Action needed to tackle Barnsley’s priority issues

A new report published by South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation (SYCF) has revealed the four most important needs across the region after a year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vital Signs, using a combination of local knowledge and official research data to measure the vitality of a community, has shown that crime and safety, disadvantage and inequality, work and the local economy and mental health were the priority issues for communities across South Yorkshire.

Acting on this research, SYCF are launching a dedicated themed programme to directly target the issues identified. The Employment and Employability Programme will support young people age 14-30 in gaining the skills and learning of the opportunities available to them in the world of work.

Chris Booth-Mayblin, Chair of SYCF, said: “The findings from the research are startling and action is urgently needed. The top four priorities for action demonstrate the interlinking nature of society’s biggest problems and how a coordinated effort from all stakeholders is needed to effect change.

“We are imploring stakeholders and policy-makers across South Yorkshire to not simply sit on the results of this research but act. We do not want to be reporting on the same issues in our next report.”

Data gathered through the research is used to support evidence-based, locally-relevant solutions to improve the quality of life at the community level. The findings draw awareness to the areas critically needing investment by authorities, and allow stakeholders to provide targeted intervention where it will have the most impact.

In the community survey, nearly one third of South Yorkshire residents said they do not feel safe in their local area with 50% saying not enough is done to address the causes of crime. On average, South Yorkshire has 20 more crime incidents per 1,000 people than the rest of England.

The four local authorities across South Yorkshire rank within the lowest 14% of all local authorities in England against key deprivation indicators, which has gotten worse over the last five years. 65% of people in our community survey feel the gap between those with the most and those with the least has gotten noticeably wider.

Half of all respondents said businesses struggle to survive in their local area. The employment rate is on average 5% lower in South Yorkshire than the rest of England.

Mental health was ranked as the fourth priority for action by communities in South Yorkshire with 60% saying they struggled with their mental health in the last year yet 40% said there is not a good level of professional care to support them. The number of people diagnosed with depression is higher in South Yorkshire than the rest of England, though there are so many unknowns here including the level of undiagnosed problems both locally and nation-wide, waiting lists and the increasing number of referrals. The general lack of resources was stated by the community as a significant problem.

The Youth Association is a detached youth work project operating in Barnsley, working with young people on the streets of their own communities. They engage young people in productive activities such as sports or learning new skills whilst equipping them with the skills to support their mental health.

“We want to respond to the crisis of the pandemic and support our communities as urgently as we can,” said Ruth Willis, Chief Executive of SYCF.  “The effects of the Covid pandemic have exacerbated many existing societal problems yet young people have been disproportionately affected and their success in securing employment or training has such a consequence on all the issues identified in the research. Our ambition is to distribute £500,000 across South Yorkshire to community organisations working with young people to boost their skills and job prospects.”

“With this new funding, we can engage the wider community – individuals and businesses – to work with us and be a part of the solution to the issues that our Vital Signs reporting has identified.”

To view the report please visit:

To apply for the new themed fund, community groups can visit our website:

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