Salford hardships: From an industrial hub to high levels of poverty, homelessness and unemployment

By Mihaela Ivantcheva

Salford lags behind many other regions in the UK with its high levels of poverty, homelessness and unemployment.

As Salford has come under the stoplight in the past couple of months, not only nationally but also internationally, MM looks at the area and the main issues the community is currently facing.

Salford was the workshop of Europe, recalls Alec McFadden, activist and manager of Salford Unemployed & Community Resource Centre.

From being a key industrial hub, it has now turned into one of the most deprived areas in the UK.

Unemployment rates are constantly above the national and regional levels, and more and more people have lost their jobs since the beginning of the recession.

Although this trend can be observed throughout the UK, the unemployment woes are particularly apparent in Salford.

He said: “In the seventies and eighties all factories in Salford closed down – These were all skilled workers and they lost their jobs.

“The base industry in Salford is gone. It is a serious problem and it is very difficult to get out of this now.”

He added: “From being a very prosperous area Salford became an area of high unemployment, poverty, drug problems, crime and there has been an incredible lack of investment,” said the union boss.

Since 2004, as far as the figures from the Office for National Statistics go, unemployment levels in Salford have not even once gone below the regional and national average.

Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles said that the lack of opportunity has adversely affected young people.

“Many young people have contacted my office, frustrated that they can’t get a job because they don’t have work experience, but they can’t get work experience without a job.”

Ms Blears said that this has prompted her to launch Kids without Connections – a 500-strong apprenticeship scheme that offers young people in Salford placements over the summer.

Unfortunately, those placements are not paid.

Mr McFadden also highlighted that Salford is an area with a lot of industrial injuries and diseases.

“In September through to the middle of December and from January through to August this place is full of people who are trying to get their state benefits.

“These are people who need to get benefits because they are not fit to work, disabled people, they’ve got cancer, they have broken arms or twisted backs, and people with debts because they lost their jobs,” he said.

A quick glance at the data from the Office for National Statistics confirms that 14,700 people or 38.2% of Salfordians are listed as long-term sick, which is significantly above the national figure of 22.2%.

Poverty translated into violent crimes

Shortly after the murder of Indian student Anuj Bidve, Greater Manchester Police admitted to problems in the area but reassured residents that crime levels have significantly come down.

“We know we have got problems in the area and we keep working on them.

“I would be a fool to say everything is perfect but we have made some positive strives in the area and that continues,” said Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan from the Salford Division in a press conference following the incident.

He added: “If we look at Salford and Ordsall in particular, there have been some significant improvements in that area.”

In 2011, crime in Central Salford fell by 10% with reductions in burglary and vehicle crime.

According to GMP statistics, since 2008/2009 crime in the Salford area has come down by 22%, assault – by 34% and vehicle crime – by 50%.

“The cornerstone of policing in the area is neighbourhood policing, working with the community, meeting the community’s needs and working with multi-agencies such as the Salford City Council to improve the environment, and we have had significant successes.

“Before and since the murder we have recovered significant amount of firearms in Salford and continue to target organised criminality,” said Chief Superintendent Mulligan.

Episodes of violent crime in 2010/2011 were significantly above the England and North West average according to Salford’s Community Mental Health Profile 2012.

A year on – getting to the roots of the riots

As England commemorates one year since the August riots, Mr McFadden thinks that lack of opportunities, deprivation, homelessness and poverty among young people were the key driver in igniting the ‘uprising’.

“These are the children of parents who grew up without any expectations of getting work.

“The police said that in their view the riots were all about gangsters, who were upset about how clever the police were and how many of them they have caught and not about poverty. That’s complete and utter rubbish.

“The riots were without a doubt about people who have no money, nowhere to go and are frustrated.

“We are building up a major problem which could explode in violence and thefts.

“It is a serious problem.

According to him the key issue is to get the city and the government to provide money for apprenticeships, education and training as well as encourage investment in the area and create more jobs.

“One of the things about Salford is that it is a branch economy, it isn’t a city with any major employer other than the council. There is nothing in Salford.

“There is also no point having training for jobs that don’t exist.

“There is no point in creating zeppelins which we won’t use,” he said.

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