Over the past twenty years, hundreds of poor neighbourhoods have seen their quality of life deteriorate in comparison to the rest of society. This deterioration can be linked to a number of factors initiated by ‘economic change’ which is the term used to describe changes in the way we work.
Traditionally mass production industries provided employment opportunity to meet the needs of local communities. Over the last twenty years new technology has initiated new ways of working. Demand for the products of traditional industries declined whilst the demand for information and communication products and services increased. These new industries required a workforce with a diverse and often higher level of skills.
Governments, employers, educational institutions, and the community failed to recognise the speed of economic change and failure to adapt and respond to economic change resulted in social and economic decline.
Residents in many neighbourhoods became trapped in a spiral of decline. As employers and people moved away from these areas the opportunity for people to secure employment was reduced. Empty homes created more opportunities for crime, vandalism and drug dealing. Areas with high crime and high levels of unemployment acquired poor reputations, so more people, shops and employers left these areas. These areas became progressively cut off and those living in these areas now lack the lifetime opportunities that those living in more prosperous areas take for granted. Neighbourhood decline has been fuelled by a combination of factors, which has resulted in a concentration of vulnerable people in poor neighbourhoods.
These factors include: -
The decline of old industries
Unmet demand for new skills
Government policies have failed to fully tackle these issues, and sometimes they have been a part of the problem. Departments have worked at cross-purposes on problems that required a joined up response. Too much reliance was put on short-term regeneration initiatives and too little was done about the failure of mainstream public services in deprived neighbourhoods. Too little attention was paid to the problems and there was a failure to harness the knowledge and energy of local people or empower them to develop their own solutions to local problems.