Research at a North East university is aiming to provide a practical tool to help those most at risk of social exclusion – primarily older people – and will focus on the emotional impact of austerity in one of the poorest areas of Britain.
The University of Sunderland project will conduct one-to-one interviews to discover the issues people are facing, and produce a map of the available services with the objective of bringing together the community.
Focusing on the areas of Byker and Walker in Newcastle, which fall into the 10% most deprived areas in Britain, the study draws on the findings of a recent BBC commissioned survey which positioned the North East amongst the regions least resilient to austerity cuts.
Andrew Dalton, lecturer in social sciences and lead-researcher, said: “Having worked previously, for several years, as a Volunteer Manager of St. Martin’s Centre in Byker and Walker, it was noticeable that older people in the area were becoming increasingly isolated and excluded.
“The centre developed volunteer led services to cater for older people as council budgets and public sector funding streams were increasingly cut back or under threat. As workers with little time and more demand for our services, we often lacked the full knowledge of provisions that were already in place from other agencies in the local area.
“This community research project aims to pull together a local timetable of these older people’s services through discussions with groups and organisations. We plan to talk to older people to highlight their needs and establish gaps in provision.
“This practical solution for the region, for older people and organisations to use, will hopefully help to combat the growing trend of social exclusion in Newcastle.”
A recent report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, used Newcastle as an example to show that the most deprived areas of England have seen the largest cuts in funding since 2010.
Sally Young is the Chief Executive of the Newcastle Council for Voluntary Services, an independent registered charity that supports, develops, promotes, connects and represents the voluntary and community sector in Newcastle.
She said: “Newcastle CVS welcomes this research into social exclusion. Our work in Newcastle, in particular our study Below the Waterline in Walker last year, and our current work with local groups, supported through Byker Community Trusts, shows the level of needs in these areas.
“Many people in these communities have been affected personally by the impact of welfare reforms, as well as the loss of local initiatives and regeneration work as part of the reduction in public services. It’s important to speak up and out to show what is really happening.”
The research interviews will be conducted at the St. Martin’s Centre in Byker and Walker by Andrew and three second year students at the University of Sunderland, who have been involved with the project from the beginning as research assistants.
Funded by the Research Active Curriculum, a pot of money designed to enable University of Sunderland research to be embedded into teaching, it is planned to be conducted over the next two months.