Our first Vital Signs report highlights need for more early intervention

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More funding for prevention and early intervention work is needed across the West of England according to our new ‘Vital Signs’ report, published on 4th October.

Vital Signs for the West of England
Vital Signs for the West of England

Vital Signs is an international programme combining the latest research and survey data about the wellbeing and opportunities available to local communities to form a comprehensive social needs report. This is the first time that a Vital Signs study has been made of the West of England and it shows striking statistics about people’s quality of life. The report reveals the impact of shrinking support for early intervention and prevention work, despite the hugely positive difference it can make.

“We’re seeing many organisations in the area forced to focus on crisis management,” said our Chief Executive Sue Turner. “Fewer and fewer statutory funders can spare the resources to get ‘around the table’ with front-line groups and community leaders to look at a long-term view, even though we know from the evidence and our long experience that early interventions are cost effective and really make the difference.”

We feel that our concerns are justified, with requests for our discretionary funding up 66% on the same time last year, indicating that charitable groups and projects are crying out for more help to keep going. But it’s important to also highlight that there are solutions out there.

Sue Turner, CEO of Quartet Community Foundation
Sue Turner, CEO of Quartet Community Foundation

There are solutions out there.

Sue said, “Community Foundations exist to help everyone fulfil their potential; yes, we know there is great need in our communities, but we also know there are front-line charitable groups that are doing fantastic work to address problems and turn lives around. We want organisations, funders and philanthropists to talk to us about where we can support the third sector to meet the aspirations of their communities, and to bolster the excellent work already going on there.”

Key findings:

Our Vital Signs report shows that if you’re living in certain areas, if you have a low income, are disabled or have a minority ethnic background, then the opportunities for you to live, work and thrive are really reduced. It highlights the struggle to secure decent housing for many people the West of England, and range of challenges faced by communities, from rural isolation to urban rough sleeping.

Mental health

Funding for mental health services is being concentrated on supporting people in crisis, with a lack of investment in prevention. In Bristol, hospital admissions for young people self-harming are 20% higher than the England average. North Somerset has the second highest recorded rate of adult depression in the South West, well above the national average. It also has levels of people with a mental illness in residential care or a nursing home that are nearly double the national average.

Opportunities for young people

Too many young people – in particular those leaving care – are facing multiple barriers to the education, employment or training opportunities they need to succeed. Average GCSE results in the West of England by pupils from poorer backgrounds are less than half as good as their better-off peers, and the gap is one of the widest in England. Only 8% of young people leaving care go on to higher education, around 5 times less than their peers. Disrupted schooling, lack of career guidance, and pressure to become independent through earning, rather than pursuing education, are all strong factors.

Child poverty

Children living in Weston-super-Mare South, Lawrence Hill and Filwood wards are some of the poorest in the country, and for the first time, young people in the UK are now more likely to be in poverty than the over 65s.

Social isolation

The report shows that seemingly affluent rural areas in the West mask pockets of deprivation, and social isolation is a significant and growing problem to older and younger people there.

“The ongoing austerity is having a profound impact”, says our Chief Executive Sue Turner. “This report shows that disadvantages early in life play a big part in keeping people from fulfilling their potential. We have the will and the experience to enable fantastic community groups to make life-changing early interventions. I would urge anyone reading this who is interested in supporting people who are struggling with the issues raised in this report, to read Vital Signs and then get in touch with us if you want to make a difference.”