By Mark Gale
Chief Executive, Gloucestershire Gateway Trust
Last summer we couldn’t do this because of the pandemic, so instead we trialled taking part of the process online, running Future Creating Workshops remotely using a programme called Padlet. We wanted to find out if we could make this work online and also what communities were feeling in the summer of 2020.
The good news is that the Future Creating Workshops did work online. We have learnt some tips and tricks from the process but most importantly we know it works and that we could run it again this way. We also realised that the best way to improve future results from doing our workshops online is that we must improve our digital connection with residents.
However from another perspective it is evidentially true that the virus has had a worse impact on some groups compared to others - for example Black and Minority Ethnic communities, neighbourhoods with lower than average incomes and higher unemployment and people living in residential care.
One of the visions for the future coming from the workshops was that ‘good, reliable and fast internet is available in every home and community’. The report highlights that the likelihood of having access to the internet increases along with income with only 51% of households earning £6,000 - £10,0000 having home internet access compared with 99% of households with an income of over £40,001.
This digital divide creates structural disadvantage with some households having no internet access and others trying to access lessons for several children on a single pay as you go phone – an impossible task financially and practically. For adults they have less access to on line learning and as most micro businesses start from home the digital divide stifles enterprise.
Our analysis of economic life in the neighbourhoods we are focused on clearly demonstrates that following the banking crash of 2008/9 they were much more adversely impacted for the following 10 years than the rest of Gloucestershire and comparable neighbourhoods across England. We must not let our neighbourhoods be abandoned economically again for the next 10 years.
But our local economy was not the only concern of the workshops. Good mental health and well being were also a major issue. The legacy of ‘Social distancing’, shielding, discouraging social interaction as a methods of disease control are already leading to mental ill health and declining well being for many households. Again we know our communities suffered dramatic declines in health over the last 10 years after the banking crash in 2008/9 so the pandemic its layering its impact on top of the impact of the last decade’s less than effective investments in local health by statutory bodies.
The workshop outcomes will guide our future investments in our neighbourhoods. We will continue to work together with all our partners and encourage residents to lead the change they want. Alongside this in the coming decade we want to help our colleagues in the public sector locally and nationally make a better job of investing in our neighbourhoods than they did in the previous one."
You can download this year's report, as well as all previous reports from our Publications section.