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Closing the inequality gap

Exemplar Award Winner- Highly Commended National Gazetteers Citizen Award 2011: Warrington Borough Council

In recent years, Warrington has prospered and is recognised as one of the fastest growing economies in the country. However, despite overall gains in prosperity and, as a result, improvements in quality of life, these gains have not been distributed equally amongst the town’s population.

As a result, Warrington has stark differences in the quality of life indicators of residents across the borough, and has, therefore, implemented a partnership programme to address these geographical and social inequalities. Warrington Borough Council is a committed member of the cross sector Warrington Partnership, and tackling deprivation contributes to the long-term vision of ‘making Warrington one of the best places to live and work in the UK’. The Closing the Gap programme brings together key public sector partners, as well as representatives from the third sector and local businesses, to develop new ways of working together to help support the most vulnerable citizens.

Outcomes

A core objective of the Closing the Gap programme was to ensure that by 2030 none of Warrington’s 125 Lower Layer Super Output Areas (the geographical areas defined for the collection and comparison of national statistics) would be included in the lowest 10% most deprived nationally; therefore closing the gap between the affluent and the struggling.

It was necessary to identify which areas fell into this category and understand who lived there. Once this exercise had been completed, it would then be possible to focus on what services these residents already used, what additional services may provide benefit and how best to engage with individual residents and communities.

LLPG was the most comprehensive address database available and was considered to be a vital component in the early stages of the Closing the Gap project. The LLPG was combined with social marketing, crime, health, education and emergency services data to identify those areas requiring attention.

The borough was then broken down by resident profiles, including ‘flourishing families’, ‘vulnerable single parents and pensioners’ and ‘hard pressed vulnerable crowded families and struggling retirees’. Additional analysis using this Basic Land & Property Unit (BLPU) classification was also undertaken to identify ‘hard to reach’ residents, including communal properties, such as travellers, students, the elderly and disability groups. In all, thirteen specific areas or estates were identified as the most deprived.

Having identified the ‘who’ and ‘where’ elements of the Closing the Gap project, the partnership then went on to discover the ‘why’ and ‘what’ components. This included aspects such as unemployment, health, and living environment that may contribute to deprivation; and how these could be effectively addressed by the partnership or other organisations and groups. One common story identified early in the project was the ‘chain of events’ scenario. For example, if a resident was not receiving the benefit they may be entitled to, this might lead to debt problems, which, in turn, may lead to eviction. If the benefits need or eligibility was addressed early, then the chain of events may not unfold.

The Closing the Gap project has already been able to remove barriers to employment by upskilling and providing support for those with caring responsibilities, and promoting active participation in the community through volunteering and good neighbour schemes. These, in turn, have led to sustained employment and an overall improvement in the quality of life and wellbeing of residents. Additional outcomes have included effective targeting of limited resources, and increased provision by the civil and community sectors.

Award Key benefits

• identification of residents and communities most in need of support

• partnership working supporting effective targeting of public sector resources and increased provision by civil and community sectors

• improvements in quality of life indicators

• reduced public sector spend per benefit claimant. Working together across the public sector Case studies from the 2011 National Gazetteers Exemplar Awards www.geoplace.co.uk 16 17

View from the authority

“In the first stage of this project we needed a simple business plan, a small initial investment in extra resource and management buy-in. However, we weren’t trying to do anything clever, we were just going for quick wins that built on what other authorities had achieved so that we could prove the concept and then carry on. This ‘big bang’ approach has shown what can be achieved if you resource projects properly. By integrating your gazetteer with major service systems, you can get quick returns, lay the foundations for further work and gain the momentum to carry on with the business of service transformation.”

-Riley Marsden Geographic Information Officer and LLPG Custodian, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

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