Wales

Wales' most-deprived area Lansbury Park 'fighting back'

In 2014 the Lansbury Park estate in Caerphilly was part of a community ranked as Wales' most deprived, despite millions of pounds of public money having being spent there.

For a group of local women it was the last straw and they formed a campaign group, demanding more of a say in the future of their area. BBC One Wales' Week In Week Out has been following their efforts.

"We have been let down. Big time."

Those are the words of Jan Crimmins, who has lived for 50 years on the Lansbury Park estate.

Half its residents have no qualifications and some children on the estate "can't talk, can hardly walk," and still wear nappies when they start nursery.

But Ms Crimmins is part of a group of women taking the fight to improve the area into their own hands.

Image caption Jan Crimmins (right) believes support for the community has fallen short

The St James 3 area, which includes the Lansbury Park estate, overtook Rhyl West 2 at the top of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation in November 2014.

The areas were ranked on factors, including income, employment, education and health.

In 2002, the Welsh Government set up Communities First - an initiative which aimed to "narrow the economic, education/skills and health gaps between our most deprived and more affluent areas" by providing extra support for councils.

But Ms Crimmins's verdict on its success on the estate is withering: "Whether it be Communities First, the council or the government - we have been let down."

Caerphilly council has vowed to improve the area, while the Welsh government said it had provided millions of pounds in funding to the local authority.

Image caption Councillor Elaine Forehead has joined forces with local women

The unofficial local response was born when mothers in the area banded together to form campaign group, Lansbury Matters, collecting hundreds of signatures demanding a derelict community centre be demolished and investment be poured into the area.

Elaine Forehead, Caerphilly councillor for St James, helps to lead the women - whose fortunes are documented in BBC One Wales' Week In Week Out programme.

"The community felt insulted by it [the ranking] because, to the people who live on Lansbury Park, this is their home," she said.

'Opportunities'

"And I think they have also seen the deprivation levels as poverty, and very 1920s-style poverty, where children walk around with no shoes on their feet and so on and so forth.

"And it's not like that. It's not about how your children are dressed, it's more about the opportunities for your children and the opportunities for yourself."

She believes Communities First should be "run by the people" and, in that spirit, the group aims to "make a difference".

Image caption Clare Masters does community work for the estate and would like to set up her own flower-arranging business

Single mother Clare Masters, 47, lives at Lansbury Park with her 10-year-old twin girls and her 17-year-old daughter, Chantelle, who left school with few qualifications after falling pregnant aged 15.

"Dole-wallers - that's what they normally label us. That's not the case - find me a job and I'll take it tomorrow. I can't live on benefits the rest of my life," she said.

Meanwhile, head teacher Paul Samuel is trying to turn around standards at St James' Primary - the primary school on estate.

"We get children coming into nursery who can't talk, some that can hardly walk - many are not self-toileting so still coming into school with nappies," he said.

'Not proud'

"They certainly cannot read or write or hold a pen or pencil, so, really, they are starting well below where you would expect to a child to be in nursery or reception."

Caerphilly council's corporate director of communities, Christina Harrhy, said the authority was "not proud of being number one on the deprivation list".

"We want to change that and will change that," she said.

Image caption Caerphilly council's Christina Harrhy says the council 'will change' the deprivation area

"It does bother me, the council is not happy with that and there is a genuine will and commitment to take that forward and take Lansbury forward in a collaborative way."

In response to criticism of Communities First, she said: "That's disappointing because Communities First has been prioritised and targeted to Lansbury Park and there have been a number of interventions and a number of work streams that we have been working with the community on.

"But if the community is saying that it is not appropriate or what they need, then I am happy to have a conversation with them."

She said that, if people in the community feel they are "forgotten people", the council had to "take notice of that".

Image caption Annemarie Bridgeman has pushed her son Lee, eight, to excel at school

The Welsh Government said it had provided £6m to the council in housing-related support for Caerphilly's most vulnerable.

"Our Communities First programme in Caerphilly has been supported by over £8m and runs a busy employment surgery and adult literacy and numeracy classes in the heart of Lansbury Park, while the local Lift team is helping long-term unemployed people living on the estate find a job or training opportunity," a spokesperson added.

A further £16.3m has been invested in Flying Start services in Caerphilly - which aim to help children aged under four - with 2,500 children supported last year, according to the government.

The spokesperson said: "We have also provided over £9.3m for Families First in Caerphilly, which last year helped over 8,600 local people with parenting support, employment advice as well as supporting victims of domestic abuse.

"We are providing £100,000 to regenerate the area and remove the disused community centre on the estate, while we have also provided £52,600 to improve the entrance to the Lansbury Park shopping centre."

Despite the hurdles facing Lansbury Park's children, mother-of-six, Annemarie Bridgeman, believes the resilience of her own will win out in the future.

Her eight-year-old son Lee is bucking the trend and excelling in maths.

"I reckon he could be the next prime minister because he is that clever in the head," she said. "But it is finding the right education around here for him."

  • Watch Week In Week Out, Most Deprived Estate: The Fight Back, on BBC One Wales, on Monday, 21:00 GMT

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