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Last updated: January 20, 2013 6:37 pm
Working for your own wage gives a sense of worth, says Sue Kearney, chief executive of the Hope Foundation, a Middlesbrough charity that has just opened a Community Learning Centre on the Brambles Farm housing estate.
However, in the northeast town where unemployment is twice the UK’s 7.8 per cent average and 29.1 per cent of households are workless – the UK’s second highest rate – many people have forgotten, or never experienced, the satisfaction of paid work.
To prosper, Middlesbrough needs not only to recover from recession but to continue a decades-long process of economic restructuring. It can no longer look to heavy industry to soak up labour.
In Brambles Farm, one of six Middlesbrough wards in the top 1 per cent of the most deprived in England, earning a living is, for some people, a distant prospect.
“It’s a change of culture, in how you manage your time,” says Mrs Kearney, whose centre will provide employment and education support. From Teesside and in her 50s, she notes a rise in drug use. “It’s part of this culture of giving up before they’ve started.”
Ray Mallon, the town’s independent elected mayor, has warned that “savage” public spending cuts will worsen deprivation. Over five years to 2016, the council must cut £73m from its £234m budget.
Middlesbrough does have successful companies in heavy industrial sectors: SBV Fabrications, for example, which has weathered recession, the halting of steelmaking (now resumed) and a grim 2010.
Since then the company has diversified, grown and tripled turnover to £12m. It now employs 250 people. But, as David Geary, managing director, observes; “Our guys are highly skilled manual people. It’s a traditional trade but it’s not a deskilled manual job.”
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