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Hertfordshire Community Foundation highlights poverty and deprivation across the county

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A new report shines a spotlight on Hertfordshire's hidden problems of poverty and homelessness.

While still an affluent home county, all 10 districts – including East Herts – have shown an increase in relative levels of deprivation from 2010 to 2019.

The 150-page document published by Hertfordshire Community Foundation, an independent charity and one of the largest non-statutory grant-making organisations, points to a county of contrasts.

While Hertfordshire fares well when it comes to income levels, education achievements and crime rates, almost one in five households live in poverty, homelessness has almost doubled and life expectancy ranges by up to 13 years depending on where in the county you live.

HCF director Helen Gray's introduction says: "Despite a modest decline in recent years, over 25,000 local children live in poverty... hospital admissions for youth mental health are above the national average and there were 795 winter deaths in 2017-18 due to poor living conditions.

"However, perhaps one of the starkest developments has been the significant increase in homelessness. Since 2011 there has been a 96% increase in statutory homelessness and a 165% increase in homeless households in temporary accommodation.

"It is true to say that Hertfordshire compares favourably to some counties, with lower levels of crime, higher-than-average incomes and good educational attainment. And yet, as this research highlights, there are real pockets of deprivation.

"Hertfordshire's population is growing and far too many people are living in need and facing challenging circumstances."

The county's population stands at 1.84m, a growth of 5.8% since 2011. With 7.2 people per hectare (2.9 per acre), it is the most densely populated non-urban county. However, more people are moving out of Herts, into other local authority areas in England, than are moving in, with the exceptions of East Herts – where 8,759 arrived and 8,500 departed – and Three Rivers.

In 2018, East Herts had a population of 148,105, second only to Dacorum with 154,280. Bishop's Stortford is the ninth largest town, with a population of 40,423, while Sawbridgeworth is the smallest with 10,629 residents.

The report makes clear that in communities that are generally affluent there are neighbourhoods where people are suffering: "There are a considerable number of deprived individuals living within the county, with more than 96,000 people identified as income-deprived and 43,000 identified as employment-deprived."

In East Herts, according to the report, there were 54 homeless individuals or families in priority need for housing in 2017-18, 32 households with dependent children and 25 in temporary accommodation, with nine rough sleepers. Homelessness was worst in Broxbourne while Watford has the most rough sleepers.

Debt levels in Herts are higher than the national average. Mortgages in East Herts per household average £65,869, compared to £62,768 in the county, £43,008 across the East of England region and £38,156 nationally.

The report reveals

  • 25,000+ children living in poverty
  • 11,843 child carers in the county
  • 18.3% of households living in poverty
  • 26,000+ older people require social care and support
  • 45 neighbourhoods rank among the 30% most deprived in the county
  • Since 2011 there has been a 96% rise in statutory homelessness and a 165% rise in homeless households in temporary accommodation
  • 795 winter deaths in Hertfordshire in 2017-18 due to poor living conditions
  • Life expectancy varies by up to 13 years depending on where you live in the county
  • 28.8% of 10- and 11-year-olds are obese or overweight compared to 33.3% across England
  • 9,500 over-65s have been diagnosed with dementia, above the national average
  • 10 towns in Hertfordshire have higher levels of drug offences than the national average
  • 11,130 recorded domestic abuse-related offences in 2017-18
  • Across most crime types, Hertfordshire has a lower crime rate than the national average
  • An estimated 231 people slept rough in 2018
  • Average property prices increased by 40% between 2012 and 2018
  • 1,214 people were homeless and in priority need during 2017-18
  • 58.7% of pensioners live alone
  • 14 neighbourhoods are ranked among the most deprived 10% in England
  • Carbon dioxide emissions have reduced steadily across Hertfordshire from 2005 to 2017, but six out of 10 districts have higher levels of background pollution than the national average
  • More than 20% of households have low broadband speeds in rural parts of the county
  • There is a lack of affordable housing across the county, with house prices in nine of the 10 districts higher than the national average
  • Those working in Hertfordshire earn less than those living in Hertfordshire
  • 20.6% of the population is aged 0 to 15, slightly above the national average
  • 195,000 people aged 65 and over – and this is projected to grow by 23% over the next 10 years

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