Spotlight on... Hastings

When we think about Sussex and the coastline, we picture summer holidays, fairgrounds and candy floss, fun games on the beach and sunny days. This may be the case for many holiday visitors, but the reality is there are multiple challenges facing the coastal communities here.

Our Tackling Poverty report highlights some of the issues these areas face, from an aging population and poor health and disabilities, to higher housing and living costs and limited job opportunities. The current Cost of Living crisis has only exacerbated the issue.

To explore this in more detail we are taking a focused look at the town of Hastings in East Sussex.

"The sense of community and resilience in Hastings is truly heartwarming. Despite the challenges highlighted in the report, it is uplifting to see dedicated staff and volunteers working tirelessly to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all residents. The generosity of our donors and supporters is also vital to make a positive impact in the local community, and make Sussex a great place to live for everyone." 

Kevin Richmond, CEO Sussex Community Foundation

Table of deprivation for Sussex towns
Hastings is top of the chart where income deprivation scores exceed the national average.


Hastings has a rich history as a seaside town, attracting people from London and the South East when its ground-breaking pier was built in 1872. As piers fell out of fashion from the 1980s onwards the town’s tourist trade declined.

As highlighted in the report, Hastings is now one of the Sussex towns performing poorly across all seven key deprivation measures, which include income, employment, education and training, health and disability, crime, housing and living environment. The town has the highest multiple deprivation score (34.15) in the county and the highest percentage of income-deprived residents (20.1%).

An aging population

As one of the biggest towns in the South East, Hastings’ population has increased to just over 92,000 (Census 2021). 20.22% are over 65 with 15.3% of residents claiming Pension Credit, exceeding the national average of 11.3%.

Looking at changes in population there is a projected decline in Sussex of the 0-19 age group and Hastings has a much larger decline (-14.7%). Whilst the working age population is likely to remain static across Sussex, the proportion of those aged 15-64 in Hastings is expected to fall by a considerable amount (5.6%), which is, in turn, likely to have an impact on the labour market, with associated consequences.

Health & disability

One of the likely causes of the challenges faced by Hastings residents is linked to long-term health issues and poor outcomes for those with disabilities. Hastings has also the highest percentage of disabled individuals among all Local Authorities in Sussex (21.7% compared to 16.9% nationally). Additionally, it has the largest proportion of individuals with premature disabilities, as 14.7% of those under 65 are disabled under the Equality Act.

Unemployment and worklessness

Another reason for this high level of deprivation is linked to high levels of unemployment in the town. Hastings stands out with the highest percentage of individuals aged 18-24 claiming unemployment benefits (8.99%), which is more than twice the average in Sussex. The link with health and poverty is clear with 75% of all out-of-work benefits claimants and 69.1% of homeless households being people with health-related conditions.


At the Foundation we see and hear examples of the amazing work done by groups and charities in and around Hastings. Local organisations, like many of those we work with, are helping to tackle these challenges. Their dedication has a huge impact across our communities, offering support to residents struggling to make ends meet. From food and warmth, non critical debt advice and getting people off the street, these groups, very often small and local, are there for Hastings.

In this post we've highlighted some stories from charities and groups based in Hastings.

Hastings Advice and Representation Centre (HARC)

HARC offers specialist welfare benefit advice and representation. Their free and confidential service addresses inequalities, relieves poverty and improves the quality of life for vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the county.

Their community work is carried out at a range of venues and home visits, and provides support to some of the hardest to reach in the community. It effectively removes barriers imposed by homelessness, insecure housing, poor physical and mental health, lack of transport and social isolation.

“Family ‘C’ met with our advisor following a visit to the local foodbank. It was the start of multiple appointments which led to a payment and debt management plan. The support received has made a huge difference for the family: their income has been increased and debts are being managed. The pressure on their mental and physical health has been alleviated and the wellbeing and quality of life for the whole family has vastly improved.”

Member of staff at HARC

Education Futures Trust

Education Futures Trust provides high quality and innovative support and learning tailored to improve the life chances of vulnerable children and adults, particularly in Hastings.

The grant awarded by the Foundation enabled the group to set up a ‘warm space’ to offer their clients a refuge from the cold during the winter months. Warm drinks, snacks and hot meals were offered throughout the day, while skills-based activities would take place for those who wanted to be involved. The staff also offered advice, for example how to reduce the heating bills, or how to cook simple meals at home. Those attending used the 'warm space' to its full potential - to access hot food and drink, as well as to build social relationships.

“Those that use our services tell us that they are struggling. When attending our all-day courses, many come without food and try to hide this. When provided with donated pastries, they will often keep one to take home for ‘tea’. Those receiving our food hampers tell us that they only want food that can be eaten cold from the can; avoiding potatoes and items requiring heat or preparation. 

We have learned that those we work with are going hungry and are cold. The choice between food and heat is no longer the challenge: many have neither.”

Member of staff at Education Futures Trust

Bags of Taste

Bags of Taste supports vulnerable people in poverty in Hastings. Their Mentored Home Cooking courses are attended by those on a low income, who live in areas of high deprivation or are at risk of poor health outcomes.

One of the goals of the courses run by the group is to reduce health inequalities by encouraging individuals with limited budgets to prepare affordable and nutritious meals. Their initiative helps develop positive dietary habits, improved financial situations and overall wellbeing for the long term.

Their work is specifically focused on the most vulnerable in society, and they work closely with local referrers to identify beneficiaries. All attendees are disadvantaged by poverty and many have multiple and complex challenges, facing unemployment or suffering from mental health issues.

Since the start of the programme, the group has successfully delivered over 4,000 courses, reaching many residents suffering from mental and physical health illnesses or disabilities, as well as carers and single parents.

“I feel more confident about preparing food from scratch. I always used to think it was much harder than it actually was. This course has helped me realise that it’s not always more expensive to cook from scratch, and I can definitely make a saving in my food shop; buying in bulk helps us get us through the month.” 

Course attendee

Our Tackling Poverty report highlights the desperate need in parts of Sussex, and offers insight and evidence of the need for more philanthropy, so we can make even more of a difference. The data and insights outlined in this report will also be a valuable resource for the voluntary sector in the county, providing crucial data to support funding applications to the Foundation and other funders.

Get in touch with the Philanthropy team to discuss how your donation can help make a difference in the Hastings area, Or you can donate directly to our Tackling Poverty Fund.

Uncovering Sussex: How evidence-based research helps Sussex Community Foundation to tackle poverty

Sussex Community Foundation commissioned our research team at Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) to produce a Tackling Poverty report, to gain insights into Sussex's poverty levels, continuing the 'Sussex Uncovered' series.

The report establishes a baseline of data about poverty in Sussex, and the Foundation intends to use the evidence gathered in this report to inform their development as a community foundation. 


We began our work by analysing and evaluating data under five key themes that emerged from conversations with the Foundation on their key strategic priorities for addressing poverty across Sussex. These are: 

We used our experience in producing Needs Profiles for other Community Foundations and knowledge of the data landscape to identify key metrics to analyse under those themes.

We explored data from a range of sources, including administrative datasets (data which is created or collected when people interact with public services, such as schools, the NHS, the courts or the benefits system, and collated by the government) collected by government departments, such as claimants of means tested benefits and homeless statistical returns. We also explored self-reported survey data from the 2021 Census.

Where possible, data was collected over a five-to-ten-year timeframe to allow exploration of the impacts of wider socio-economic changes and challenges over time, particularly in the context of the pandemic and cost of living crisis. 

We investigated the performance of Sussex’s Local Authorities, major towns, rural areas, and neighbourhoods, and produced our findings as a narrative analysis, supplemented with data visualisations. We used our data mapping and reporting platform, Local Insight, to simplify aggregation of data to the Sussex neighbourhoods and quickly export population statistics for the areas under review.

We chose to use this narrative-driven approach to highlight the trends and issues we discovered in a way that builds an easy to understand story of a local place. This allows stakeholders to see the woods for the trees and aids in gaining a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and how they intersect with each other. 


We identified four clear challenges faced by Sussex communities in their campaign against poverty.

Challenge 1: An ageing population

Sussex’s population is older than the national average, and the 65+ population is projected to grow by 41.3% between 2020 and 2040. Already, rising social care and poor health burdens are creating challenges for the region’s public health services. The associated fall in the working-age population will likely lead to a reduction in labour market demand and may also increase labour market costs, while the potential loss of salaried employees could reduce disposable incomes and impact on consumer spending.

Challenge 2: High levels of long-term illness and poor outcomes for those with a disability

17.6% of people in Sussex have a disability, compared to 15.6% in the South East and 16.9% in England. There is strong evidence to suggest that people with disabilities across Sussex are more likely to experience material deprivation challenges - alongside the general health challenges associated with long-term illness and disability.

Challenge 3: Inflationary pressures are contributing towards financial hardship

The region is experiencing financial pressures due to the rising costs of living, which is impacting on the availability of affordable housing and the overall cost of essentials. Those in Sussex’s rural and coastal communities are especially vulnerable to the rising costs of energy bills, with 8.2% of homes in those areas found to have had a low energy efficiency rating - more than double the national average (3.3%).

Challenge 4: Multiple deprivation challenges in coastal communities​​

Each of the eight most deprived towns in Sussex is located in coastal communities. These towns face a range of issues, from economic struggles to social welfare concerns.

Stefan Noble
Director and Head of Research, OCSI

January 2024

Help us now on tackling poverty.

Donations are pooled with others in the community to enable impactful grant making in this area. You can make donations of any size and it will make a real difference to people’s lives.

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