According to a recent report by UK2070, the UK has severe regional inequality problems which, unless addressed urgently, may lead to economic performance and life-chances being severely affected.
What exactly does this mean for people and organisations in the North, and how can we come together to change the systems which are keeping us down?
The facts and figures
The UK2070 report describes the UK’s North-South divide as a ‘gulf’. A rather terrifying analogy, our regional gulf is defined by regional variations in deprivation, educational attainment, and other factors.
Perhaps one of the most demonstrative divisions we see across areas in the UK is employment. According to figures released in March 2019, the North East’s unemployment rate stood at 5.4% compared to a national average of 3.8%. In the South East, the unemployment rate is 3% less at just 2.4%. Further to this, the North East is one of the only regions to show a decrease in the number of people in employment compared to the same three month period in 2018.
To put it simply, people in our region have access to fewer opportunities and less money. Households in the South East have a combined wealth of £2.46 trillion compared to the North East which has just £368 billion. High numbers like these are difficult to comprehend, but the graphic below perfectly demonstrates just how big that scale is.
Employment opportunities available to people are clear indicators of how people can live in different geographical areas. A person out of work is also someone who’s likely to face multiple, complex needs. These could be health issues, substance misuse, homelessness, debt or a combination of those.
The picture is bleak in other areas. Drug deaths in the North East are double the rate of the national average with County Durham seeing devastatingly high numbers between a focus period (2013-2017). Could this be the symptom of a greater problem?
As local statutory services feel the toll of heavy cuts, voluntary and community sector organisations could feel a strain in their service delivery. That’s where collaborative thinking comes into play.
A collaborative approach
There is strength to be found in unity. Although the burden of an underfunded public sector shouldn’t fall on charities, we have the opportunity to work together to help close the gaps in our region.
At the Northern Inclusion Consortium, we came together as four independent charities. We are able to pool resources, bid on commissioning opportunities together, and fundamentally, work with more people. Multiple perspectives help eliminate bias and deliver higher quality solutions to complicated problems like regional inequality.
Each NIC partners has their own strong ties, from local authorities to service-users and staff. Our collaboration allows us to listen to all sides and cater the support we deliver to best accommodate the most. We listen to what the public sector is struggling to delivery and supplement their delivery, when necessary. By closing this gap in communication between different sides, we can better tackle what we face on a national level.
The NIC currently support the delivery of two projects which focus on helping people fight barriers which limit their opportunities to get into work. As a partnership, we continue to seek out more funding opportunities which help us close regional divisions.