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

By Stefan Noble - Director and Head of Research, OCSI
Published on 18th Jan 2024

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. 

Methodology

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: 

  • People living in financial hardship
  • People unemployed or involuntarily excluded from the labour market
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • People experiencing fuel poverty
  • People experiencing barriers due to disability, ethnic background, immigration status, or sexuality.

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. 

Findings

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

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