30th September saw the release of the English Indices of Deprivation, a report compiled by Oxford Consultants for Social inclusion and commissioned by the UK Department of Communities and Local Government.
We think this report is missing a vital piece of information…
The report measures income, employment, health, education, crime, access to services and living environment in communities across England and then ranks each neighbourhood by their level of deprivation.
The reporters claim that by doing this it increases the level of understanding about these communities which means that valuable resources can be targeted to solve these problems.
Naturally the press are quick to jump on these statistics and seem to gleefully point out the so called “worst places to live in England”.
Manchester regularly has neighbourhoods that top these tables and yesterday the Manchester Evening News ran the headline “How Deprived is Your Area” and invited online readers to type in their post code and see where they lived measured up to other places.
But what is the impact of all this negative press on areas who don’t fare well, most of them unaware that they were even being studied?
The impact is obvious, these communities begin to lack pride in themselves. Children grow up desperate to leave a place where “no one would want to live”. Money is given to expensive services run by professionals charged with fixing the problems of the broken residents, services that the residents never asked for so don’t attend, leading to the local people being labelled apathetic.
The picture painted by the Indices of Deprivation is a bleak and unhelpful one for residents who actually live and work in these neighbourhoods, focused only on the problems and external solutions with no mention of the wealth of positives that exist alongside, this picture quite frankly this is incorrect and dangerous.
The picture is missing a large piece of information, it misses the skills, gifts, talents and energy of the local people and community groups as well as ignoring the fact that most people love where they live.
At Forever Manchester we have a different view and have adopted the principles of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). ABCD is a method for community action and improvement that starts with looking at what a community has, its assets, and using those to fix what’s wrong.
It does not ignore that areas suffer from economic, health and other inequalities but says that the best people to begin to fix these problems are the people who live in our communities using the wealth of assets we have at our disposal.
You just have to look at our website and twitter feed to see 100’s of stories of communities across Greater Manchester coming together to do extraordinary things and tackle problems while increasing community spirit and social justice.
Forever Manchester works in communities which regularly score highly on the Indices of Deprivation but have worked to meet people and uncover the assets in those communities. The reality of these communities is that there is a wealth of potential and that by focusing on what is possible and what is available rather than what is broken the community itself becomes more confident in addressing its own needs.
The Indices of Deprivation and reports like it do have their place in attracting funding and support however when discussing community and people’s lives Government and the Media should be more careful in the picture they are portraying and offer a more balanced report which captures the positives as well as the problems.
We hope that one day the Indices of Deprivation will be balanced by an Indices of Local Assets and maybe one day we’ll see the headline “How Good is Where You Live”.