Inequality exposed with real stories across Brighton & Hove
True life stories of domestic violence drug abuse and refugees fleeing persecution are featured in this year’s director of public health report that tackles the issue of inequality across Brighton & Hove.
While life expectancy has increased, each year 500 extra people die due to the impact of deprivation, and 87 die before they are 75 years old while the average life expectancy of a homeless person is just 47 years old. At the same time older residents have become wealthier compared to those who are younger.
The report reveals that across the city 1 in 6 children live in poverty but in the east of the city that figure doubles to 1 in 3. Welfare reforms combined with the city’s high housing costs have worsened poverty with homelessness rising and food poverty growing as the number of food banks rises sharply.
The report points to the benefits of earlier intervention through Children’s Centres and Sure Start initiatives as well as better secondary education and the so-called Troubled Families programme to help families facing the biggest challenges.
The director calls for a sustained, determined and coordinated approach across the city that engages people from the statutory, private and voluntary sectors and citizens themselves.
Brighton & Hove City Council Director of Public Health Tom Scanlon said:
“This is a broad brush of inequalities in Brighton & Hove. In housing, employment, income, welfare, health as well as young people and older people.
“This year we have featured powerful stories from residents who have suffered from inequality first hand and this helps bring this report alive.
“The general perception is that inequalities are wide and getting wider. But actually the picture is mixed, in some cases inequalities have come down, in older people for example they have come down and they are relatively more wealthy compared to younger people. Inequalities in female salaries has improved but when you look in more detail it’s women in higher pay that has improved and while the inequality gap is still there for lower paid women on those in part time jobs.
“The two biggest drivers of inequality are income and employment. Child poverty is an issue people feel more strongly about and across the city the figure is 1 in 6 but in east Brighton that figure is 1 in 3. The two ways you can address that best is through income and employment.
“We have to move to a mind-set in the city where we are pushing up the opportunities for employment and not just any employment but employment that is remunerated properly. So employment that pays at least a living wage. The council can lead on this and other statutory organisations such as the NHS but you have to get buy in from a wider collection of people.
“One of the interesting things about inequalities is that when they exist at a societal level it’s not just the poor people who suffer. There are consequences across the whole of society, because there are more homeless people on the street, more people get involved in crime and that impacts on everyone. The trust between people and the general wellbeing deteriorates when you have wide inequalities.
“We have to look at a situation where we get more buy in collectively across the city businesses, employers, schools, the statutory and third sector and citizens themselves have to buy in to the concept that we have to collectively make this better.
Download the report from this webpage: Annual report from the director of public health Brighton & Hove
Real life stories of inequality (as featured as part of the new report)
Substance misuse and homelessness
Sarah and Stitch the dog
As a child I was abused and later as an adult, I suffered domestic abuse. That
was why I started self-harming and then using drugs. I’ve had five children,
the oldest died just after birth. The best time was when I was living with my
son, as he looked out for me and made sure that the people who were giving
me drugs stayed away. But then he got sent to prison and when I was on my
own again, things got worse. I ended up using more drugs and then got
made homeless. I had to beg for pet food. Then there was an incident and
I went to court on suspicion of dealing but I didn’t get charged.
I am a survivor. I’m proud that for the last 10 months I have been clean of
drugs, apart from the odd little treat. I have a little dog called Stitch which
has made it difficult to get a place to stay as very few hostels will take dogs.
Stitch saved my life and she gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I
take her for walks and look after her health and her happiness. I love Stitch.
But my health, physical and emotional has been affected pretty severely by
the homelessness and Class A drug use. I have been hospitalised with an
aneurysm and had a kidney removed. I’ve got Hepatitis C and I am waiting
on some tests for abnormal blood results, anaemia and blood pressure
problems. I lived in West Pier and St Patricks hostels, now I am living in New Steine Mews Hostel - this is the 14th place I lived.
When I look back, I think I lost touch with normal life. Thinking about the
future, I’m doing a Life Skills course at the hostel and that is helping me
manage on my own again. I would love to be in a warden-assisted flat
where I could be secure and sure that I wouldn’t get bullied again. I wish more
hostels would accept pets; they’re often the only thing that keeps a person
going, like Stitch has been for me.
Domestic violence and racial abuse
I fled to Brighton with my daughter. We ran away from a man who was violent.
It wasn’t easy when we arrived, it was like no-one trusted me. However, I
eventually managed to find somewhere to stay and I got my daughter into
school. But when she was at school, I would break down and cry for hours, I
felt alone and frightened. I was scared that my partner would find me and
with good reason, because once he did, and he was violent just like before.
I remember that whenever I walked around Brighton I would think that
people were looking at me and could see I was a victim of domestic violence.
Then I wondered if it was because of the colour of my skin. I didn’t want
to believe that, but now I do. With all that is going on I started stealing small
things from the shop where I worked, until I got caught, but that was just the
start of a crazy journey.
I got referred to Inspire instead of getting sentenced. Inspire really helped
me, they work with lots of women in my sort of situation and they gave me a
key worker. She didn’t give me pity, she gave me hope and I realised that my life wasn’t at a dead end, and that I could make changes. When the sessions with
Inspire came to an end I decided to stay with them and I got more support from their mentors. Now I’m back at work. That means a lot to me; to know that my daughter has a mum who can earn her keep. I am also getting volunteering experience and I’m focusing on my daughter and making sure that she gets the best start in life.
My goals are to get the best for my daughter and to go back to college
and to study to be a youth worker. I want to help others to make better
decisions in their lives by using my own experience. When I look back,
I think that actually getting caught shoplifting was the start of a positive
change for me. Inspire gave me my first bit of security, being listened to
and seeing that I had options and that I could take control in my own life, has
made all the difference.