Efforts to tackle deprivation in Aldershot are being stepped up, with lessons learnt from other areas being used in two of the most disadvantaged communities.
The Rushmoor Strategic Partnership (RSP) is aiming to improve statistics that show both the North Town and Aldershot Park wards contain small areas – known as lower super output areas (LSOAs) – that rank among the worst 20% in the country for multiple deprivation.
The 2010 Index of Multiple Deprivation combines economic, social and housing issues.
Rushmoor’s third LSOA that ranks within the most deprived 20% is in Farnborough’s Cherrywood ward, which improved its national ranking between 2007 and 2010 thanks to work targeted at improving the prospects of those living there, which have been continued during the subsequent three years.
The improvements mean that Cherrywood is close to no longer being categorised in the lowest 20%, and schemes which have helped achieve this will be developed further in Aldershot later this year.
Members of the RSP, including representatives from housing association First Wessex, Aldershot Garrison, Hampshire Constabulary, Rushmoor Borough Council, Rushmoor Healthy Living and Rushmoor Citizens Advice Bureau, will all play a part in this.
One initiative expected to start in March is TechStart, run by First Wessex, the council, Rushmoor Schools Plus, Job Centre Plus and Future Workforce. Computers donated from the community will be recycled and sold at a low price to members of the public. It is hoped that a shop will be opened in Aldershot centre in which some of the 300 computers already donated can be sold.
TechStart plans to build on the successful work already undertaken in the borough to improve the computer skills, and therefore employability, of residents and anyone wishing to donate computers should contact First Wessex on 01252 368735.
Matt Smith, First Wessex’s community regeneration manager for Aldershot, said: “Around 90% of job applications now are done over the internet, so for those not online we give them access to a computer and show them how to use them.
“Our primary role at First Wessex is to provide that support to help them move forward with their lives.”
Computer literacy workshops run by First Wessex already take place at The Vine Day Centre in Station Road, Aldershot. Mr Smith said keeping residents informed and getting them involved in projects was "key" to making the schemes work.
Despite this, however, some council members claim they are ill-informed as to the work the RSP does.
At Monday’s services policy and review committee meeting, members said they were often in the dark as to the work being undertaken and it was agreed links with the RSP would be discussed in depth at a meeting on February 26.
Committee chairman Barbara Hurst said she felt the RSP did some admirable work but that more discussion was needed to adequately assess such a "vast" subject.
Asked if she had experienced a lack of communication between services and the public, she said: “I think we all have. It’s a huge subject and it really needs to be looked at in greater detail.”
The council is already in the process of setting up a task group to look at how communication between various groups and services could be improved.
“I think it will have a huge impact on the relationship between all these different groups,” said Cllr Hurst.
The RSP’s current priorities are to tackle obesity, reduce alcohol abuse and related admissions to hospitals, support businesses to enable economic recovery and encourage better community cohesion. The council’s ongoing Skilled Up programme has helped unemployed acquire skills through working to regenerate areas such as Aldershot’s Redan Road cemetery. Further schemes will be run in in the future.
The RSP’s Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy is to be refreshed later this year, pointing at areas in most need in Aldershot.