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Mohammad Fayyaz: We live in a rich area ... how can it be true?

November 4, 2020 11:38 AM
By Mohammad Fayyaz

It was a shock to read that social mobility in the Chiltern area, which includes Chesham, is among the very worst in the country. Surely, we live in a rich area, don't we? How can it be true?

The claim comes in a report called The Long Shadow of Deprivation, published by a government agency, the Social Mobility Commission, so you would think that it must have some basis in fact, and I am inclined to believe what it says.

The long shadow of deprivation exists here in what is certainly mainly a very affluent part of the world.

During the lockdown, I have done some delivering of food parcels for the Chiltern Food Bank, and that has given me the chance to see how even in the Chilterns, some people are struggling with poverty.

The report, though, isn't about poverty in general. It's about whether, if you are born poor, you are likely to stay poor.

And in Chiltern, it seems that you are extremely likely to remain poor. It's difficult anywhere to rise above a deprived start in life, but Chiltern is ranked with Bradford, Gateshead and Blackpool as the worst places in England to have a chance to break out of poverty.

The method which the Commission used was to examine the earnings of young men aged 28 who as children received free school meals because of their parents' low income. And it was the young man in Chiltern who had made the least progress in breaking out of poverty.

It's a small sample, so you can, if you want, try to rubbish the report, but I think it's too serious to be simply dismissed. The number of families living in poverty here may be low compared with most other areas, but for those children in Chiltern who are poor, it may be particularly difficult to get on in the world. Extreme inequality and inequality of opportunity is a barrier.

We all need to be aware of the deprivation which exists right here in Chesham and then we must work to overcome it.

Mohammad Fayyaz

This article by Mohammad Fayyaz, Liberal Democrat town councillor for Asheridge Vale, is taken from the November 2020 issue of Your Chesham. The full magazine can be found on its website https://yourchesham.co.uk/.

The report is available with tables and a technical annex at: