I’ve had chance to look through the State of Sheffield 2017 report, and I’d like to thank the Sheffield City Partnership and everyone involved for a thorough and well-produced document.
The report tells us a lot about our city’s successes, but also about some of the challenges we face. I was particularly pleased to see the high rate of apprenticeship takeup – 50% higher than the national average – and the strength of our voluntary sector, with over 3,300 voluntary and community groups contributing £800m to the local economy and doing good for people around the city.
I am also pleased that the digital and technology sector is making a home in Sheffield, and that we have an innovative population, with the second highest number of patents per person of any of the Core Cities.
But there are areas of concern. Particularly worrying is the increased demand for food banks, demonstrating significant levels of need and vulnerability in our society.
I’ve met volunteers at food banks, and they do wonderful work helping those who can’t afford to eat. But they are a response to structural inequality and disadvantage that should not be needed in our country.
28% of claims for three days’ emergency food are because of benefits delays, and a further 13.5% are due to benefits changes – showing a social security system not fit for purpose under this Government.
A child poverty rate of 24.7% is also shocking – although in some areas of the city, the rate is even higher. It is fundamentally wrong to have one in four of our children growing up without enough money. It is also harmful for our society – we know that children living in poverty are less likely to achieve well at school, and are more at risk of chronic ill health.
These are statistics which have obviously been worsened by massive cuts to Sheffield’s budget, and the Government must do more to ensure rates of child poverty fall and services can be maintained.
I will continue to fight for a more humane welfare system and to tackle child poverty but also to shout about Sheffield's brilliant successes and the fact it is a wonderful city to come to live and do business in.
If you'd like to read the full State of Sheffield report, you can download a digital copy here.