More Support Needed for Former Mining Communities on National Coalfields Day

Nicky Wilson

Scotland’s former mining communities need more support to address issues, such as poor health and high unemployment, as the country makes plans to recover from Covid-19 and National Coalfields Day is marked.

Sunday 29 November is the second National Coalfields Day and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT), a charity formed in 1999 to help mining communities recover from the devastating effects of pit closures, warns underlying problems have been exacerbated by Covid-19. This is despite communities rallying together and showing their resilience during the pandemic, according to the CRT. The CRT is due to publish a new booklet next month, ‘Building Resilient Communities’, providing examples of how people have rallied together in difficult times.

And this year’s National Coalfields Day is of added significance in Scotland as it comes just a month after the Scottish Government announced a long-awaited collective pardon for miners convicted in the mid-1980s strike.

A report entitled ‘The Scottish Coalfields in 2020’ was commissioned by the CRT from Social Value Lab (SVL) consultancy and published earlier this year. It found that although coalfields have come a long way in recent years, with support from the CRT, the picture across education, employment, income and health has worsened since the first SVL analysis in 2013.

The 2020 report found continuing deprivation with 31 per cent of coalfields neighbourhoods now in the most deprived 20 per cent in Scotland and higher rates of 16 to 19-year olds not in education, employment or training than in other parts of the country. Rates of child poverty are also higher, with just over a fifth of children living in low-income families in former mining communities.

The pandemic has had a major impact on coalfields areas, such as negative effects on finances and physical and mental health and wellbeing, according to the CRT. But the charity has continued to support communities. More than 70 applications were approved by the CRT for its Coalfield’s Emergency Response Fund. It awarded grants of between £100 and £1,000 to support community organisations and volunteers to keep them operating during the crisis.

The CRT also partnered with another charity, Glasgow Caring City, to get soap to people in mining communities. This collaboration led to more than 10,000 SoapAid packages being delivered to coalfields areas.

And the CRT launched an ‘Adapt and Thrive Programme’ in response to Covid-19 offering awards of between £500 and £5,000 to charity and not-for-profit organisations in coalfields areas – including community centres, youth clubs, miners’ welfare centres and sports clubs.

Nicky Wilson, chair of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust in Scotland, said: “Our coalfields communities have worked together during the pandemic and shown their resilience – and this is worth noting as we mark the second National Coalfields Day.

“We have done what we can to support our communities and the amount of initiatives they have rolled out, from providing company to people shielding to ensuring nobody goes hungry, has been impressive. Some of these initiatives will be highlighted in our forthcoming ‘Building Resilient Communities’ booklet.

“But underlying issues in areas such as health and education have been exacerbated by Covid-19 so more help is needed for coalfields areas.”

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