Philanthropic projects and wellbeing initiatives within a community cannot function on the goodwill of local people alone. Instead, their success is dependent on government grants, funding and support – a space which is exceptionally competitive.
Such resources are of course finite. Any government/national funding initiative is not a bottomless pot of money and difficult decisions need to be made about which areas and projects are most in need of these precious funds. This allocation of resources is decided through numerous levels of assessment.
However, when it comes to generalised perceptions about which areas of the country most need support, it can be easy to make widespread assumptions about the cities that are seemingly thriving.
This is a challenge we face in our city of Bath. There is a perception that our community is made up of wealthy, deprivation-free families and individuals that do not require financial support. Yet, hidden beneath the glossy exterior of Bath and North East Somerset are pockets of deprivation and communities who need support.
Here at St John’s Foundation, we work with a wide range of under-served people, from those unable to afford a home, to families relying on food banks and schools with limited funds. At the end of last year BaNES Council revealed that 43% of people in our community reported difficulty paying fuel bills over winter.
We know from our own experience that there are many more on the brink of being unable to afford to meet their basic needs. It is estimated that over 4,000 people across BaNES will fall into absolute poverty this year including 1,500 children. This is a true reflection of the extent of poverty in the community. Financial distress is not reserved for only certain sections of society, it can impact anyone at any time, and can only take one small crisis to tip someone into needing our support.
It is therefore crucial that as a society, we do not take things at face value. For instance, just because a school exists on the outskirts of a wealthy city like Bath, does not mean their resources are abundant. In fact, the work we are funding across seven schools in the region has shown that some parents are struggling to provide their children with the three basic meals a day – this is why we have stepped in to provide nutritious school meals every day for over 700 children attending these schools.
Instead, government initiatives should endeavour to consider issues on a case-by-case basis, rather than pigeonholing them with the city in which they belong. No matter the prosperity of the town, there will always be sections of society in need of support and in areas where this might be overlooked by government funding, community initiatives and charities working on the ground will be crucial. Not only are they more agile – able to adapt to the shifting needs of an ever-evolving population – but they are also part of the community in which they serve – meaning they have a greater understanding of where support is required, rather than where it appears to be needed.