Cumbria Revealed – a county of contrasts

30th May 2017

A NEW report by Cumbria Community Foundation has painted a stark picture of life in the county.

Cumbria Revealed’ collected data from many sources to focus on what life is really like and it’s in sharp contrast to the picture postcard images we usually see.

The report’s findings will be used to tackle poverty and disadvantage by matching people who care with causes that matter to them.

Cumbria Community Foundation’s Chief Executive, Andy Beeforth, said: “Within our outwardly appearing wealthy and healthy county, some of our communities are facing real poverty and disadvantage. The report shines a light on the social problems which lie in the shadows of the mountains that the county is famous for. We’ve created a map of need and a key to the solutions.

“It also looks at inspirational people who share our aspirations for connecting people in the county with the life changing projects. By growing philanthropy, pooling our resources, focusing our efforts, working closely with others, we will help create a better future for Cumbria.”

Some of the facts from the report:

  • 1 in 10 households live in poverty (including 11,700 children),
  • 1 in 8 households have an income of less than £10,000 a year,
  • 1 in 5 people have a long-term health problem or disability,
  • 68% of adults are overweight,
  • 32,000 pensioners live alone,
  • 25% of the population will be aged over 65 in 2020,
  • 230 people killed or seriously injured on the roads each year,
  • 1 person takes their own life every week,
  • 34,000 people experience depression,
  • 1,800 people are diagnosed with dementia every year.

Andy continued: “I hope Cumbria Revealed will encourage more philanthropy, more giving, and match directly the help with the need. If we can bring attention to the problems we have in the county and innovative ways in which they can be addressed, then the report will change lives. To do this, our Trustees have set ambitious targets to double the amount of grants we award and to double our long-term funds in the next five years.”

The report says:

“Cumbria is a county of contrasts. The very factors which make Cumbria such a desirable tourist location and a visual treat affect just about every aspect of life here.

Cumbria’s topography exacerbates the issues already existing within the county, creating challenges for businesses; employment expansion; ease and parity of access to services; communication and travel; aspiration and life changes. However, it is poverty and deprivation which are at the heart of many of the problems people experience in our wonderful county.

Whilst we can’t change the geography of Cumbria, we all need to recognise the circumstances we face and be creative about how resources are used to best respond.

In working on this report, it has become obvious that several key issues facing our communities are social isolation, obesity, poverty, access to serves and mental health wellbeing.

This report cannot capture all issues affecting our communities. For example, we are aware of the challenges facing agriculture and other industries and uncertainty caused by Brexit. This does not mean we do not recognise their importance and we will respond as relevant opportunities arise.

For many people, living in Cumbria is not an idyll, it is challenging and difficult. However, there are organisation and projects that can help alleviate some of the problems people face and our role is support the inspirational work being done within our county.”

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

The Foundation works with fundholders to identify their values and concerns and to combine its knowledge to ensure grants are made to maximum effect. It can also refer to people who give their time, talents, knowledge or other assets to support charitable causes as well as their money.

Cumbria Community Foundation exists to alleviate poverty and disadvantage by inspiring people to give money to impactful and potentially life-changing projects.

It believes in offering philanthropic services to individuals, families and organisations, and connecting them with causes that matter while also building long term capital funds to benefit the community now and for the future.

It uses its knowledge to plan social change – taking fundholders on a journey from the problem to be solved, to a solution.

Cumbria Community Foundation listened to one philanthropist about his concerns about older people keeping warm in the winter and how he felt his Government winter fuel grant could be put to better use. Working closely with Myles Walker, the Foundation launched the Winter Warmth Appeal. It has raised more than £627,000 and has literally saved lives. In a bad winter, there are 300 excess deaths from the effects of the cold weather.

Some of the funds and projects supporting those living in poverty and disadvantage include:

The Mary Grave Trust – Giving £40,000 a year to young people from west Cumbria so they get the opportunity to travel abroad. Ashley, who visited the Gambia as part of a peer education project, said: “When we got to Gambia and worked with young people in different schools, it was good to see how much we had made a difference to their lives. This made me think that I wanted to carry on making a difference and decided I wanted to be a Youth Worker.”

King’s Food Bank – this Kendal based food bank received funding to continue to employ a part time manager and pay rental costs. Supported by churches and other community groups, King’s Food Bank delivers food boxes to people who are temporarily unable to provide for themselves. It has delivered more than 60,000 boxes since 2013. Up to 30 families are referred to this food bank every week. Half of the meals are for children.

Home to Work – this Cleator Moor based project gives 16-24 year olds valuable skills to help them gain skills which will lead to employment. The young people take part in short courses which provide a stepping stone to mainstream accredited courses as well as activities including restoring furniture and recycling salvaged timber to make garden furniture, and other small wooden items.

Friends of the 597 – A group of volunteers from south Lakeland applied for a grant to sustain their local bus service. Many older, vulnerable people rely on this bus service to maintain their independence and keep appointments. It has continued to operate a circular service from Windermere to Bowness, keeping the community mobile and connected.

West Cumbria Domestic Violence Support – Grant funding has enabled the charity to support and train volunteers to answer a 24-hour helpline and provide one-to-one emotional and practical support to victims. It offers help to survivors and perpetrators too – the only organisation in the west of the county that provides long term support to tackle the root causes of abuse.

Men in Sheds – the Northern Fells Rural Community Development Group set up this project to give older men a space to build, repair and recycle things in their community workshop. Activities include making and mending wooden items and also bike and vehicle repairs, model engineering and gardening.

Cumbria has around 6,000 charities and community / voluntary groups, contributing £400m to the economy and employing the equivalent of 9,000 people full time. These groups are fundamental to supporting community based solutions to the issues described in the report. They need funding to deliver vital services but there also needs to be a recognition that greater collaboration with public and private sectors will only enhance their ability to deliver impactful change.

However, Cumbria Community Foundation is fully aware that it cannot tackle social problems alone. It wants to use the report to inform grant-making, to educate and inform fundholders and to continue conversations with partners and other funders to support the very best for Cumbria.

In response to need, the trustees of the Foundation have agreed challenging targets of doubling our endowments (long term funds) and doubling the annual grant making.

Trustees have also agreed to revised grant making priorities for the next five years in response to the needs identified, which are:

  • Improving the lives of disadvantaged children and families
  • Improving the life skills, education, employability and enterprise of disadvantaged people
  • Supporting vulnerable older people
  • Improving the health and wellbeing of the people of Cumbria
  • Strengthening and supporting fragile communities

To read the report in full, click here or for a hard copy, phone 01900 825760.