THE State of Sheffield report is a rallying call to the council, businesses, the voluntary sector, academics and faith leaders to maintain the progress of recent years, despite the daunting economic scenario.
So far it appears that organisations are “working together, successfully”, to meet the challenges. There is a “resilient economy and strong social and community networks”.
Now innovation as well as resilience is required.
But there is no under-estimating those challenges, especially in protecting the least well-off.
“There is evidence that a combination of welfare cuts and strict benefits sanctions, hold-ups in the benefits system, unemployment and low wages and increasing food prices mean that growing numbers of people in the city are unable to access enough food to feed themselves and their families,” says the report.
“At least 11 food banks are known to be operating in Sheffield in October 2011.”
There is an increasing number of people who have not worked by the age of 25, mainly men on large estates, who “can feel a loss of purpose and contribution to society. A further concern for this group is the growth of homelessness in the city.”
Deep-rooted inequalities, such as in health, are “likely” to persist.
“The immediate and medium term trends ... raise concerns that most vulnerable 20% who live in, or are at risk of poverty, have poor educational qualifications, limited skills for work and live in poor environmental conditions might increase. Particular groups include young people and those facing varied forms of financial hardship.”
Sheffield City Council, which is reducing its budget this year by £50m in line with lower Government funding, is warning that the full impact of cuts on public services has yet to be felt.