A simple overview of city performance across the outcomes in this report would suggest that Cardiff is performing well in comparison with ‘Core Cities’ and other parts of Wales across a range of factors which can affect a resident’s well-being. However, as with other cities in the UK, significant and entrenched inequalities exist in Cardiff.
Despite being the nation’s commercial engine, over 60,000 people in Cardiff live in the 10% most deprived communities in Wales. Only two other local authorities in Wales – Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent – have a higher percentage of their population living in the poorest communities in Wales. Almost a third of Cardiff households are living in poverty with a high percentage of children living in workless and low income households. In addition, ethnic minorities and those with a worklimiting disability are more vulnerable to long term unemployment.
Marked differences exist in prosperity between the north and south of the city, with unemployment rates in Ely nearly ten times higher than those in Creigiau. Differences in health outcomes are even more pronounced, with a healthy life expectancy gap of 22 to 24 years between the richest and poorest communities and mortality from, for example, heart disease seven times higher in Riverside than it is in Thornhill. For men in these poorest communities healthy life expectancy is projected to decrease.
Furthermore, the majority of school leavers who do not make a successful transition to further education, training or employment, live in the more deprived areas of the city. Although school performance cross the city has improved significantly over recent years, too many schools are underperforming, particularly in the city’s most deprived communities. Similarly, the gap between those pupils who receive free school meals (FSM) and those that do not remains substantial, indicating that too many children living in financial poverty are not achieving their potential in school. Not only will this affect their chances in life but evidence shows that it will also put long term pressure on public services and result in lost economic output.
Cardiff has been reinvented over the past 20 years. However, even though the city has attracted investment and a large number of new jobs have been created, this has not translated in to better lives for all citizens and communities. Headline indicators mask deep and persistent levels of economic deprivation, poor health, crime and lower levels of educational attainment.
In the short to medium term, future trends indicate that the UK economy will grow slowly, with low productivity growth and stagnating wages. Taken together with projected rising inflation, the rising cost of housing and reform to the welfare system, these forces can be expected to hit the poorest communities hardest. In the longer term, automation can be expected to place a further premium on skills and knowledge-based employment. As well as increasing the skills of adults and young people, there is a need to create pathways into work and further education, particularly for those in the city’s most disadvantaged communities.
Living in poverty has a particularly serious impact on children’s lives, affecting their educational attainment, health, and happiness as well as having an impact which can last into adulthood. Concentrating on early preventative action can have a positive effect on their lives and on society as a whole.
Tackling these issues will require a cross-public and third sector approach, with emerging thinking in the health, third and local government sectors pointing towards a new approach to delivering services at a ‘locality’ or ‘neighbourhood’ level. These approaches focus on aligning public and third sector assets and services at the local level and an ‘asset-based’ approach to community engagement which listens to and involves those receiving the service and other community actors in the delivery of services. To be effective this will require a joint approach to mapping and future planning of public services.
To achieve its vision, Cardiff must be a city which is a great place to live and work for all its citizens, regardless of background or the community in which they live. With a rapidly growing population and public sector austerity, the way in which public services are designed and delivered must change in order to ensure that the city’s most vulnerable citizens and communities are supported, and that the substantial and rising gaps in the prosperity, skill levels, housing, crime-levels and health – in short, the quality of life – between communities in the city is reduced.