City divided by quality of life

Coun Julie Dore
Coun Julie Dore
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Green and pleasant - or struggling and deprived? Sheffield is a city of two halves, according to a new study on the State of Sheffield 2012, writes political reporter Richard Marsden

HUGE differences exist between Sheffield neighbourhoods which are in the spotlight as officials plan how to make the city a better place to live in the future.

Some 29 neighbourhoods are among the 20 per cent most deprived in England, due to poverty, high unemployment, take-up of state benefits and low incomes.

In Burngreave, Manor Park and Manor Castle wards, 40 per cent of households are on housing benefits and 30 per cent receive other types of benefits.

But Sheffield’s western suburbs - of Ecclesall, Fulwood, Bents Green, Dore and Totley - are all in the 10 per cent least-deprived locations in the country.

Just 10 per cent of people in Ecclesall and Fulwood receive housing benefits and 5 per cent claim other benefits.

Other areas of high deprivation are the Parson Cross, Batemoor, Jordanthorpe and Lowedges estates, pockets around the city centre, and Darnall.

On closely similar lines are figures for life expectancy.

Overall figures for Sheffield show early mortality rates for the city have halved for men since 1975 and reduced by 40 per cent for women.

Average life expectancy now stands at 81.8 years for men and 78.2 years for men - however, there is a massive variation of almost 10 years between neighbourhoods.

Male life expectancy is highest in Fulwood, at 83.27 years, followed by Ecclesall, Dore and Totley, and lowest in Burngreave, 75.7 years.

Women now live until an average of 86.78 years in Ecclesall, followed by Fulwood, Dore and Totley, but 77.25 years in Burngreave - which again has the lowest figure.

Sister Yvonne Hayes, of the Church Army, who helps run Rainbows End charity shop, Spital Hill, Burngreave, has lived and worked in the area for 20 years.

She said: “There are a lot of different reasons why the area has the lowest life expectancy.

“Sometimes it is about healthcare - my own experiences of GPs have been very good, but we are a multinational and diverse area and people bring more complicated problems.

“Some people can’t afford good food, such as wholemeal bread, while others lack the education to know how to eat healthily.

“There is also a problem that there are people who lack the confidence to come forward to their GP if they suspect they have a health problem, meaning it is not treated early enough.”

Higher smoking and lack of exercise are also problems associated with less-affluent neighbourhoods that the authorities want to tackle.

Across Sheffield in Fulwood ward, pensioner Nancy Grayson, of the Westminster Estate, Lodge Moor, said she believes her area has much better life expectancy due to ‘cleaner air’ and because it is a ‘pleasant’ place to live.

She said: “I don’t think people feel the same pressures as on other estates elsewhere in the city. It is so pleasant up here. The air quality is much better and we have pleasant scenery.

“There is a good sense of community, with many people now elderly who have lived here 30 to 40 years.”

Computer professional James Cooke, of Nether Green, also in Fulwood ward, said: “I imagine higher life expectancy is related to proximity to countryside and the Peak District, the number of parks, and higher income.

“Greater affluence means people can afford better-quality food, have less stress, can pay for gym membership, holidays and retire earlier.

“Other reasons are low crime rates, which again mean less stress, while the hills keep you fit, and the level of education in the area means people know how to look after themselves.”

Dr Jeremy Wright, Sheffield’s director of public health, said: “Inequality of life expectancy is persistent in Sheffield, which is a socio-economically divided city.

“We have a plan on how to deal with the issues in line with a national review, but it is complex. Contributory factors to inequality range from breast feeding and smoking rates to employment opportunities and incomes.

“There are also issues such as people in poorer areas being less likely to present themselves early for treatment for illnesses such as cancer, which affects their survival rates.”

But, he said: “Overall, I take a positive view in that people are living longer in all areas of the city.”

Other health challenges for Sheffield include that the overall population is expected to rise from 555,000 in 2010 to 600,000 by 2020 - with growing numbers of older and younger people.

Dr Wright said work is ongoing to ‘redesign’ health services to take into account the ‘changing demographic’.

Population is better educated

THE State of Sheffield report is split into three sections - Living in Sheffield, Working in Sheffield and Wellbeing.

In the first section, as well as the growing population, the report details how Sheffield is becoming better-educated, with 58,500 university and 26,600 college students.

Meanwhile, the proportion of residents with no qualifications has fallen from 16.6 per cent in 2008 to 12.4 per cent in 2009, and 27.7 per cent have a degree-level qualification.

Officials say the proportion of residents with degrees is still below the UK average and some southern cities such as Oxford, Brighton and Reading, where 40 per cent of residents are graduates.

However, the proportion of graduates staying on in Sheffield is the highest of any major UK city.

There are 128 languages spoken by Sheffield’s schoolchildren - evidence of the city’s growing diversity, with people from ethnic minority backgrounds now making up 17 per cent of the population compared with 11 per cent in 2001.

Make-up of households is changing, with 13 per cent of households being home to single people. Some 12 per cent of households have ‘high levels’ of benefit need, and 8 per cent are pensioners needing state support.

Future housing problems are predicted.

The report recognises dramatic improvements in social housing, which have been renovated at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds over the last decade.

But private housing is a concern, with 45 per cent of private-rented accommodation classed as below modern standards, and 48 per cent of homes in the affluent south-west in need of modernisation.

“Many older residents might be living in high value homes but unable to afford to maintain them properly,” the report says.

The city is likely to experience a shortage of housing due to the huge predicted population growth - which is set to be helped by plans to build 35,000 new homes by 2026.

There is also a growing need for single households and affordable family homes.

The proposals are controversial because a small proportion of the properties are proposed for green sites.

We have challenges but there’s also positive aspects in report such as community cohesion

POPULATION change, the economic challenge, health inequalities and emergent health problems around mental illness and obesity are cited as issues in the State of Sheffield 2012 report.

Coun Julie Dore, Sheffield Council leader, said: “We recognise there are some challenges in the report and that in the current economic climate they will increase - but there are some positives such as community cohesion compared with other cities.”

Future challenges are listed as creating jobs, responding to public sector cuts, youth unemployment and maintaining social cohesion in the short-term.

In the long-term, the city must deal with population growth and change, create more housing, improve school attainment and become more resilient to global problems such as energy supply and climate change, the report states.

On environmental issues, the State of Sheffield report highlights the number of green spaces as a positive - set against ‘problems’ such as 96 per cent of vehicle journeys into and out of the city being via private car or van.

Bus use is still in decline, although tram use has grown by 4 per cent each year.

Officials want to reduce car dependency to reduce exhaust emissions - efforts already taken have cut carbon dioxide emissions from 3.8 million tonnes in 2005 to 3.1 million tonnes in 2009, the report reveals.

The change is partly due to increased take-up of solar power generation, which has been higher than any other large UK city.