Coalfield communities should be given a fair chance against Covid-19

As the only organisation dedicated to supporting the UK’s former mining towns and villages, we have welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £750m funding package to support charities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Charities across the country have fought valiantly to continue to deliver vital services throughout the fight against the Coronavirus, but the sector has not been able to elude the adverse impact the nationwide lockdown is having on the economy.

The Government’s newly announced funding package will ensure that the millions of people relying on charitable resources can continue receiving the aid that is desperately needed during these challenging times.

With that being said, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, we were already under significant pressure to support and improve the quality of life of people living within the UK’s former mining communities, which have a combined population of around 5.7 million.

Our Chief Executive, Gary Ellis, said: “Many former mining areas remain in the top 30 per cent most deprived in the country and austerity has compounded the problems associated with high levels of deprivation. Over the years, it has been our communities that have borne the brunt of the UK’s economic and social challenges.

“The collapse of the coal mining industry has left a legacy of high unemployment, a lack of skills and poor health. However, it is clear that circumstances will worsen if this funding does not reach our communities and we can play an active role in ensuring it does.”

Where we have delivered programmes of support tackling unemployment, low skills and poor health and well-being, it has made a significant contribution to improving the lives of people living in former mining areas. However, government funding in England stopped in 2015 and this has limited the Trust’s ability to scale up its programmes to make even more of a difference.

The State of The Coalfields 2019 Report, produced by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, outlined health inequalities and the wider issues affecting these forgotten communities.

The percentage of residents in former coalfields aged 16 and above reporting health problems lasting more than 12 months is 38 per cent, compared to 27 per cent in London. This evidence also highlights that the coalfields have significantly higher numbers of people out-of-work on benefits. In total, one-in-twelve of the entire coalfields population claim Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Our Head of Operations in England, Andy Lock, said: “With the true economic and social impact of this pandemic yet to be fully realised, here at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, we are fearful that the progress we have achieved will be eradicated. We do not want a repeat of the austerity we experienced following the 2008 financial crisis.

“Our efforts continue to be focused on securing the necessary funds to enable these communities to survive. The National Lottery Community Fund has been allocated a significant proportion of this government money and we ask that it reaches those that need it the most and coalfield communities are not forgotten.

“Without significant support, it is clear the Covid-19 pandemic will propel our communities into even more challenging circumstances, of which the recovery period would be monumentally difficult to overcome.

“Former coalfields still face significant social, economic and health challenges. To prevent these issues from escalating during the fight against Coronavirus, we must ensure the health and wellbeing of our communities is not compromised even further. They have been hampered by recession, austerity and a lack of funding and need support!  We have to learn from past mistakes and invest in them to create a positive future.”

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