Deprivation on our doorsteps

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TEN areas of Chorley feature in the bottom 20 per cent the country’s worst areas for deprivation, according to a new report.

Those at the wrong end of the list are:

Chorley Town Centre; East of Pall Mall/West of Pilling Lane; area between Stump Lane and Lyons Lane; Cowling and Eaves Lane South; Buckshaw Village and Astley Village; Moor Road North and Eaves Green Road; Clayton Brook North West; Clayton Brook North East; Thornhill and Coppull Central.

The report also reveals that the number of areas that could be classified as being deprived overall and in terms of employment and income has increased.

Chorley Partnership Executive discussed the issue at its recent meeting and has put in place the Vulnerable Families Project.

The group says it is trying to help residents who are affected by rising living costs, public spending cuts and stagnating wages.

It also says that low income families are bearing the brunt of the problems and are more at risk from changes in the Welfare Reform Act.

They are acting with their partners to see how they can support the most vulnerable.

Among the initiatives being considered are:

n Launching a community energy scheme using collective bargaining power in a bid to cut the cost of spiralling gas and electric bills. The more people who sign up to it, the cheaper the deal for residents;

n Working with the Citizens Advice Bureau and housing association to offer free one-to-one money management advice sessions to help people through the Welfare Reforms due to come into force on April 1;

n Put in place a scheme so that people who used to get 100 per cent help with their council tax only have to contribute 7.5 per cent towards the cost rather than pass on the 20 per cent government cut;

n Working with housing associations to help families hit by cuts in Housing Benefit because of under-occupation of their homes;

n Setting up an exceptional hardship fund;

n Promoting the use of Unify Credit Union in Chorley to help people save when they can, and also to offer
low-cost loans instead of taking high-interest loans;

n Working with Runshaw College to help young people overcome barriers in finding work;

n Offering free or low-cost Get Up and Go activities for young people and Reach up and Go for people with disabilities, during school holidays and in the evenings;

n Giving free swimming for children during school holidays.

Coun Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “We are fully aware that there are people in Chorley suffering severe hardship and are struggling to get by from month to month.

“The figures in the report show that these areas are becoming more deprived, partly because of the current economic climate. This is a real concern for us as a council.

“This is only going to be compounded by the Government’s decision to change the benefits system from April 1, which will also hit the poorest people hardest which is why we are looking at what we can do to help.

“It would be easy for us as a council just to carry out our statutory responsibilities and do the minimum we need to but that’s not the way we want to operate.

“There are a whole host of things we’re trying to do in Chorley from launching the credit union to leading a collective energy switch to help people in every way we can because every penny matters when you
are struggling.

“Another focus for us is jobs. If we can get people back into work that will go a long way to giving them financial stability and mean they don’t rely on benefits.

“We are working closely with our partners and other organisations in Chorley and it’s important people who are struggling to make ends meet come to us and take advantage of the help on offer.”