Support for vital community services is most pressing issue for Berkshire

There is a growing need in Berkshire to support community services, a new report has found. 65% of respondents to the 2018 Vital Signs survey chose Communities that Work as the cause that needs the most support. They further identified funding for community groups to support cohesion as the most pressing issue facing Berkshire today.

The Vital Signs survey is run by Berkshire Community Foundation (BCF), which published its results this week. Supporting the report’s findings was the importance of a safe home, good health and secure employment to the feeling of belonging within the community. The three are interdependent and underpin wellbeing.

Homelessness within the county increased almost 5 fold since 2011, with 46% of cases in Reading. There are 3 times as many rough sleepers over the same time period. As one respondent put it, “Nobody should have to live in a shop doorway! …For their whole wellbeing, health, vulnerability and self-worth.”

Health, both physical and mental, improves from keeping active however the cost of activities can be prohibitive for those families on low incomes. Those with disabilities, unsure of what they can safely and effectively do, require specialist advice. Quality of homes effects health with 20% of the poorest fifth of the population living in ‘non-decent’ homes. Loneliness and isolation were also seen as a major factor affecting health.

“A job is the basis for stability, good self-esteem and quality of life. An important building block.” Employment rates amongst those with disabilities is lowest in Reading and Slough. Also highlighted were the risks to those in low pay employment with the effects that can have on health and housing.

As a thank you for taking part respondents were asked to nominate a local charity to be entered in to a draw to win one of three £1,000 grants. Mr Graham Barker, High Sheriff of Berkshire, drew Autism Berkshire, Interakt and Family Friends Windsor & Maidenhead as the three lucky recipients. Representatives from each organisation received their grant from BCF’s Vice President Lady Catherine Stevenson DL at the BCF Symposium on Monday 8th October (pictured).

“Once again Vital Signs shines a light on the growing and most pressing issues affecting our local community. The report serves as an important piece of research for BCF to highlight the key gaps in provision which then helps us focus our grant funding to where it is needed the most.

Mental Health will continue to be the main priority for BCF, however this year’s report goes deeper and really highlights the root causes of the current mental health crisis in Berkshire. Homelessness, in all its forms, continues to rise due to lack of accessible, safe, and affordable housing in such an expensive area to live. People with mental health problems face poverty, homelessness and unemployment due to discrimination in the workplace and the benefits system.

Our ‘Vital for Berkshire’ campaign will help to address these issues by providing financial support to charities and voluntary organisations helping people overcome these issues, and provide them with the opportunity to thrive, not just survive, as part of our local community” Jim Fyfe, Philanthropy Director, Berkshire Community Foundation

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