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Seckford Foundation partners with university to launch rural research on Suffolk Day

Young people experiencing income deprivation whilst living in rural parts of Suffolk are at risk of feeling ‘locked in’ and disconnected from education and employment opportunities, new research commissioned by Suffolk charity, the Seckford Foundation, has found. The research, which was conducted by the University of Suffolk, looked at the challenges faced by young people living in rural areas and was launched on the inaugural Suffolk Day on Wednesday, June 21.

It highlights some young people in rural parts of Suffolk are having difficulties regarding financial resource compounded by the complex lives they lead. They are attempting to progress into employment and education at the same time as overcoming rural accessibility issues, and some also had to manage poverty, family caring responsibilities, homelessness, and mental health issues. These complex and compounding challenges resulted in young people having restricted access to opportunities and a sense of being ‘spatially locked-in’ and disconnected. It will also guide the Foundation when forming its priorities in this area in the future.

The experiences of both advantaged and disadvantaged young people were examined and a set of sophisticated statistical techniques were used for the first time on data for Suffolk. This resulted in recommendations for how schools, employers and communities can work together on practical actions to address the current inequalities some young people face.

‘Capability’ and ‘connectivity’ were identified as the most important factors influencing positive outcomes for young people in rural areas, with physical access to local opportunities, attainment of qualifications and employment skills and the financial help, emotional support and useful contacts provided by family and friends making a significant difference where young people are self-determined.

Recommendations of the research include a call to Parish Councils and community organisations to halt and reverse the trend of declining youth provision in rural areas, and the involvement of business organisations and employers in giving talks in schools to broaden young people’s aspirations, cultural awareness and help connect young people to jobs, training and careers knowledge.

Graham Watson, Director, Seckford Foundation, said: “We are very pleased to take part in the first annual Suffolk Day with the launch of our rural progression research, in partnership with the University of Suffolk. We undertook the research to highlight the rural issues that young people face and we hope that it will lead to better support and more opportunities for this county’s young generation.”

Dr Shamser Sinha, researcher at the University of Suffolk, said: “The research has identified income deprivation as an obstacle to progression for disadvantaged young people in rural Suffolk. This is exacerbated by rural accessibility issues, and sometimes also by young people coping with a range of other complications including family caring and financial responsibilities, health issues, and housing insecurity. It also highlights the skills some young people are developing amidst adversity and what the community could do to improve progression for disadvantaged young people.”

30 young people aged 17 to 19 took part in the research through interviews at schools and community groups across the county. The research compliments new analysis of the 2011 Census, the English Indices of Deprivation 2015 and statistics from HEFCE (Higher Education Council for England).

The Seckford Foundation also took the opportunity to launch their Annual Review on Suffolk Day, alongside the rural research.

Roger Finbow, Chairman, Seckford Foundation, said: “2016 was another busy and fulfilling year across the Foundation and I’d like to thank all who contributed to our work over the past year.”

The charity’s highlights over the past 12 months have included achieving an Outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission for the Seckford Almshouses in Woodbridge, and an Excellent in six areas for Woodbridge School in their Independent Schools’ Inspectorate report. Successes were also highlighted for the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust, with Beccles Free School crowned World RoboCup Champions last summer, as well as the Seckford Springboard programme which provides apprenticeships, mentoring and grants to local disadvantaged young people.

To view the full research report click here

To view the Seckford Foundation Annual Review 2016 click here