and maintained Poverty Street was the lack of value of some areas in relation to broader societal structures. Shrinking networks made it easy for vulnerable people to become isolated in areas that others described as friendly and inclusive. Regeneration programmes brought more benefits than disbenefits. It is concluded, somewhat depressingly, that there is no ending to what has this book has called ‘Poverty Street’.

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This chapter provides a better understanding of the benefits of new money and having better partnerships of agencies. Most of the new activity was funded through special funding programmes, the ‘funny money’ as it was often referred to. This money draws attention to what was not happening, which was an increase in core local authority, police, or health services. Joined-up government took on a new prominence under New Labour and was a major theme in the National Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy. The new programmes all had an emphasis on community involvement, and provided new opportunities and better structures for local people to influence decisions. In every area, partnership working between agencies had improved. Thus, in the way that regeneration was being tackled, it appeared that some of the lessons of the past had been learnt. There were positive signs of change.

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This chapter explores the trajectories of poverty in more detail, highlighting the areas of primary deprivation. The decline had started in the 1960s due to the increase of crime and antisocial behaviour, decline in the sense of community, and the loss of shops and services. Underlying these changes were three consistent themes: economic restructuring, resulting in every case in enormous job losses; widening inequality (driven in large part by economic changes); and changes in the size and composition of the population. It is shown that these changes led in an increase in the rate of poverty. Council-housing areas were developing the most entrenched poverty concentrations. By the beginning of the 1990s, poverty concentrations were acute and inequality was wide.

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The journey that led to this book began in April 1999, in Bridgefields, Blackburn, Lancashire. Bridgefields was not seen as a neighbourhood of choice for many people. Its residents faced the stigma attached to their address. This place was a story of decline almost since the birth of the estate in 1974, when it was the last public housing to be built in the town. The concentration of poverty had caused neighbourhood problems. The effect of poverty and the effect of place had become intertwined. The area-based programmes and New Labour’s policies are described. This book particularly presents a view of the areas before the New Labour government’s policies had begun to have an impact, and then again two years later, when changes had begun to be made. An overview of the chapters included in the book is given as well.

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This chapter revisits Bridgefields, exploring the changes on that estate close-up. Bridgefields in 2001 was fairly similar as a living environment to 1999, with evidence of better management, and with the prospect that its transition to a smaller size could at last be made, through the injection of funds enabled by Blackburn’s housing-stock transfer. Residents were more involved in estate management, and interagency working had improved. There had been further job growth on the industrial estates close to Bridgefields and unemployment continued to fall. While the estate was being better managed and its longer-term future decided, there had been little change in the wider economic and housing-market trends that were driving its decline.

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This chapter discusses the failure of public services to manage the 12 small neighbourhoods effectively. It starts by addressing the problems with public services. The most obvious gap in service provision was in frontline services to maintain social order. There was a marked lack of low-level enforcement and deterrence. The interviews with residents in the 12 neighbourhoods indicated that the persistent failure of public management had become almost an expectation. The failure of local democracy to engage people in the governance of their areas and neighbourhoods is also noted. All of the neighbourhoods had some frontline provision. Over the years, the failure of public services to deal effectively with neighbourhood problems had become an expectation among many residents. Cynicism and mistrust created a barrier to engagement with services and to political participation.

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