It doesn’t make easy reading, but it is important to highlight the extent of deprivation which exists in Suffolk. Our beautiful and much visited county which has so much to offer, still faces many challenges of disadvantage and social need – and much of it is hidden.
Popular notions of poverty and deprivation in Britain often assume they are problems confined to inner city areas and large housing estates. The reality can be very different. Nearly 78,000 people* in Suffolk live in income deprivation at the most minimal living standard provided by welfare benefits and well below the ‘poverty line’.
In 2011 the Foundation commissioned the University of Cambridge to undertake research to uncover the extent of social deprivation across Suffolk. The findings, which were published in the Hidden Needs Report indicated the problem of social need was on a far larger scale than previously thought.
The concept of ‘hidden need’ whereby affluence conceals deprivation is now widely understood, and yet, when first published, Hidden Needs did create a stir. Shining a light on issues such as child poverty caused discomfort for some and disbelief from others. Today, we have moved on; we even have a countywide Poverty Strategy Group, made up of public and voluntary sector representatives, tasked with informing, educating and coordinating initiatives to tackle this injustice.
The call to revisit this work, five years on, has been universal, so the Foundation commissioned The University of Suffolk to undertake the research for the follow-up report – Hidden Needs in Suffolk, Five Years On (2011-2016). This report is due to be published in early autumn 2016.
For the voluntary sector it will provide much needed evidence to support their work, helping raise valuable revenue from national funders, who are often unaware that Suffolk hosts the deprivation levels that it does. It will provide us all with sufficient accessible information that allows for more honest conversation, informed decision making and better leadership.
*Hidden Deprivation and Community Need in Suffolk – a report, 2011