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Vital Signs North East: Access

Our ground-breaking study of the scale, dynamics and needs of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in North East England.

Access challenges

The UK’s overall income and wealth inequality is high compared to most developed countries. Half of the country’s households know what it is to be excluded in relation to education, employment, health and disability or housing. In the North East, the situation in many ways is worse. There is a strong case for philanthropy to address the challenges that disabled people face due to the poor design of spaces and services. And for it to focus on communities at the greatest risk of social and economic exclusion. But it can also make a difference to the challenges faced by people from all backgrounds who are rural dwellers or who lack local banking facilities or connections to high-speed broadband.

  • National challenges: : widening access to opportunities and services to reduce the impact of inequality and disparities between communities of place, interest and identity; ensuring convenient access to essential services particularly in rural areas; tackling digital and financial exclusion.
  • North East England challenges: widening access to opportunities and services to reduce the impact of above national average levels of inequality, deprivation and disparities between
    communities of place, interest and identity; ensuring convenient access to essential services particularly in rural areas; tackling high levels of digital and financial exclusion.

Access indicator North East England South East
Wealth disparity (‘GINI coefficient’ 1 = most unequal and 0 = most equal) .64 .61 .57
% of households experiencing deprivation in at least one of education, employment, health and disability or housing 55 52 48
Share of consumers with high-cost loans recorded in Q4 2021 15.5% 11.2% 9.7%
Reduction in number of bank and building society branches 2012-2022 -33% -40% -39%
% of broadband connections that are Superfast 16.6 17 20

Access opportunities

Despite the challenges there are a number of opportunities in North East England via:

  • New devolved institutions and their partners have the potential to address the region’s problems in a ‘joined-up’ way that can contribute to increasing access.
  • There are established and emerging civil society organisations with the capacity to have an impact in this area across each of the Vital Signs themes.
  • Even modest support can open up access for people who would otherwise miss out. Whether it is by providing the opportunity to study at a top regional university; find work on leaving the criminal justice system or express oneself through sports or creative arts activity philanthropy really can make a difference

The Community Foundation believes philanthropy can have a significant impact on improving access in three key areas:

Widening access to opportunities and services by addressing underlying issues of exclusion:

  • support for accessibility audits and improvements
  • financial help for students who might otherwise be excluded from higher education or vocational training;
  • advocacy for people at risk of exclusion from services.

Funding activities that directly increase access to opportunities and services:

  • outreach projects and community transport (particularly in rural areas)
  • alternative financial or digital services

Supporting research, policy and campaigning to raise awareness and promote action

  • for example, research into how communities at risk of exclusion can sometimes be ‘designed-out’ of mainstream services; policy work to increase the accessibility of civil society organisations; campaigning on issues like the availability of accessible housing in the region.

Vital Signs Reports

The most recent reports from Vital Signs are here