Norwich youngsters face higher levels of poverty

Children and teenagers in Norwich face higher levels of poverty, have more teenage pregnancies and exercise less than the average for England, new figures can reveal.

But life expectancy for women – at 83 years – is higher than the national average, there are fewer obese adults, less diabetes, less skin cancer and less homelessness than the norm elsewhere.

The Department of Health figures give a snapshot of the welfare of those living in Norwich and Broadland. They show that statistics relating to children and young adults count for four of the 11 areas in which the city is significantly worse than the national norms.

The figures come in the wake of the pulling of the �4.8m youth service, agreed in February by Norfolk County Council as part of a package which saw �60m worth of savings agreed for the 2011/12 budget in a three-year plan to save �155m.

But Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said the data was collected before the cuts and said this year's budget was the 'toughest in the council's history'.

Pointing to family intervention projects and early intervention grants as an example of the county's commitment to help youngsters, she added: 'We know that in an economic downturn there is less work and therefore more poverty and this is likely to have an impact on the health and well-being of children.

'We want to ensure that the limited resources we do have can go as far as possible to support those most in need.'

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Alongside deprivation figures that at 33pc are more than 14pc higher than the national average, the Local Health Profiles show 6,965 children in poverty in Norwich – an improvement on last year, but still worse than the norm across England.

The health of people in Broadland, which includes areas such as Catton, Drayton, Hellesdon, Spixworth, Thorpe and Brundall, is generally better than the average for England. There are slightly fewer physically active children than nationally, but in most other areas Broadland comes out well ahead.

Richard Bearman, Green Party spokesman for children's services, said: 'County-council provision in this area has reduced because of cuts from central government, and that kind of thing will have an effect on child poverty.

'I think the point is also that the county council are targeting the most vulnerable with the services that remain but that leaves a huge number of young adults who won't receive services.'

The Health Profile figures showed that despite significant improvement there were 52 cases of teenage pregnancy per 1000 girls aged 15 to 17, a figure nearly 12pc above the national average, although in Broadland this was halved.

Children in Norwich were also deemed to be significantly less physically active overall than the normal, with 41.7pc doing at least three hours per week on high-quality PE and school sport. However, rates of child obesity were around average.

Mr Bearman pointed to other areas in which youth service cuts could cause problems.

'The cuts may well lead to a rise in anti social behaviour, with youths being left unoccupied. It's definitely a cause for concern,' he added.

The health profiles also revealed a third of the population – 43,509 people – are among the 20pc most deprived in England. This compares to the east of England average of 5pc.

The situation means that life expectancy for men in this situation is 8.6 years lower, at around 74 years, than the least deprived, and 4.7 years lower than women.

In terms of the healthcare of the area, smoking rates have seen a dramatic drop from last year, with a drop in smokers of nearly 7pc meaning the city is nearly down to the national average of 21.2pc.

However, while early deaths from heart disease and stroke remain around the national norm, death rates for those aged under 70 with cancer have risen from last year with 125.8 per 100,000 population under 75 per year, compared to 112.1 average.

And though violent crime and long-term unemployment figures were worse than national norms, rates of homelessness in Norwich stood at 1.34pc lower than the English average of 1.86pc.

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