PARISHES in west Cornwall have been among some of the most deprived in the UK – a survey has shown.
Conducted by the Church Urban Fund (CUF), the survey, which studied parishes across the UK, showed this is particularly evident in west Penwith, where recent cuts to public transport, the area being overlooked for future fuel subsidies and rising house prices and rents are all adding to already indigent times.
The survey compared, documented and categorised a number of areas, such as single parenting, qualification attainment and various strands of poverty, and results in the area were some of the lowest in the UK.
Hayle, St Just and St Ives both fell below the UK average, while both St Mary the Virgin and St John the Baptist parishes in Penzance were well into the bottom 1,000 – out of 12,775.
Areas such as life expectancy and child poverty were notable; likewise an ageing population.
Jeremy Aspinall, a spokesman for CUF, said one of the biggest problems is people do not realise there are high levels of poverty in the UK.
He explained: "People think it is a problem only in parts of Africa; what you see on TV adverts – but there is also poverty here. It is often a lot closer than you think."
Mr Aspinall explained the online resource "allows people to look up statistics and encourages people to actually see what's going on where they live".
"The results reveal there are quite high numbers of poverty around Cornwall – Penzance is one of them," he added.
However, Mr Aspinall also mentioned the commendable and selfless work going on in west Penwith. He said churches and organisations form a tight-knit community try to bridge gaps.
David Smith is a part of one such group.
Churches Together in Penzance Area (CHPA) is dedicated to preventing and fighting poverty around the town and its satellite communities.
He explained: "We have four main initiatives: foodbanks, street pastors, breakfast clubs and the giving shop.
"There is poverty in west Penwith and we try to combat it as much as we can – it is really about giving support to those who find themselves in difficulty."
Mr Smith highlighted cuts in public transport as an additional problem – but stressed the positivity and high levels of care, donation and time given by so many around the parishes.
He said: "More needs to be done but there is a real sense of companionship and neighbourly love here."
Debbie Croucher works for Transformation Cornwall, which also aims to develop and improve the lives of others.
She said the European Union identifies Cornwall as a deprived area, which further adds to the question of why the government failed to include it in its fuel subsidies next year.
"She said: It is an area of extremes. It is so beautiful and there is a lot of wealth here – but others struggle to get by."
Mrs Croucher said rural poverty is often the hardest to tackle, mentioning St Just as a key area.
But she added, localised support and help is "amazing" – noting Cornish people spend a significant amount on others. She also named a host of outreach programmes which are really making a difference.
Cornwall councillor for St Just, Sue James, is central to a number of social projects in west Penwith.
She said: "Despite many indicators showing the far west ranking as one of the poorer parts of the country, St Just and Pendeen are rich in community spirit and enterprise."
But Mrs James also expressed dismay at missing out on the fuel help, suggesting a real unfairness: "It is a huge disappointment we have not received the rural fuel subsidy.
"I have just looked at the places put forward for the fuel subsidy and it is difficult to imagine that others [given the allowance] come anywhere near the poverty levels of west Cornwall."