'It can be rough but I wouldn't move' - life in Sheffield's 'most-deprived' neighbourhood
The gaping divide between Sheffield’s haves and have-nots is laid bare in new statistics ranking the nation’s most and least deprived areas.
Two neighbourhoods within the city are among the 200 most disadvantaged out of nearly 33,000 across England, with 22 in the country’s 1,000 worst off, according to government figures published last week.
Yet at the other end of the scale, 12 communities in Sheffield rank among the 1,000 least deprived, with one, in leafy Lodge Moor, in the bottom 100.
The city’s most deprived area and the 107th worst off in England, the table suggests, is a jagged parcel of land either side of Prince of Wales Road, which is home to just over 1,600 people and is officially labelled Sheffield 039A but is better known as part of the Manor estate.
The rankings take into account a raft of statistics, from education and employment to health and housing, but how accurate a picture of life there do they really paint?
When we visit, most people we speak to are not surprised by the findings, despite big steps having been made to improve what was once branded – albeit nearly 25 years ago – ‘the worst estate in Britain’.
Yet there is genuine affection among many for an area in which they praise the strong sense of community, despite the challenges facing people living there especially when it comes to finding work.
The area is ranked 119th worst for income, 187th for employment and 229th for education, skills and training.
But there is hope, insists Rachael Thompson, who has lived in Manor for 20 years and works at Ruban’s Convenience Store in the parade of shops towards the top of Prince of Wales Road.
“My kids have grown up here and my eldest son, Connor, is at law school. It doesn’t always go on where you live,” says the 40-year-old mum-of-four.
“I used to say to my kids just because you live on the Manor doesn’t mean you have to act like it.
“It can be rough, and the crime rate’s shocking but we never get any trouble in the store. People say the kids are bad but they’re not. They’re bored because they’ve got nowt to do.
“The worst thing around here is the rubbish, even though the council comes every day to clean up, bless them, and I sweep outside the shop each day.
“I was born and raised in Parson Cross, and they say that’s rough, but it’s the same wherever you live – it’s what you make of it. I wouldn’t move off the Manor now.
“I think things are getting better. The schools are really good around here, you have everything you need on your doorstep and there's a great sense of community. When things go bad, people stick together.”
At Manor Training & Resource Centre, across the road, staff are all too aware of the challenges residents face.
Adults often lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, they tell me, there is a high rate of dyslexia and many people are also battling mental health demons including crippling anxiety and depression, which can prove a big barrier to gaining the skills they need.
The toughest task is getting those people through the door so workers can build their confidence and start them on the path to gaining the skills they need to broaden their career prospects.
Nicky Jowitt, a development worker at the centre, says: “There can be a bit of a vicious circle. Not only are they held back by dyslexia or literacy problems, they are affected by mental health difficulties like anxiety and depression, which it’s difficult to pull themselves out of. It’s hard to get people engaged with learning and keep them engaged.”
Many of the people they meet, she explains, find the world of academia too daunting and would feel ‘physically sick’ with anxiety even entering a college.
The centre tries to offer people a more vocational route into learning through things like baking classes, where they can indulge their interests while developing their literacy and numeracy in the process, and to provide them with the flexibility they need to fit their education into their busy lives, especially in an area with a high proportion of single mums.
The trouble is the lack of funding available for such courses, which can be a vital stepping stone to GCSEs and beyond, especially following recent public spending cutbacks.
“It’s first rung stuff which is really important for many people who are long-term unemployed, but job centres tend to put those people to the bottom of the pile because they have targets to meet and they know they won’t be able to get them a job within 16 weeks. They tend to be left behind, which is really sad,” says Nicky.
For all the frustrations, there are plenty of success stories to celebrate, explains centre manager Alison Bagshaw.
“We received a letter not long ago from one of our previous learners to say she’d just got a first class honours degree in counselling,” she says.
“She told us how without coming to us as a starting point that would never have happened, and she has since recommended us to her niece who is going from strength to strength and wants to become a midwife.”
Manor is not the only bit of Sheffield to rank among England’s most-deprived areas, with parts of Southey Green, Woodhouse, Gleadless Valley, Firth Park, Mosborough and Park and Arbourthorne all featuring high up the list.
The area of Manor officially recognised as Sheffield’s ‘most deprived’ is only a small part of the estate – stretching from a pocket park known as The Wedge in the west to Castlebeck Avenue in the east, and encompassing the Angleton estate – and other sections do fare better.
Despite complaints about littering and graffiti, the streets are generally tidy and gardens well maintained on the chilly October morning when we visit.
Police recently told how crime in the area had dropped dramatically since a new model of neighbourhood policing was rolled out here two years ago, with 63 offences recorded in May this year compared with 163 in July 2017, and the Manor and Castle Development Trust continues to do sterling work.
But nobody I speak to is blind to the community’s problems, with the number of empty shops along Prince of Wales Road, albeit just below the relatively new and busy Lidl superstore, a glaring sign of the economic woes.
Tony Parsons and his wife Kathy live in Arbourthorne but volunteer at the Spires Centre on East Bank Road, where they tell me demand for the food bank shows how hard life is for many residents.
Tony, a 62-year-old retired school caretaker, says the biggest challenges facing people in the area are the lack of access to ‘housing, decent jobs and proper infrastructure’.
For him, providing better bus services would be a great place to start when it comes to improving their lot.
“Buses are being messed about on an almost daily basis. If you work, there’s no guarantee there’s a bus that will get you there and if there is the chances are it will invariably be late when you need it in the morning,” he says.
“If you’re in a poorer area the last thing you can afford is to be running a car. You need good public transport to get you around.
“I think things are getting worse around here. The whole area’s becoming tattier, with more litter and graffiti, and you see more people on the street drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
“I’m not judging them because I guess it can dull the pain of the poverty.”
One woman, who asked not to be named, said she had lived in the area for 12 years and was fed up with the amount of crime and antisocial behaviour there today, particularly the yobs tearing through the streets and green spaces on off-road motorbikes.
“The statistics don’t surprise me. I’ve got two children but growing up around here I worry they haven’t got much to look forward to,” she added.
“The only good thing about living here is that my neighbours are fine and we all look out for each other.”
The English Indices of Deprivation, produced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, ranks the 32,844 small areas across the country by giving each a combined score based on factors like, crime, employment and barriers to housing.
Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Knowsley, Kingston upon Hull and Manchester are the local authorities with the highest proportion of most-deprived neighbourhoods.
Sheffield is the 44th most deprived out of 151 ‘upper tier’ local authority districts across the country.
Within the city, it will perhaps come as little surprise that along with Lodge Moor, Ecclesall, Fulwood, Broomhill and Crookes and Crosspool all feature among Sheffield’s 10 least deprived neighbourhoods.