Community spirit praised in new report as Covid pulls Hartlepool people into poverty

Community spirit has been strong in Hartlepool during the pandemic although Covid has pulled some people into poverty for the first time, a new report has found.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 4:45 am

The study by Hartlepool Action Lab, entitled From Isolation to Rebuilding: The impact of Covid-19 on people living in Hartlepool, found evidence of strong community spirit and good levels of contact and care has kept people connected.

But it also indicates the pandemic has hit hard for a significant minority with one in six respondents experiencing “high financial impacts”.

The study surveyed 178 Hartlepool residents about how Covid-19 has impacted them.

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Hartlepool Action Lab members (left to right) Cameron Dudding, Caroline Robinson and Darren Leighton with the report. Picture by FRANK REID

Hartlepool Action Lab, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and housing trust, is made up of a number of individuals, community groups and organisations, voluntary and public sector agencies and businesses working to tackle poverty.

It carried out the study to also help them identify and address the most pressing issues facing people as we come out of the pandemic.

Spokesman Darren Leighton said: “There’s a real cliff edge approaching as things like the furlough scheme come to an end and we wanted to try as much as possible to have a data set that we could use to focus our energies in coming out of lockdown.

"The biggest concern from the findings is that one in six have experienced a high financial impact.

The study looked into the impact of the pandemic on Hartlepool.

"There’s going to be a lot of people who experience poverty for the first time.”

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Of the people surveyed, 18% said their household income has been significantly reduced, 17% had been furloughed, with the same number significantly more worried about money.

And 17% of those in work being were paid less than the Real Living Wage at a time when stay at home guidance pushed up household food and fuel bills.

But it found the £20 a month Universal Credit uplift had been a lifeline for many people.

While community spirit is strong, loneliness has increased for around two thirds of those respondents (65%), and mental health has deteriorated significantly for around one in six people.

One woman who works in a local church described how its food kitchen had seen an extra 100 people – including a mum who had been furloughed and was worried about being able to feed her five children.

The volunteer said: “She said ‘I just can’t afford to keep them full.’

Feedback during the study also suggested certain groups have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic including people with disabilities, asylum seekers, parents of school age children, those not digitally connected and people on low wages.

Hartlepool Action Lab says it is notable that they were the groups already at risk of being drawn into poverty before the pandemic.

Parents of school-age children said home-schooling had put a lot of pressure on them together with the added financial strain leading to higher levels of stress and anxiety.

But encouragingly 57% of people who took part in the survey said they felt optimistic for the future.

Mr Leighton added: “There’s a lot of work going in in the sector to make sure there is a solid network for people to access the support they need and build a foundation for recovery in communities.”

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