A report which will help tackle some of the biggest issues facing communities across the Black Country and Birmingham has been officially launched at the University of Wolverhampton.
Communities Uncovered was commissioned by the Heart of England Community Foundation, an independent charity which distributes funding across the West Midlands, to examine issues affecting the region, including unemployment, health and social welfare.
The Foundation has delivered £2.7 million to 916 community projects across the Black Country and Birmingham since 2014, and the report will help ensure future grants are strategically distributed to meet the most pressing needs across the area.
The report highlights hard-hitting facts including that across Birmingham and the Black Country a total of 4,800 people are recognised as homeless and in priority need, 68 per cent of people are overweight and in the West Midlands there are just 75 jobs for every 100 residents.
The findings were outlined at a launch event which took place at the University in front of an audience of more than 100 invited guests, including representatives from the government and local authorities, voluntary organisations, police and funding bodies.
Research was conducted by the University’s new Institute for Community Research and Development.
Dr Steve Iafrati, Senior Social Policy Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, who led the research said: “This report provides an accessible way to identify areas of need and to begin to recognise the ways in which certain groups may need supporting and that certain cycles may need breaking.
“One of the outcomes of the report is to identify a range of indicators and challenges facing various geographical areas within Birmingham and the Black Country. With this information, it is possible for the Foundation to consider strategies for future funding, including which areas and themes to prioritise.
“I am very proud to have been part of this research which is going to make a difference to the lives of so many people across the area.”
Recommendations include supporting adults in areas with higher than average unemployment to access jobs through training and supporting, extended learning opportunities for young people at risk of falling below average GCSE scores. The need for support for teenage parents is also identified, as well as helping organisations working to tackle obesity, health issues and higher than average levels of homelessness.
Tina Costello, CEO of Heart of England Community Foundation, said: “This report aims to shine a light on those complex social issues which are having the most pronounced effect on local people and communities.
“It contains some worrying data but highlights the most pressing needs of communities across Birmingham and the Black Country.
“With this information we hope to be able to make more informed choices about our grant making priorities to help tackle these needs head on, communicating these to other funders, donors, philanthropists and businesses to harness more support.
“Our partnership with the University of Wolverhampton represents our serious commitment to expand our learning and data and achieve greater outcomes for local communities.”