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Child poverty in Crawley

August 17th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 1 Comment · Politics

The other day Antonia wrote about some statistics released by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, with particular emphasis (obviously) on how they apply to Oxford. Just as obviously I could not resist looking them up to see how the JRF think we are doing in Crawley.

It is worth mentioning something first about how the figures were derived. Something like child poverty is difficult, possibly impossible, to measure. (See The Tyranny of Numbers by David Boyle for a good book on the difficulties of measuring sociological elements) What the JRF have done is made an assumption that child poverty has a positive correlation to the level of children living in families which are in receipt of workless benefits, which seems to be quite logical and sensible.

This means that if a ward is said to have 35% of children in such familes while the national average is 21% it does not necessarily mean that 35% of children are in poverty. It could be a bit higher or a bit lower but the important point is that whatever it is it is almost certainly significantly higher than the national average.

It is quite a useful tactic – to estimate something which can’t be measured by finding something which can be measured and which has a strong chance of being related. It does not even matter whether its a direct relationship or whether both are the effect of a common cause: as long as you can be fairly sure of that relationship you can start to gather valid data.

Sorry. I made a quick detour via nerdsville there. Back to the numbers.

Although Crawley fares quite well compared to Oxford it is still not happy reading. Overall the town has levels of child poverty of 18.3% – below the national average of 21%. But of the 15 wards in Crawley 3 are higher than average with the worst being a full 10 percentage points higher than the national average – and that is the ward where I live, Broadfield South.

The full results are:

31.4% Broadfield South
28.2% Broadfield North
24.9% Bewbush
20.2% Ifield
19.9% Langley Green
18.8% West Green
18.5% Northgate
17.2% Tilgate
16.8% Southgate
14.2% Three Bridges
14.1% Gossops Green
11.5% Furnace Green
9.0% Pound Hill South
8.0% Pound Hill North
5.3% Maidenbower

As I said, this is particularly depressing for us in Broadfield but it is not telling us anything which we didn’t already know. Plenty of surveys and reports have shown the various indices of deprivation in Broadfield to be high. Indeed the results of similar previous surveys are the reason why Crawley has a Surestart centre and why it is located in Broadfield.

Surestart is unlikely to directly reduce child poverty levels in anything other than the long term, but it does offer brilliant support and assistance for those families and (lets not forget) all the other families in the area.

Before we all get carried away with the usual knee-jerk reactions about Broadfield being some sort of sink estate lets get a bit of perspective though. The total figure of 29.7% for the whole of Broadfield means that just over 70% of children are not in families which are dependent on benefits, so don’t write them off!

Conversly, much as I welcome the presence of Surestart and other initiatives here in Broadfield and appreciate that it does make sense to concentrate such efforts where there is most need we should not forget those children suffering from poverty in Maidenbower and Pound Hill.

It is well documented that those wards are amongst the richest in the country, as measured by average income of the residents, but the important thing to remember about averages is that they are, well, averages. It is bad enough to be in a family classified as poverty-stricken but how much worse to know that any potential help is less likely to reach you because you are in a ‘rich’ area?

As there are, according to the JRF data, 1550 children in poverty in Broadfield and Bewbush it does make some sense to concentrate efforts here, but spare a thought for the 325 children in poverty in Maidenbower and Pound Hill. Having wealthy neighbours doesn’t help them at all. There is no trickle-down at work there.

Interesting fact: because of the larger number of children in Maidenbower, there are actually more children in poverty there than in Furnace Green despite the percentage figure only being 5.3% compared to Furnace Green’s 11.5%.

By all means lets continue with efforts in the most seriously affected areas, but do not ignore the rest. Remember that of all the under-15s affected by child poverty in town 73% live outside Broadfield and Bewbush and nearly 10% of them live in Pound Hill and Maidenbower!

As a whole we should really be scandalised that nearly 1 in 5 children in the town are dependent on benefits and not satisfied just because that is better than the national average. The acceptable level should be zero.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Little Legends Blog

    Child poverty in the UK…

    This makes for stark reading. [Thanks to Antonia for the link]
    Joseph Rowntree have conducted some research on child poverty in the UK. They’ve broken it down by ward and uses having one or more parent on workless benefits as a proxy for povert…