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Neighbourhoods and communities

Insight into the crucial role played at the neighbourhood level to protect people from hardship. 

Our mission

Poverty is deepening in the UK, hitting the most deprived neighbourhoods hard. Hardship is not simply about income. Poverty also has a social, emotional and psychological toll, and everyone should have somewhere to turn to in times of need. Being able to find connection, purpose, and the right help at the right time are vital to protecting people from hardship. 

JRF calls this a social safety net, something that all neighbourhoods should be supported to provide, which comprises 3 core components: 

  1. Building community power, connection, purpose and relationships

    This is the everyday stuff of community life that makes it more likely that life goes well: friendship, a helping hand and mutual aid. It is the infrastructure in neighbourhoods that enables people to find common cause and seek to shape the world around them.

  2. Emergency and crisis support

    Lifelines such as local welfare assistance, the household support fund, discretionary housing payments and in-kind help from foodbanks or furniture and white goods schemes.

  3. Practical help and advice to stop problems getting worse

    People need help getting back on their feet before their situation deteriorates. This includes benefit, housing, debt and immigration advice, income maximisation, social prescribing, talking therapies for anxiety and depression, community health and employment support.

Designing out hardship in neighbourhoods

Tackling deprivation is urgent and will require policy action in areas such as reforming Universal Credit. But even if we get these reforms right, there will always be a crucial role played by neighbourhoods, to protect people from hardship. Providing people with emergency support, building social connection, strengthening community power, and finding advice and practical help all happen at this scale. We need to harness and mobilise every contribution that can be made. We also need to make sure we have a policy environment that fosters effective neighbourhood action.

Last year we worked with New Local looking at what would be needed to motivate and deliver on a mission to ‘design out’ hardship in a local area. Building on that work, we commissioned a series of ideas pieces to explore how to tackle hardship in neighbourhoods, and crucially, what national policy changes are needed to enable and strengthen this work.

The series of essays brings together a range of perspectives from 12 leading thinkers including academics, think tanks, and not-for-profit organisations working in neighbourhoods, to contribute their reflections, ideas and practical examples.

The essays explore 3 central themes:

  1. Building connection and understanding
  1. Building community power and ownership
  1. Shifting the role of the (local) state

We would like to thank Tom Clark for using his editorial expertise to shape these essays.